Freelancing is full of challenges and uncertainty. In particular, starting a new project can feel daunting, especially because the stakes are always high. A successful project can add examples of your work to your website or a portfolio, which could help you attract new clients, or it could simply strengthen your existing relationship with a current client.
However, projects can be plagued by unexpected problems, such as technical issues, unforeseen complications, or simply the need for more time than you originally expected, which can pop up at any time and jeopardize the success of your project. That could ruin a potentially profitable client relationship.
Despite these complications, there is some good news: there are steps you can take to increase the chances that all of your future freelance projects are successful. Interested in learning about how to help your freelance projects succeed? Read on for some helpful tips that you can use to set up yourself and your projects for success.
Establishing Timelines from the Start
An important step in a project is working with your client in establishing deadlines for each deliverable. Pairing these deadlines with weekly or biweekly meetings, depending on the length of the project, is a great way you can earn your client's trust. You can go into these conversations with information on how each step of the project is coming along and inform them if you are ahead of schedule.
Establishing dates for tasks is also a great way to set the expectations for your partnership. If early on you find that your client is looking to have 50% of the work completed in a week, but you know it will take you at least two weeks, you can have those conversations upfront. Managing timelines and expectations for work completion can go a long way in making your project successful.
Communicate Openly (And Often)
Although you may be working by yourself as a freelancer, you're never actually working alone — your client is an important part of the freelance process, too! Make sure to set yourself up for success by communicating openly and often with your client during all stages of the project.
Begin by writing and signing a freelance contract that includes a clear description of the work you'll be doing, the dates by which you'll commit to delivering your products or services, and the amount of money you'll charge for each deliverable. Signing a clear, lawyer-vetted contract is a great way to establish expectations and start your project off on the right foot.
Once you've begun working, keep your client updated on your progress with routine updates. If you run into snags or need additional information, it's always best to let the client know as soon as possible instead of waiting until the last minute. Communicating openly with your client is a great way to improve your working relationship.
Show Some Initiative
While establishing a clear line of communication is a great way to ensure success, asking too many questions can be, well, annoying. Self-reliant freelancers should be capable of answering their own questions whenever possible and managing to forge ahead in order to meet their deadlines. Clients often appreciate the ease and simplicity of getting to hand a project off to a freelancer and not having to worry about the details until it's been completed.
It's important to have all the tools you need to complete your work in a self-reliant manner. Knowing how to perform research or quickly reach out to a knowledgeable source can save you the trouble of having to contact your client in order to learn the answer to a simple question.
This is also a great reason to have a strong professional network of fellow freelancers, even those who are in different fields from you: fellow freelancers can help you answer simple questions without forcing you to reach out to your client. Being willing to take the initiative is a great way to ensure the success of your projects.
Maintaining a Productive Project by Controlling Scope Creep
If there is one factor that will determine whether or not your project is productive it is how well you can control scope creep. As freelancers, we have all been a part of an engagement where our client asks us for one little favor that takes an extra five minutes to complete. Slowly over time, these requests become more frequent or they expand so much that deliverables are changing or being added. Managing the amount of additional out-of-scope work you take on will determine if your project is a success or a failure.
Oftentimes the best way to handle scope creep is through effective communication. More times than not, our clients don’t fully understand or realize that their requests take longer to complete than they assume. To them, it should be a simple task, but for us, it requires an hour of our time that could have been used working on a deliverable for the actual project.
That is why it is important to meet with your client frequently and have a conversation when these requests come in. Simply let them know that you are happy to assist with any work, but it is going to take this long or cost an additional fee. This is usually enough to keep expectations clear on both sides.
Working at home can sound great — after all, you can work in your pajamas, set your own hours, and be your own boss! But many freelancers forget that some of the “perks” of working at home are actually a challenge that they need to overcome. Removing distractions is a key component to staying focused while working from home.
Ideally, your workspace should be removed from distractions in your home, whether those are a blaring television, a cozy bed that you don't want to leave in the morning, or a kitchen full of snacks. Give yourself a quiet place to work (and focus) and your project will be much more likely to succeed.
If you're still having trouble focusing at home, try using time management techniques or project management software. Different strategies work for different people, so experiment with different concepts until you find one that allows you to stay motivated and focused on the task at hand. While it may take you time to settle on a system now, doing so can save you much more time down the road.
Wow Your Clients
Simply doing a competent job isn't going to knock anyone's socks off. If you want your project to succeed — and your clients to bring you on for additional projects in the future — you may need to put in some extra effort to give them more than they expected.
Take the time to research your clients and determine if you could help them with additional work. Are you a graphic designer working on a website, but you think that your client is in serious need of a new branding strategy? Or are you a writer who's working on a mission statement for a company but you think that the content on their website could use an overhaul?
As long as you present your sales pitch in a respectful and results-oriented way, your client might just be wowed enough by your initiative to let you continue working for them. Going the extra mile for clients may not always pay off, but when it does, it can be a huge boost to your freelance career.
Another top success factor to keep in mind is creating high-quality deliverables that drive results. At the end of the day, your client hired you because they needed results. Either they needed you to create something or provide a service that they can derive value from. If at the end of the engagement you deliver the final work and it misses the mark on any action items, it can quickly turn a relationship sour especially if the project was long-term.
To help avoid these end-of-project mishaps, constant communication and allowing your client to see the progress of your work will help immensely. It also provides an opportunity for them to give feedback on the work and suggest changes or improvements you can make along the way instead of waiting till the end.
Don't Forget To Follow Up
In contrast to what you might think, your job doesn't need to end as soon as you submit your work. Taking the time to follow up on your project shows that you're a freelancer who cares about their work and isn't afraid to take some initiative.
Check in with your client and offer to perform any follow-up work that might be needed, such as debugging a faulty line of code or rewriting any clunky sentences. While it may be necessary to limit your follow-up work so your client doesn't take advantage of your offer, following up after a project may make a good impression and inspire your client to work with you again in the future.
Ensuring Your Projects’ Success Time and Time Again
When you're a freelancer, it's important to build a reputation that establishes you as a hard-working individual who is capable of doing great work. Every completed project can represent a strong addition to your portfolio or website, and each satisfied client can be an opportunity for you to land more work in the future. Follow these tips and you'll maximize your chances of making every freelance project a successful one.