If you happen to be a new freelancer, don't ever consider yourself as an exception because everyone is (was) a new freelancer when they began their journey.
Having a positive mindset will help your nerves settle and helps you focus on taking all the right steps that will help you to get your projects.
I come across a lot of new freelancers day in and out that keep asking for tips and tricks to get their foot in the door, but instead of giving them generic tips, I try and educate them on the importance of developing the right mindset which is to think like a top freelancer.
Assuming you have improved your profile, its time you worry about executing the next steps right, because ultimately the decisions you take from identifying the right project to bid on, to setting the perfect price and writing a stellar intro proposal, all these actions put together give you the ultimate chance you deserve to be considered for a dialog and hiring.
What does this mean? Lets try and take an example to make it easier for you
Assume you are going into a battle, how do you prepare yourself? Do you just walk into the battlefield or do you 'prepare'? Assuming you are more inclined towards 'preparing' what are the steps you take?
- You wear a protective gear
- You carry some food, water
- You carry all the ammunition you need
- You pray to god to bring you back safe
What does this 'preparation' do to you? It gives you the best chance to go, battle, protect and return, but there's no guarantee you are going to return, but hope for the best.
Similarly, in freelancing, you must never think or hope that customers are going to 'consider' or 'hire' or 'give a chance' just because you deserve, you are in a competitive environment where several others have the same thought-process and your 'preparation' is what helps you have an edge over them and give yourself the best chance to draw your prospect customer's attention.
How do you grab attention of your customers?
Assuming your profile is 100% ready, the next step you need to focus on is writing a customized proposal and not using those copy-paste proposals which many freelancers get addicted to. Writing a customized proposal gives your customer a good impression that you read their project description and spent some time before sending your proposal.
Tips to make your customer respond
While submitting your proposal, there are many ways you can make your customer respond, while I cannot guarantee 100% success ratio, you will surely find an increase in the number of responses you receive if you execute some of these tips:
- Offer a sample, a demo, a small writeup or whatever depending on your expertise, it helps your customer know that you 'care' about easing their 'decision-making' process.
- Ask relevant questions to help the customer 'address' those points which they left out or not aware of, adding value is one of the best strategies in winning clients and projects!
- Don't be scared to offer suggestions and inputs, it may draw customer's attention to think beyond their original scope.
- Never sound casual, address your customer with their name or words that symbolize respect and professionalism, I come across a lot of proposals that start with 'hi' 'hey'
- If its a time sensitive project, highlight your proposal by using phrases such as 'Sir, I can complete this in the next hour or so' because that will help the customer know you are 'ready' to dive in and an 'expert' that knows what he/she is doing.
Customer responded, what next?
While I can understand the excitment and enthusiasm of new freelancers, I hate it when they start bombaring messages and not letting me write (When I post projects as a customer), your customers are more happy when they 'settle' into a conversation rather than feeling pushed or compelled to 'hire' you just because they messaged you!
Much like a captain would hate if the 2nd pilot took over the flight without his consent, you need to be the second to type and let the customer take over the chat! This creates an impression you are a good listener, only answer when a question is asked.
I also find it laughable that most new freelancers think they can outsmart a customer by using phrases such as 'lets get started' or 'I am ready to work' just because the customer messaged, no, if the customer is hell bent on awarding you the project and setting up the milestone, why take the pain of using these boring phrases and making them feel on the edge?
In other words, if a customer spent 30 minutes with you discussing his project, does it mean he/she has to press the 'hire' button? Stop acting cute and get real, a customer has the ultimate power to hire whomever they want, so give them that breathing space they deserve, its also possible your customer may loose his Internet connection or power or may be interviewing muiltiple applicants, let them get back to you.
To add, if a customer goes offline, don't keep bugging him with so called follow up messages, because they clearly don't work in your favor, when I started freelancing, I was as excited as you all are, I made these mistakes too, and a customer lectured me to stop annoying him and called me a freak and unprofessional.
That's when I realized that it's in the best interest of yourself and the customer you let him award you the project or walk-away or not respond and you do what you are good at.
Your membership plan defines your goals or Vice versa
A lot of new freelancers use the basic, or at the most plus plan and have 50-100 bids per month, I interviewed some out of curiosity to find what they are expecting from their freelancer career and how many bids they put in before being a hired.
The gap I found was beyond imagination, one of the new freelancers I interacted with told me he would like to get anywhere between 10-20 customers a month, but he is using a basic plan, which gives him 50 bids.
When I asked him how many projects he 'won' by using those 50 bids, he told me 2 customers responded, but only 1 hired him, so going by that ratio, he would get a new customer for every 50 bids invested.
How does this add up? His basic plan has 50 bids, he puts in 5 bids a day, consumes those 50 bids in no more than 10-20 days assuming he is not bidding every day, and got 1 customer, but his initial target was 10-20 customers.
I did some more probing and asked him how much he earned from that project and he told me it was 50 USD, great, not a bad start at all right? But he made a simple, but costly mistake of applying for 'withdrawal' and continues to use the 'basic' membership plan.
What would I have done if I was in his shoes? No rocket science, I would have used that 50 USD or part of it to upgrade my membership plan to either plus or professional which would in turn help me get more bids and if I consumed all of them, going by the above ratio, I would end up getting a lot more customers than 1?
To conclude, he either set the wrong expectations or he is not taking the right steps to meet his goals, either ways its one and the same, which means if you want to maximize your earnings and number of projects that you are looking for, you must choose the right freelancer membership plan to give yourself the best chance.
There are days when you don't get any response, but on a given day, you may end up getting 2-3 potential customers reaching out to you!
Getting a client is difficult, loosing a client is easier
You cannot expect every customer to be your 'friend' which means there are some tough customers who get under your skin and make you scratch your head and wonder why you are working with them.
This is when you need to think like a top freelancer and invest efforts into upholding the relationship rather than walking away or creating a dispute.
Yes, there are great customers who are very friendly and professional, but some customers are very shrewd and don't care about your feelings or emotions, which means you need to understand their point of view, accept constructive or direct criticism and make lesser mistakes to avoid scenario's where the customer is ready with his gun pointing at your forehead.
A lot of top freelancers are often re-hired because they build great relationships and make their customers feel important, if you can emulate this quality, you will surely improve your re-hire ratio and be in the good books of your customers.
If you are in the initial stages of your freelancing career, follow these tips, it will take time for you to get into groove, but never give up learning from your and others mistakes because ultimately those who 'Learn' also 'Earn'