By Jake Poinier
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:
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.
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.
Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group and blogs as Dr. Freelance.
What's in *your* freelancing future?
The Freelance Forecast 2011 surveys are uploaded & ready for your opinions on best practices, motivations and expectations. As in past years, there are two different surveys:
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.
Photo by Ruxandra Moldoveanu.
A few years ago, I created the Freelance Forecast survey and sent it to freelancing friends and clients as a way to get a sense of the business climate and best practices to attract and retain clients. Last year, thanks to Freelance-Zone.com and countless others in the blogosphere, the survey expanded to several hundred respondents. (You can download pdfs of the previous results here: 2009 survey | 2010 survey)
To participate in the 2011 survey:
Simply go to DearDrFreelance.com, type your email address in the box in the right-hand column, and click “Subscribe”. You’ll receive an automated email with a confirmation link. Please note:
- Addresses are solely used for sending out the initial survey and sending out the results afterward; they will not be sold or otherwise distributed to anyone.
- All survey information is kept 100% confidential and is published only in the aggregate.
- You will receive a link to the survey on or around December 1, and the survey will close on December 31.
- In January, you will receive a link to download a pdf containing this year’s results.
- All participants will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to a vendor of their choice.
3 ways you can help:
- Most important, if each freelancer can encourage one or two clients, editors or other purchasers of freelance services to participate, those insights will help us all improve our business skills — and to attract and retain clients. (And yes, make more money.) And it will help clients understand how they can work better with us as freelancers.
- Make suggestions on questions you’d like to see asked in the comments here or email me at jake (at) BoomvangCreative (dot) com.
- Sharing the link to this page via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your other social media of choice, of course!
Thanks in advance for your participation!
Last time, we discussed the top 5 qualities a freelance client is looking for, so this week, let’s take on the flip side: opinions on the top 5 freelance client deal killers; i.e., the dreaded “most frustrating qualities in a freelancer.” Here’s your top 5 from Freelance Forecast 2010:
- Didn’t follow assignment
- Quality of work
- Missed deadlines
- Surprise charges/overcharges
Any surprises? Let’s hope not.
To find some of the specific client hot buttons, Freelance Forecast also asked: “What is the ONE mistake or personal quality that would ruin a freelancer’s opportunity to work with you again?” Most of the answers were derivative of the above list—unreliable, blown assignments, poor work. But some of the other responses were instructive: Bossiness…not open to new ideas…lying…deceptive behavior…plagiarism…surprising me in any way…stealing a client from me…unwillingness to make it right…backing out at the last minute after agreeing to do the job…treating me poorly because I work for a government agency…flaking…misrepresenting their ability.
It comes down to this: What was true of the positive freelancer qualities is even more true of the negative ones: Every single item is completely or almost completely under your control. It’s a lot of responsibility, but you’re just the person for the job!
Father’s Day note: I owe a lot to my dad for inspiring me into a life of self-employment, and “Father’s Day musing: Is entrepreneurship genetic?” captures a few of my thoughts as we head into what’s been a bittersweet holiday for the past decade.
Freelance-Zone contributor Jake Poinier is the founder/owner of Boomvang Creative Group and Dear Dr. Freelance.
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.
Freelance-Zone contributor Jake Poinier is the founder/owner of Boomvang Creative Group, the newly launched advice blog for freelancers, Dear Dr. Freelance, and a ruminator on assorted business topics at Jake’s Take.