Life is a gamble and there are no guarantees. Making one’s living as a Freelance consultant adds an extra measure of unpredictability. Do whatever you can to control that which you can control and lay the groundwork for success in your consultancy. As they say, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You will see that most of what you must do right hinges on communication, in one form or another. Here are a few unfortunate practices that will bring down even the most professionally knowledgeable and well-connected consultant:
The service does not make sense
Or, it is poorly communicated and prospective clients don’t understand the service or how to make use of it. The ability to describe one’s services, help a prospective client picture how and when it might be useful to their organization and in the process persuade the prospect that the service is valuable and the Freelancer has the skill to deliver it is how business is created. Finding your sweet spot, defining your value proposition and communicating it well, are vital.
Sometimes, clients don’t know what they need, but they know that they need help. A serendipitous meeting with such an individual could mean a contract for you and perhaps the start of an ongoing business relationship. It is hugely important to be able to effectively communicate to prospects what you do, the problems you can solve or help them avoid and goals you can help them achieve. Doing this well makes you look like an expert who can be trusted. If the money and motive are there, you will be hired.
Poor follow-up or follow-through
Whether one is a Freelancer or traditionally employed, being reliable is a must. if you promise the client that something will be completed by a given date, then do that. Answer calls and emails ASAP, ideally on the same day and most certainly within 24 hours. Even if the client has not asked a question, anticipate what information will reinforce their confidence in and confirm that you are in control and meeting expectations by checking-in and giving periodic updates. Timely communication is reassuring.
Inadequate business development
Freelance consultants are always looking for the next assignment and that may mean helping a current or past client to create that assignment. During your project work, look for additional services you might provide, while their checkbook is open. Take a past client out for coffee and see if you can get back in there, weaving in your objective as you talk about how they’re doing.
Too shy to ask for referrals
Every business needs referrals and word-of-mouth endorsements from a source perceived as trustworthy are the best. The process of obtaining a referral starts with you providing excellent service that exceeds client expectations. Timing is also a factor. Asking for a referral while on the job and definitely not while you’re presenting the final invoice, is the preferred strategy.
Making a referral for the client, either while you’re on assignment or after the fact, will make you golden and increase the chances that the favor will be repaid, if the client knows a colleague who may need your services. Knowledge of the client’s business relationships can help you to tease out a referral. If you know that the client is active in a particular business or professional association and there is a prospect in the group that you would like to meet and try to work with, tell the client that you would appreciate an introduction.
Poor billing practices
If you want to get paid, you must invoice. On some projects, it’s wise to tell the client when you will invoice. If you do so, follow the agreed-upon schedule. Late invoices annoy clients and adversely impact your cash flow and financial management as well. Always describe or itemize the services delivered in your invoice. Specify how the check should be made out, include the tax identification number, the invoice due date and the address to which the check should be sent.
Inadequate client relationship management
Freelancers need repeat business and that means nurturing relationships is a priority. Do what can be reasonably done to keep communicating with past clients. Definitely, send December holiday cards to all those with whom you’ve worked in the past 5 years. If you encounter an article that you suspect will be of interest to a former or current client, send an email with the link, along with a friendly message. If a past client is speaking somewhere and you can afford the time and money to attend, do so. Take notes, so that you can ask a question that will make your client look good. Attention spans are short, so it is necessary to stay on the client’s radar screen if you expect to be hired again.
Thanks for reading,