By Jake Poinier
If you haven’t already seen it, the results of the 2011 Freelance Forecast survey (pdf download at the link) have been published. I’ve done this research for three years now, and while I find the freelancer responses interesting, what’s most useful for my business is what clients have to say about what they like…or hate.
The adjacent word cloud above gives a visual perspective on “the ONE most important quality in a freelancer.” If you’ve been at this game for any length of time, the answers shouldn’t come as a surprise: reliability/dependability, talent/quality of work, and hitting deadlines.
But this year, I also asked for some follow-up data: “Name ONE thing you wish every freelancer would do when working with you.” You’ll find all of the responses on pages 16 and 17 of the survey; many of the respondents simply said “communicate” or “ask good questions,” but the devil—as usual—is in the details. Here are three of the client comments, and my thoughts reading between the lines:
- “As minor as it sounds, [a freelancer should] acknowledge receipt of the assignment. I don’t like guessing whether they’ve received it and understand it. What I dislike even more is reaching out to them to make sure they got it.” Takeaway: This isn’t minor! Always take a moment to write an email to the client and, most important, say “thank you for the assignment.”
- Some responses were in conflict with each other. For example, “Keep me posted that progress is being made through the course of a project and that the deadline will be hit without any problems” versus “Contact me only when there’s a problem with an assignment.” Takeaway: Again, this comes down to knowing the client. The best way to know their communication style is to simply ask their preference.
- “I want freelancers to tell me when there is a better way to do something than what I have told them to do. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t, but I always want to hear the reasoning behind their choices. I want their expertise.” Takeaway: Tread carefully here. Some clients are ready for the unadulterated truth, others may say they are…but will react poorly to someone calling their baby ugly. Make certain of which type of client you’re dealing with before being too abrupt.
Resourceful clients have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a freelancer. Many of their common complaints—or things they love—are completely under your control. So, do what you can to “wow” them, and you’re well on your way to Referral Street.