You probably already know it but freelancing – far from being impervious to challenges and frustrations – is a constant struggle. Not only do you have to keep yourself motivated day in and day out even when you are working from home (where opportunities to get distracted abound), but there are times when contracts seem to be few and far between although you still have to meet your living expenses… However, one of the greatest challenges that all freelancers face when they wish to make a living with their work is trying to build a strong reputation that will help them get contracts on a regular basis. Below are five tips that will help you achieve just that.
1. Never say no
A freelancer who is in the process of building his or her reputation in the field should never say no to a potential contract. The idea here is to show that you are motivated and that you actually want to do the work, no matter what. The greater the number of people and companies you work for, the more your name will start circulating. Of course, never saying no can be exhausting and can call for long working hours: it is indeed quite likely that you will have to work on weekends for some time. Still, appearing – and actually being – fully disposed to work when people and companies need your services is absolutely essential.
Of course, there is one thing you should avoid, especially when you are struggling to carve out a place in the world of freelancing: you should never accumulate a workload that you actually cannot tackle. We will talk about this just in a few moments, but you must bear in mind that “never saying no” does not mean “always saying yes, no matter what”. In effect, saying yes to a contract but submitting the work a few days late or with a quality that is under the company’s expectations will result in something much worse than if you had honestly said no in the first place. It will indeed result in the company never contacting you again! The bottom line is never say no… unless you know for sure that you absolutely cannot say yes without compromising the quality of your work! Get it?
2. Meeting the deadlines
Once you agreed to carry out a task for a person or a company, you must comply with the rules. If you must submit your work by a given date, do not unilaterally give yourself some leeway: meet the deadline, period. In order to achieve that, you must work diligently according to a strict schedule. The more conscientious you are in carrying out every single contract you sign according to the instructions that were given to you, the more likely it is that you will be contacted again. Remember that if the head of a company tells you that he or she needs a given document by a given date, there must be a reason for it. Don’t ask why: just do it.
If the deadline appears totally unreasonable and you know that you will not be able to meet it, you must say it before agreeing to the contract: you may be able to get a few extra days. And if any other aspect of the task you must carry out is not crystal clear, do not hesitate to have it clarified. In effect, asking for precisions is not a problem at all: it only makes you look more professional and it minimizes the risks of misunderstandings. You better wear both belt and suspenders!
3. Reviewing and editing your work
There are some contracts that you will agree to and that will turn out to be a tiny bit boring: it does happen! The temptation to rush through that kind of task can be quite strong, but you must resist: every time you say yes, you ought to be working to the best of your ability. If this is true throughout the process of carrying out the task, it is also true when the time to review and edit your work comes. You should actually never submit a piece of work without having carefully proofread it once (at least). Every single mistake that manages to make it to the final version of your work is one more reason for the company that requested your services to look for other freelancers in the future. Reviewing and editing are fundamental parts of freelancing: bear that in mind!
4. Keeping everybody posted and being honest
Contracts can differ in kind and in length. Sometimes, you will be asked to write about topics that seem foreign to you. If you feel that the contract is way too specific for you and that it is far beyond your understanding, you should consider turning down the offer (it is one of the rare occasions in your early career where you can afford to say no because it shows that you know your limits). Being honest with the persons and companies you work with is absolutely essential. In those cases where you just decide to turn down an offer because you lack the necessary abilities, do not hesitate to recommend another freelancer if you know one that is likely to be able to write the document.
Yet, it happens often that you are not completely familiar with the subject which you are asked to write about. This is absolutely conventional and you should not fear such a situation: no one knows everything! Think about the best journalists, for instance. Even the greatest reporters have to look for information and to understand the news they are working on before they can actually explain it. The same can be said of freelancers. The best way to avoid writing something that turns out to be completely off the track is to keep in touch with the company that requested your services. Do not hesitate to ask for their opinion when you feel it could improve your work. First, keeping everybody posted lets people know you actually are working, which is always good. Second, it shows that you care about writing something that truly meets their expectations.
5. Keep track of your work
If you want to build yourself a solid reputation, you ought to consider building a portfolio. In effect, a portfolio is your best ally when the time to convince a company that you can do the job comes. Being able to let people view some of the greatest pieces of work you have done gives you a lot more credibility and it shows that you have got some experience. It is also a good way to display your writing abilities and style as well as your capacity to adapt to various contexts, topics and tasks. Building a portfolio calls for some effort, however. You will have to keep track of your work and to ask for copies of your published work when possible. If you do freelancing on the Internet, you ought to keep an up-to-date record of the web links that lead to your pieces of writing: that way, you will easily be able to direct your potential clients to relevant web pages that display your masterpieces!
Building your reputation as a young freelancer is certainly not an easy task, but it is worth making an effort. I hope the aforementioned tips will help you start off your career in the very best possible way!
About the author:
Alexandre Duval is a blogger for Standard Life, a company that offers various financial products and services to help you plan your retirement, including tax-free savings accounts (TFSA).