PROUD TO BE A FREELANCER
“Oh, he is still jobless! …Doesn’t do much apart from sitting on the computer and making what he calls a ‘career’!” If this is this how your mom describes you, welcome to the WWF (It is World Wide Freelancers’ club….What were you thinking? An Article on ‘Freelancers turning Wrestlers for a living’….well…you won’t have to turn to anywhere else for a living after you are through reading this article!). Whether you freelance part-time or full-time, first of all, I admire your courage for standing up for your convictions and claiming freedom, control and flexibility in your jobs and lives by opting to be a freelancer! Yes, I know, life isn’t exactly easy for a freelancer. I am myself one. But, it can be a lot better for a lot of us, if only we know, how to make projects fall in our lap one after the other! And that’s precisely what I am going to tell you about! So, Read on!
HOW TO WIN YOUR FIRST PROJECT AND MANY MORE PROJECTS THEREAFTER
Winning your first project can be quite a daunting task, since you have no feedback and no past record to show off. But as they say, where there is a will, there is a way. So, let’s find the way!
Let me first reveal an insider’s secret. Here it goes: Project managers don’t choose the best freelancer over others (for there is no way they can test your abilities to determine whether you are the best), rather they eliminate the ‘others’ to be left with the ‘chosen one’. In other words, winning a bid is not as much a selection process as an elimination process. It all boils down to marketing and selling yourself successfully. Yes, you’ve heard it right! You win a project largely because you have a winning strategy to market your skills and sell yourself and you make all the right moves.
There are broadly 3 steps to selling yourself successfully:
1. Kick for a start – Stand out to attract attention
2. Build up some steam – Enhance the interest
3. Raise a toast – Snap up the deal
In a virtual marketplace, there are provided four channels for your first communication with a project manager -Bidding your price, Project Completion Time, Bidding Details and Private messaging. Each of the four channels is a tool in your hands that you can wield to convert the project manager into ‘your’ client. Let’s find out how.
1) As a beginner you can’t ask for the stars. Nevertheless, you should not be available at throw away prices, not even for the sake of competition. At the end of the day, you need to sustain yourself. Isn’t that the whole point of having a job? That’s why it’s important that you estimate your skills, abilities and expertise honestly and fix a decent hourly rate for your services. Go ahead and do a survey of the average pricing for the job, if required. Then sit down and work out the estimated time it is going to take you to finish the project.
2) Now you can figure out what’s going to be your bid for the project. So, go ahead and place your bid. Later on, you may even offer some discount on the final price estimated in this manner depending on the premium you put on winning this particular project and still end up with a decent price for your services. So, in short, learning to be a good business manager is your first step.
3) If you find the details provided in the project description insufficient to estimate your costs, then make an indicative bid and mention the same in the bid details that you communicate to the project manager. And don’t hesitate in requesting the prospective client for more information. It would only go to display that you are seriously considering their project.
Your Bidding Details:
4) As the old Chinese proverb goes, ‘ If the first words fail, ten thousand will then not avail’. So, don’t give in to the temptation of pasting the same pre-written script on every client’s message board as you’ll be easily caught on this one and even if you don’t get caught, the absence of a project-specific context in your message won’t bode well on your chances of winning the project. Study the requirements of each project carefully and then send bid details, in which you communicate to each prospective client your rationale behind the pricing, your time estimates, also talk about constant communication in case you are awarded the project.
5) Now, we come to the last but the most powerful tool in your hands- the Personal Message you send to the prospective client. You must use this opportunity to convince the client that you have the potential to carry out the assigned tasks with flying colors. Introduce yourself and your skill set in a brief, clear and to the point manner.
Instead of listing all the nice adjectives in the dictionary to describe yourself, just mention what you would do to demonstrate those qualities. For instance, instead of saying that you are hard working, organized and punctual, convey the same by mentioning that you’ve planned, based on your estimate, to dedicate 7 hrs each day for seven days to finish the project well in time.
Always back up your claims about your competence by hard facts. Make available to the client a sample of your work, a demonstration, any reference checks you can provide or whatever proof you can give of your credibility. And all this while, play by the rules or you’ll be out of the game! What are the rules? Well, here is a small list for your reference: (Visit our website http://e-guru.in for comprehensive details!)
1.You are not supposed to message your prospective boss in your chat room language, and you’ll be surprised by how many of us do it and to what extent. A few of us just stop short of “asl plz”! You must reek of absolute professionalism right from the beginning.
2.Grammatical errors, misspelled words and typos won’t be pardoned. Run spell check, proofread and confirm correct language syntax before hitting the ‘send’ button.
3.Follow the KISS. In other words, Keep It Short and Simple. Your message must not end up as a lengthy rambling around the bush in circles. Talk about the project in some way in every sentence you type. Hint: use the key words mentioned in the project details.
4.Study the client’s profile carefully, dig out hidden information about him/her and use it to personalize your first message. You’ll be able to warm up quicker and better.
5.Neither beg for a project nor come across as a boasting and pompous snob. Maintain a reasonable balance between the two ends of the spectrum. Position yourself like a customer-oriented brand for the buyer.
6.Let your enthusiasm for winning the project and working on it shine through your messages.
7.In your bidding details and your personal message, always communicate in the project’s context and in terms of how can you bring this project the success that it deserves, all the while addressing the client by the username mentioned in the project. Avoid assuming a Mr. or Ms. If you don’t know for sure. Just addressing as ‘Dear User name” would do. Don’t talk in terms of what a great craftsman you are but talk about your vision for this project, how you see it happening successfully and in time!
8.Never bite the hand that feeds you. Do not give out your contact details in your messages, unless you get a kick out of mindless self-sabotage. You will surely be kicked out of the website and barred if you do that.
9.Focus on using your service provider’s rating and feedback system to forward your ambitions. Your ratings and feedback will stay there for the whole world to watch and marvel at. You can generate a tremendous amount of work inflow by providing your best services once you bag a project because your service quality is going to show in your profile!
STEP 2 AND STEP 3
You’ve caught the project manager’s attention by displaying your sincere interest in their project and your eligibility to handle it through your well-crafted bidding details and a powerful introductory personal message. You’ve come across as a promising candidate for the project by showcasing your works and samples. So, you make the cut in the first elimination round. What next? In all probability, you’ll be contacted by the client through the message board at this stage. No need to worry even if you are not!
Maintain a fresh presence on the clients’ message board by updating them about your latest activities relevant to their project. Post messages to make the client feel you understand their needs. Stay pro-active. Once the client warms up in their communication with you, you’ll come to know you’ve got them interested.
And I can help you only till here. (I’ve got to keep some secrets to myself…! Visit our home site http://www.e-guru.in for more guidance! ) Now the ball is in your court. And, it’s entirely your savoir-faire and business sense, or the lack of it that can make or break the deal for you.
Always hope and work for the best but be prepared for the worst. Freelancing isn’t the easiest job, people!
THE FINAL WORD
Remember that you are your own one-man company and freelancing is your business. Approach it, manage it and run it with the same élan and poise with which you would run a conglomerate! You’ve got to get serious if you want serious results! Bring absolute professionalism and ethical practices to the fore. Think big. Most importantly, create a well chalked out strategy with your short and long-term goals in mind. Create a solid ground to establish your own brand and then see how your dreams take off on a flight to fulfillment!
A NEW BEGINNING