How can a freelancer get a steady flow of orders?

How can a freelancer get a steady flow of orders?

I have been freelancing my entire career life. I’m not familiar with corporate culture, office chatter, fixed wages. And even though I’ve never known any other format of work, worrying about my stability in a changing freelance world is very familiar to me. More precisely, it was: for the last four years I have been working with almost the same clients.

When I thought about how it happened that my relationships with customers became exceptionally long-term, I formed a few tips. I want to share them with you in the framework of this material.

Recipe for long-term client relationships

Long-term projects are the cherished desire of every freelancer. Who would refuse to get rid of the main drawback of freelancing – the constant and rather chaotic cycle of new projects and customers? I think no one. This means that it is necessary to act here in a complex manner. I propose the following algorithm:

  1. Long-term relationships appear when our rates often win – then we have the opportunity to choose long-term projects.
  2. A large number of winning bets ensures our attractiveness for the vast majority of customers.
  3. Attractiveness for customers can be achieved with the help of cool hard skills, soft skills and customer service.

Yes, at one time I realized what I need to push on so that I have mostly long-term projects and I don’t worry about the stability of my income, but work with confidence and comfort. Hard skills, soft skills Yes customer service – three sections of this article, the components of which we will focus on below.

I. Improve hard skills

Hard skills for a freelancer are all professional skills that allow you to work in your specialty. This term includes specific and measurable skills that can be developed through training, practice and work experience: knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign programs for designers, the ability to plan, organize and control projects for a project, literacy and imagination for a copywriter. And here are four tips that will help you improve your hard skills on the way to long-term projects.

Find your main niche

In the freelancing world, there are a huge number of specialists offering various services. It can be difficult to compete with them, especially in the general market. But if you focus on a narrow niche, then the chances of standing out and attracting customers increase.

Customers are usually looking for specialists who specialize in their particular problem. If a freelancer claims to have expertise in a particular industry, it helps inspire confidence and grab the attention of clients.

How does this affect the stability of the project? It’s very simple: if you work in a small niche, sometimes it may turn out that only you understand a completely narrowly focused client problem throughout the service. The chance to meet such a professional is one in a million, which means that the customer himself will be interested in not letting you go and joining the team.

Monetize multiple skills at once

Working with long-term projects requires not only honed skills, but also a strategic approach to monetize your abilities. Think about what related services you could offer customers? This will open several doors for you at once:

  • services can be provided in a complex – it is always more attractive for the client;
  • discounts or bonus offers for the purchase of several services also come here – this way you can agree on favorable conditions for long-term cooperation, from which everyone will benefit;
  • freelancers who understand not only their niche, but also related ones, make a better impression and seem more reliable – and therefore the best candidates for full-time work.

If necessary, pull up the level of knowledge in certain areas. The more skills you have in your arsenal, the more opportunities you have to attract new customers.

Prioritize potentially long-term projects over one-offs

An obvious, but no less important piece of advice is to bet primarily on long-term projects instead of one-time ones (or analyze which one-time project has the potential to become long-term). If you are a designer who is faced with the choice of responding to the tasks of creating an advertising creative or photoshopping a few frames from a personal photo shoot, the choice should be made in favor of the first option.

If both customers like your work, only the client with creatives is more likely to provide you with a long-term load. That’s why betting on one-time and potentially long-term projects should be at least in the ratio of 30/70.

How can a freelancer understand that his rate is working?

In the article, our top freelancer explains in detail how to win more projects, correctly convey the value of his services and shows the work algorithm.

This is the perfect time to remind you of our Plus tool. More about what it gives you can read here. And I’ll just say that, according to our statistics, freelancers with Plus win 2.2 times more often in public projects, and there are 1.9 times more personal offers. And it also increases your rating, so you understand how the probability of finding a worthy long-term project increases with this tool.

Explore the Market

Regular market research will help the freelancer to keep abreast of current trends and changes. If there is a shift in favor of certain technologies in your field (as was recently the case with AI services that have flooded the entire Internet space and created a huge demand for relevant specialists), you will be able to quickly adapt your services and portfolio to new demands.

More skills – more orders – more likely to find long-term projects. By keeping your finger on the pulse, you will significantly reduce the number of problems such as competition and hesitation about the fair price of your work.

II. Don’t Forget About Soft Skills

Soft skills are your human qualities that make a significant contribution to the level of professionalism:

  • skill to work in team;
  • deadlines;
  • ability to resolve conflicts;
  • desire for self-development;
  • reliability, etc.

It is always important for employers and customers to see a balance between soft and hard skills without excesses. Below we will talk about what soft skills helped me build long-term relationships with clients.

Personalize your interaction

An individual approach to the customer increases the degree of your customer focus, therefore, you become a more attractive option for cooperation.

What is personalized interaction? These are minisignals of commitment to the client that you periodically send him:

  1. For example, you can bid on projects with template text (because it’s faster and easier), or you can change it every time – and this signals that you paid attention to the description of the task.
  2. You can communicate with customers exclusively in a business style, or you can use appropriate jokes and a simpler tone – this will be a signal that you can build a warm relationship with you.
  3. You can be sincerely interested in related aspects of the project to signal that it is important for you not only to do your job, but to deliver results.

If any of the qualified specialists can perform a one-time task, then you want to work in a team for a long time with someone who can offer something more.

Treat freelancing like your own business

There is a lot in common between freelancing and your own business: in fact, this and that is work for yourself. What aspects of the business can be implemented in your freelance activities:

  1. Professionalism – fast and clear communication with customers, meeting deadlines, quality service.
  2. Marketing – promotion of their services through a personal brand, social networks, advertising, etc.
  3. Reputation — understanding the importance of repeated cooperation and recommendations that can be received by satisfied customers.

Any business is interested in increasing Lifetime Value – the total profit that one client brings to you during the entire period of your cooperation. So your freelance career should be built on the principles of creating and developing a business – then the result will be appropriate.

Offer help on other projects

Imagine that you have successfully completed a one-time task – let it be the design of a logo for an Instagram page. If after the end of cooperation you are used to saying goodbye, next time try to ask the client if he needs similar services on a long-term basis. These do not have to be logos, as in our example: a designer can easily create a unified style for posts, design highlights, edit product photos, etc.

It is beneficial for the customer to work with you, because you are already familiar with his product. That’s how I got into my longest-running projects – just by asking if my services were needed in other tasks. So, from an SMM manager, I gradually became a project manager, and from a PR manager, I became the head of the design department.

This is a story about the fact that sometimes not only your skills and experience, but also understanding of people become the key to long-term relationships.

III. Improve customer service

Satisfied customers are the foundation of your success and the key to continued employment. And since the competition in the market is very high, it is high-quality customer service that can become the element that will set you apart from your competitors. Below I talk about three customer-oriented chips that I use in working with customers.

Promise less, deliver more

Customers appreciate your loyalty. If you exceed customer expectations, they are likely to contact you again or recommend you to others. Clients are always looking for reliable and competent freelancers, by doing more than what was required by the terms of cooperation, you demonstrate your dedication and desire to provide the best results.

Balance is important here, because in an attempt to give as much as possible, you can get into a disadvantageous situation for you. There is a golden rule of freelancing: an additional service that can be provided free of charge as a bonus should take you no more than 15 minutes. And in the form of what you decide to give it – a gift, advice, an additional unit of work – already at your discretion.

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Work on positive reviews

It probably doesn’t need to be explained why negative reviews ruin your reputation: in the highly competitive freelancing world, clients would rather prefer someone with only positive reviews, rather than giving a second chance to someone with a few negative ones.

Insuring yourself against bad feedback is quite simple. For this you need:

  • fulfill the assigned tasks, do not promise if you are not sure;
  • do not break deadlines and do not disappear;
  • communicate politely;
  • ask for honest feedback in a private conversation before the end of cooperation;
  • do the maximum in order to smooth out the dissatisfaction of the customer, if it has arisen.

By following all these points, you reduce the likelihood of receiving negative reviews to zero. You can also ask the customer to share their impressions of your cooperation with you in private messages in order to have an idea of ​​their work from the outside. I have repeatedly reminded clients of this, and such a request has never caused problems.

Maintain relationships with former clients

It is always a pleasure to work with old clients: you are familiar with the project, the requirements are familiar too, you do not need to find an approach to a new person. Even if you collaborated for a long time and as part of a short-term task, it would not be superfluous to remind you of yourself by sending a short, casual message asking if they need your services now. In my experience, there have been several situations where such activity has led to a successful re-collaboration. Sometimes I could ask my closest clients to recommend me as a specialist to their friends or colleagues: this was very supportive in moments of crisis.

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