Dear MANMAN, I'm a newer freelancer and with so many people going freelance (as you often say yourself), how do I stand out from the crowd? Is there anything I can do to differentiate myself from other freelancers?
Ok, so my last post was about how we can all collaborate more and compete less, lol, but as this letter implies, the nature of competition in business is a reality.
The truth is, you will have to compete with other freelancers to win clients, win projects, win design reviews. But I still think we can cultivate a spirit of generosity and abundance in the midst of that, thereby leading to healthier ways of working and living.
Anyway...back to your question. I have some ideas :)
1. Customer service.
These aren't necessarily in order of importance, but customer service is definitely #1. You should make this your top priority at all times. Be friendly—in email, texting and in person. Be flexible and collaborative—find out how your clients prefer to work and adapt to their style as much as you can. Plus make sure you're easy to reach via email, text, etc. and reply back quickly (within a day or two, tops).
2. Your pricing.
Bottom dollar doesn't always win, but you should keep your prices competitive. If you're a solo freelancer, you shouldn't charge as much as a full-scale agency...or the client will (and prob should!) go with the agency. I've seen people unintentionally price themselves out of a job by getting too greedy. This is always a tricky line to toe, so I might write more about this in the future. It can be a bit of a guessing game.
3. Be fast.
One surefire way to get ahead is to work those weird hours that no one else wants to work. This is one major reason people hire freelancers over traditional agencies. They can hand something off to you at 5pm and have it waiting for them when they get in the next morning. It's like having a second shift.
One caveat: I realize this working style suits me, but it isn't for everyone. However, it is a great way to stand out and get ahead!
4. Be consistent.
Every idea will not be equal, every design will not be the most amazing thing you've ever seen in the world. But your goal should be to give your all every single time, for every single client. Don't be tempted to phone it in when you're tired or busy or the client is paying you less or giving you less time. You need to bring it every time.
5. Give more than they ask for.
Be proactive and look for ways to add value or elevate the deliverable whenever you can. This can be giving ideas above and beyond the brief, adding extra polish or finishing touches, solving a problem they didn't know they had, etc.
6. Be honest.
The world of business can be a frustrating game sometimes. Honesty is refreshing. And it breaks down barriers, which can lead to deeper relationships and better partnerships. If something goes wrong, don't pass the buck. Own up to your mistakes, have a good attitude and handle it like a pro.
7. Show your clients some love.
Keep in touch with what’s going on in their lives and show them you care during big life moments (new baby, wedding or even a death in the family). Tell them when you appreciate something they've done for you...it can be as small as sticking up for you in a meeting or as large as landing you a 5-figure project. Consider sending them a gift or nice, encouraging email around the holidays or for special milestones (theirs or yours!).
8. Stay up to date.
Keep your website relevant and engaging with top-notch design and content. This is the first place clients go when they're thinking about working with you. It should be a WOW factor. Also stay up to date on current trends in design or whatever field you're working in. Even if you're not using them in your work, you need to know about them.