Tag Archives: client perspectives

A Client’s-Eye View of Freelancers

Bfreelance clientsy 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.

Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group and blogs as Dr. Freelance.

What freelance clients want

Freelance-Zone.com readers may already be familiar with the annual “Freelance Forecast” survey that I’ve done for the past two years. The survey polls client perspectives as well as freelancer perspectives…and today I’d like to dig into one of the client-side responses that can offer a bit of guidance on how you might want to pitch your services for freelance jobs—and retain clients for the long haul.

Top 5 Qualities You Look for in a Freelancer

  1. Reliability/dependability
  2. Talent/quality of work
  3. Ability to hit deadlines
  4. Understanding my needs
  5. Subject matter expertise/experience

Interestingly enough, these are precisely the same five qualities identified in Freelance Forecast 2009, though in a slightly different order. More than likely, none of these come as a surprise, especially if you’ve been in the game for a while.

But let’s take a moment to consider why these are important. All five answers speak to your ability to make your client’s life easier, and to make their business more profitable. They’ve chosen a freelancer as a business decision—rather than hiring someone or taking the DIY route.

My primary takeaway, though, is that answers 1, 3 and 4 are 100% under your control. (I’d argue that talent/quality of work and subject matter expertise require a combination of nature and nuture. You may simply not be a good fit for some freelance jobs and clients; or at least not yet.) Logically, it follows that you should work to ensure that those parts of your game are rock solid. Do that, and you’ll be way ahead of the pack of fly-by-nighters who exhibit the habits of a part-timer or hobbyist rather than a businessperson who’s serious about the client’s best interests.

Freelance-Zone contributor Jake Poinier is the founder/owner of Boomvang Creative Group and the newly launched advice blog for freelancers, Dr. Freelance.