Over the years, I’ve gotten good at taking short cuts. The kind that feel good when you finally figure them out without sacrificing quality. And coincidentally, I’ve found my work days to be shorter as a result! Win win. Throughout the course of this Be Free, Lance series, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of discovering your process, but not necessarily how to streamline it. And that last part? It’s a game changer. Once you’ve discovered a process that works best for you, think a little deeper. What actions could you take to provide an even more efficient working environment for yourself? Here are a few things I’ve personally found helpful.
01. TASTEFULLY AUTOMATE WHATEVER YOU CAN Email templates are life savers, as I’m sure most of you probably know by now. And if you don’t, check out the “canned responses” gmail short cut (other providers have similar options) for more details! Features like these help us quickly answer common emails and allow us to move on without much pause. While I utilize these myself for frequently asked questions and polite “I’m already booked” responses, I recently developed a canned response that is specifically used for on-boarding clients. What this means is that whenever a new client is signed, I am able to send their first “intro” email in just a few short seconds. This particular email tells them what I need to get started (typically a signed contract + downpayment), explains any homework (client questionnaires) they may have, and goes over any immediate due dates. Without my canned response, these on-boarding emails would take 15 minutes, at least, to draft. The important thing to remember here is keeping things tasteful. Make sure that your canned responses don’t sound overly automated. Personal touches (that only take a few extra seconds to write) are great additions to consider before hitting send on any canned response.
Chasing clients can be one of the trickiest + touchiest situations within the freelancing game. Just like with any typical contract, both parties are supposed to perform and communicate to the best of their abilities … but unfortunately, there are many instances where things get grey. For example, maybe your client goes silent for weeks on end without notice. Or maybe you’re having trouble collecting overdue payments. In situations like these ( and many more ), the common thread is simply a lack of communication. For whatever reason, one half of the party isn’t informing the other of what’s going on, which can be frustrating beyond belief. We’ve all been there! So what do you do?? Personally, I’ve found that the best plan of action is to be both patient + persistent. And above all, understanding + fair. Not only to yourself, but your client as well.
There’s two sides to every story here. You, the freelancer, are trying to run a successful business. You have schedules, deadlines, and things that need to happen in order to move forward. But both parties, however, also have a life. One that doesn’t stop for anything. And truthfully, there’s no telling what sort of road blocks, project related or not, will place themselves right within your timeline. That’s what makes things so difficult! Maybe your client had a sudden health scare in their family. Or maybe they had an unexpected expense come out of nowhere. You never know! As freelancers, our first reaction to silence is typically project related + negative. Things like “I haven’t heard from them for WEEKS! They must really hate what I’ve done and not want to move forward” cross our mind. But nine times out of ten, that’s just not the case. So instead of creating scenarios within your head, try getting to the bottom of it instead.
When I first started freelancing, I let any negative comment ( no matter how big or small ) effect my day … and sometimes even my entire week. Constructive criticism is KEY for any good client relationship, so there’s really no reason to let it become a barrier. It’s bad for both parties involved and just isn’t healthy. Feedback doesn’t need to be thought of as a scary or bad thing. Instead, allow it to define forward movement and create positive collaboration between you and your client. Although I’ve seen a serious shift in the way I handle feedback, there is always room for learning and growth. Here are just a few tips I’ve found helpful for successfully managing feedback :
DISCONNECT PERSONAL ATTACHMENT As creatives, it’s easy to get attached to the work we create and share with clients. But just because we like something doesn’t mean that the client is going to as well. Or that it is even right for their end product. Do all that you can to be subjective and approach feedback in an open + honest way. Learn to let go when it’s important and that will make all the difference.
BECOME A PROBLEM SOLVER One of the worst things you can do is mull over negative feedback and let it eat you away. I know it’s hard … but as soon as you receive feedback, don’t even give your wandering mind the time of day. Instead, become a problem solver immediately. Outline any problem areas shared by your client and start brainstorming ways to solve them. By doing this, you’ll be too busy to even wallow in negativity. Just move forward.
As many of you know ( and have been following along ), Be Free, Lance is a column on my blog that has stood the test of time for the past few years. Every few weeks, a topic of discussion is brought to the table and I’m continually impressed by all of your thoughtful responses, comments, and support along the way. Truly. There came a point, though, where I realized the potential this little column had. Over the years, I’ve received countless emails filled with questions from creatives longing to freelance, or others who have already taken the jump and are curious to learn more. And I get it. When I first started freelancing, the whole thing felt extremely overwhelming, too. I googled my way through problems, asked admirers for advice, and put the pieces together, day after day.
This column has opened my eyes quite a bit. I realized that there isn’t really an “all in one” space out there, tailored for creatives, that goes over freelancing in an all-encompassing way. While this column has been a great start, I knew I was ready to take it to the next level … just not alone. This is where a good friend of mine, Jen Serafini, comes into play! Because here’s the thing : she brings a whole other perspective to the table. While I jumped into freelancing straight away, she didn’t. She went the more traditional route of getting a job in her field, first. In fact, she still has a full-time job while freelancing on the side! Together, we bring two of the most common freelancing routes to the table, with first hand professional experience. Plus, it’s just nice to have another creative to bounce ideas off of!
SO HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Jen and I have been working hard to create an online workshop that is carefully tailored for creatives who are looking to freelance as well as those who have already taken the jump. Our workshop will take a comprehensive look at freelancing; the ins, the outs, and everything in between. It will be your one stop shop for everything from prepping and planning, to getting clients and handling your daily routine. Our goal is to cover all of the bases for you in a fun and interactive way, through worksheets, videos, interviews and much more. We haven’t figured out all of the final details yet, but in the meantime if you’re interested, we’d love for you to stop by our website, sign up for the mailing list (and take an important survey once you subscribe!), and follow us on twitter and instagram.
There are many more updates to come, so if you’re following us,
you’ll hear first. ;)
I’m sure many ( or all ) of you have heard the phrase “don’t burn bridges” before. And for those of you who’ve been in problematic client situations before, that phrase may have been easier said than done, eh?? I feel ya. But no matter how tough + uncomfortable your particular situation may be, I’m going to repeat myself for effect … don’t burn bridges. I’m going to illustrate this idea with a little story.
As many of you may know, I will be getting married this August, which means that a lot of planning has gone into the big day. While I’ll be sharing more on this soon ( promise! ), there is one detail that has actually turned out to be quite the eye opener. Or a reassurance of sorts. And as stressful as this situation was ( and still is ), I’m choosing to share it with you all because it’s the perfect example of what not to do in a sticky client situation. AKA : the negative effects of burning bridges.