Heading into the holiday stretch, it’s time for FREELANCE FORECAST 2012, Boomvang Creative Group’s fourth annual survey of creative freelancers and the clients who use their services. It digs into the details of best practices, where freelancers find clients, why clients hire freelancers, and a bunch of juicy details about rates and expectations for the coming year.
As in past years, there are two versions of the survey:
The Freelancer Perspectives version of the survey is located at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Freelancer2012
The Client Perspectives version of the survey is located at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Client2012
IMPORTANT! Freelance Forecast is the only survey I’m aware of that takes an annual pulse check from freelance clients, and the more clients we have sharing their insights, the better. Please consider forwarding the client survey link to one or more of the folks who’ve hired you in the past year and to business associates who use freelancers.
All participants will receive a copy of the 2012 survey results (including both client-side *and* freelancer responses). You’ll also be entered into a drawing for a $100 iTunes, OfficeMax or STAPLES gift certificate. Your privacy is paramount—all contact information will be kept 100% confidential and will not be used for any purpose other than the survey.
If you’d like to see reports from past years, please visit this link.
The surveys will close on January 14, 2012. Thanks in advance for participating, and for sharing the links with fellow freelancers and clients.
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.
Coming into the final week of gathering participants for the annual Freelance Forecast, I emailed a few creative agencies specializing in freelancers to see if they’d be willing to send the surveys to clients and/or freelancers. In all honesty, the response was underwhelming. But there was one person (from Hire-Profile in Atlanta) who responded to my query brimming with enthusiasm about sharing the survey and the results within her network.
As we spoke on the phone and traded business histories, I asked her what had made her call me back. Her answer was instructive: Basically, she gets a lot of emails from people soliciting contact names and such, but she could tell that I’d put time into reading her website and making my email personal.
It was a reminder, above all, that you can’t let expedience get in the way of tailoring your message if you have a specific objective. In my case, I wasn’t trying to solicit a freelance job from her, but rather trying to get her to take some time to spread my survey around. As you can imagine, it’s even more critical if you’re actually trying to convince someone that you’re worthy of being hired and paid to do something.
Bottom line, customizing a query isn’t just about changing the name and publication or business category. It takes an investment in understanding what the prospect values — not just what you want to tell them. There’s a place in every freelancer’s arsenal for bigger, broadcast email campaigns, but you need to know when the surgical strike is the correct approach. It requires effort to have your message stand out…and if you don’t, you might be in danger of “Garbage out, garbage in.”
This version is for business clients, editors, art directors, graphic designers and others who hire freelancers: Client Perspectives 2011.
If you are a freelancer who also uses freelancers, you’re welcome to take both surveys.
Now, can we ask you a favor? If each freelancer encourages *one* client to participate, it would make the client-side survey even more valuable. The goal of Freelance Forecast is to publish fresh data about the state of the market and to help understand the good, bad and ugly of relationships between creative freelancers and clients. The more participants, the better it is for everyone’s business.
The results will be published in January, and once again, all participants will be put into a drawing for a $100 gift card. Thanks in advance for participating and sharing the links through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and wherever else freelancers and clients might lurk.
P.S. You can download results from 2009 and 2010 over here.
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
Talent/quality of work
Ability to hit deadlines
Understanding my needs
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.