Freelancers spend a lot of time discussing direct clients and wondering how to attract them. Recently, my own search for freelance services put me on the other side of this fraught communication, giving me new insights into the perspective of a buyer. Here is the situation–the website I built a few years ago no longer has all the functions I want, yet I don’t have the skills or the time to create a new site myself. After asking a few colleagues about their experiences, I started looking for a WordPress web designer. It sounded easy enough. According to Google, I was practically surrounded by people who create WordPress websites, and they all sounded promising. “Top-notch technical expertise and expert customer service,” said one website, while another praised the process of “crafting the message as an energizing collaboration” (I wasn’t so sure about that one). The websites showed people with friendly faces, but I had no idea what to ask, except this: I wanted my website to be more functional.
I looked at websites and portfolios. Because I don’t have a background in design (and actually had no desire to acquire a background in design – THAT’S WHY I WAS LOOKING FOR A PROVIDER), the search was confusing and time-consuming. Several people I contacted did not respond, while others promised to call and then didn’t.
At a networking mixer of local graphic designers, I asked an attendee about her work. What did she specialize in? “WordPress design,” the woman said with a frown and turned away. It suddenly struck me: Is that what we sound like as translators? Had I driven away potential clients in similar situations by failing to answer their questions?
How can you make sure you’re found when someone is looking for your services?
- (Online) networking: It’s fun to talk shop once in a while, but surrounding yourself exclusively with freelancers from your own field probably does not count for effective networking. The hard work is to build connections in other fields.
- When someone contacts you (and you’re reasonably certain it’s not spam), RESPOND.
- Provide names of colleagues if you’re too busy to take on the work yourself. Even if a (legitimate) offer is not a good fit for you, take 30 seconds to say so, with a friendly word about specialization.
- Listen closely to clients to learn what questions they may have about your work. Focus on answering these questions in your marketing materials instead of highlighting vaguely defined “expertise” or offering insider jargon. It may be helpful to have your marketing message reviewed by someone from another industry.
After a few weeks of fruitless searching, I asked a LinkedIn contact for recommendations and finally found a provider who is responsive and happy to have my business. Will your name come up when a potential client asks for recommendations? Ultimately, that’s what your investment in networking and marketing time is all about.
Dorothee Racette is a past president of the American Translators Association. Based on over 20 years of experience as a successful freelance writer and translator, she trains small business owners in time management and productivity. In her blog, she shares her insights in making the most of her time. She invites you follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or to like her Facebook page for more practical time management advice.