What could be more exciting than embracing your passion for writing and turning it into a legitimate source of income? Talk about work that doesn’t feel like work! But when you’re a newbie, or “fresher,” how do you earn potential clients’ trust so they choose you from the sea of viable candidates who are vying for their contracts?
The following five tips are things that I’ve picked up along the way that can help you enjoy a smoother start to your freelancing journey:
1. Don’t Be Greedy
You may be the most talented writer in the business. You may have the research skills to blow other freelancers out of the water. But if you don’t have the glowing reviews or solid work history that will help you stand out among your competitors, you’ll find it’s harder to get the work – unless you agree to accept a contract at a lower rate of pay.
Some freelancers will complain that some entry-level rates are “unfair,” and I can understand why. No one wants to write 1,000 words for a measly $10. But this, my friends, is where your bread and butter lies. When I started working as a freelancer writer on Upwork back in 2012, $10 for 1,000 words seemed like the goose that laid the golden egg.
And guess what? That client was thrilled with my work and kept coming back to me for more. The result? Several contracts completed on my profile with several five-star reviews from a very happy client – feedback that future clients referred to when considering me for intermediate and expert-level jobs.
You have to start small at first to become big later on. Taking on smaller contracts in the beginning is like investing in the stock market. You don’t have as much money at first, so you buy the penny stocks. And once you start doing better, you buy and sell bigger. The same goes for freelancing. Many clients work for or own small businesses that don’t have a lot of capital starting out, and they need your help to make their webpage or blog shine. Their success then becomes your success, and the opportunities then become endless.
Remain humble when you’re first starting out. The intermediate and expert contracts will come. Take the lower rate for now and build your profile into something rock-solid that will earn you an increased rate later on.
2. Build Your Profile with Entry Level Contracts First
This ties into my previous point. Clients are less enthused about hiring someone who does not have a fleshed-out profile and work history. One way to build your profile quickly is to accept more one-time jobs than long-term contracts.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who lands a dependable long-term contract right out of the gate, good for you! For the rest of us, these kinds of contracts can be more elusive when you’re first starting out.
While you may appear dependable to other clients if you have been working on one contract for a few months, several glowing reviews from satisfied clients will have more of an impact. Even if a long-term client loves your work, s/he won’t be leaving you the feedback you need to land more contracts because the job is still in progress.
Opt for those contracts where the client only needs an About Us page written or a one-off blog post. Once completed, these three, five, or ten clients will leave you the reviews you need to show other clients that you have what it takes to do what they need done.
3. If You Have Questions, Ask
It sounds cliché, but it’s true: if you’re unsure about something, ask. Asking questions reduces the chances of having to do a re-write – time that would be better spent helping the client with another project, or helping another client entirely. Plus, the client will be relieved to receive work that has been done correctly on the first go-round. They don’t enjoy kicking the work back to you any more than you enjoy receiving the kick-back.
Don’t worry about being annoying. A good client understands that even if s/he has to answer 50 questions at the beginning, that’s 50 less things that will get messed up later on.
4. Deliver the Work Early Whenever Possible
Now this tip comes with disclaimers. First, if the client is on a short deadline, then there’s not much you can do insofar as offering a window in which you can complete the work. Second, under no circumstances should you ever rush through a job. You should always take your time, proofread, re-read, and Copyscape before you submit written content to the client.
Yes, Copyscape. So many times I’ve seen my original content pop up as plagiarism because someone else had thought of it first. I’ve had to rewrite myself many times, and it has saved me and the client a lot of heartache without the client even knowing what had almost happened. It only costs ten cents per check – an investment that is well worth it.
That being said, suppose today is Monday, and the client says they need the work back within a reasonable period of time but they don’t have a specific deadline. Offer them Friday, then deliver the work by Wednesday. Not only will you have the work off of your plate sooner, but you’ll have an ecstatic client who received the work two days ahead of schedule.
Afraid of losing the work if you go out too far? Offer a three-day window instead, then deliver it on the same or following day. This is my preferred offering and delivery, and it never fails to please.
I can’t say it enough, though: do not rush through the work just to be able to deliver it early. The work has to be of top-notch quality, else it defeats the whole purpose of the pleasant surprise. Only offer a shorter window if the contract is similar to those you’ve done in the past and you are 100 percent confident that you can deliver polished content on a tighter schedule.
5. Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew
You may think that a job sounds like a perfect match for your skills at first, so you apply. After talking with the client, however, you discover that no, you actually aren’t as skilled in neuroscience as you thought you were. Don’t try to wing it. Possible consequences of winging it include:
- Spending hours upon hours researching the topic to become familiar enough with it to write about it. This significantly reduces your rate in the long run (i.e. a $50 project that should have taken two hours has now taken five, so you’re making $10 an hour instead of $25);
- Wasting the client’s time (this is especially damaging if the client is on a deadline);
- Costing the client more money when s/he has to hire a second person to fix your work before it goes live, which leads to…
- …an unhappy client, who not only leaves you a negative review but who may also rightfully contest paying you at all.
If a project seems like it’s out of your league, politely explain that to the client and withdraw your bid. It will save you both time, frustration, and lost revenue in the long run.
About the Author:
Kailyn has been working as a freelance writer/editor since July 2009. She is new to PPH, receiving the majority of her experience working as a ghostwriter for various clients through Upwork.com, as well as writing for the now-defunct Examiner.com as a Pop Culture Examiner. Kailyn is a member of Upwork’s Pro Content Writers, an exclusive group reserved for those freelancers who have, among other things, been awarded a significant number of positive reviews from their clients. She is also a member of Upwork’s Private Talent Cloud, a pool of talented freelancers from which clients can select the best of the best freelancers for their projects. In her off-time, Kailyn enjoys spending time with her family, listening to audiobooks, and catching up on the latest in television, music, and film. Get in touch …
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