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Bob Beaty

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Be a Freelancer, Not a Fauxlancer: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Posted: 06/23/11 01:56 PM ET

I'm not a Luddite, but I find the relentless barrage of technology being unleashed almost hourly a bit more than daunting.

Of course, I remember days without cell phones, computers and fax machines and we actually did fine. While I have an enduring and bizarre fondness for fax machines, I also think that email is the biggest boon to communication and business since Bell -- the man, not the company -- invented the telephone. I have a friend who thinks email, as is the case, I believe, with the transistor, was back engineered from alien technology at Area 51. I tend to only see him in the daytime.

There are two, maybe three areas that freelancers tend to be deficient. I hate bringing them up, since by our very nature we should be fearless. By overcoming these issues, hopefully without years of expensive therapy, business -- and life -- for the practitioner and the genre as a whole would be way smoother. Or at least somewhat less bumpy.

The process of closing a client is a whole other article, so let's assume a couple of things; first, you have made contact with a prospect, identified his/her pain points and are convinced, or convinced you can convince the client, that you can help. Are we ready? Go...

1. As we used to say in the brokerage business: Ask for the order.

It amazes me that due to fear, self-loathing, fear of rejection, bad skin or a combination, freelancers will talk themselves in circles and eventually lose the potential client due to the fact that they've managed bore them into inaction. Or just wasted their time. Aside from sounding desperate, the prospect is going to think you are indecisive, hardly a quality on which they want to blindly hemorrhage what are likely limited resources. If I am not mistaken, we are supposed to be professionals. More on that in a moment.

Professionals don't dither. If it isn't a fit, they move on. There are a lot of companies that think freelancers are just chimps in a cage that are here for their amusement. Best to stop that madness right now. Find the pain points, assure you can help and tell them exactly how to proceed so you both get what you want. If they start to look like visitors to the cage, leave the zoo.

2. The second area where we all fall down is asking for referrals.

Properly done, we don't need all the social media stuff. We just have to ask for referrals. Most clients, at least the happy ones, will refer you. It ups their stock with their peers and everyone gets good karma and it always pays forward. And set the groundwork early.

Once engaged, tell the client that you would appreciate, throughout the relationship and especially at the conclusion, if he would think of peers to refer you to. If you are worried that they might be offended, you're in the wrong business. And if you offend them by asking in a whiny or needy way you are also in the wrong business. 'Please sir, I want some more.'

3. And here we get to the professional part. I shall try and control my rage.

Life is tough enough in this business, whether freelance writer, consultant, IT geek, graphic designer or 'lifestyle coach' -- I love that one -- to get business. Having to go in and clean up after some freelance carpetbagger or 'fauxlancers', a term I use a lot, is the perfect word for these brigands, just pisses me off. Can I say that? We'll see.

Doing cleanup detail after someone has absconded with money and business that could have been yours, fouls the nest for all. While you might be savior of the particular client, you are always going to wear the carrion stench of the previous 'practitioner'. It may pass as you deliver the goods, but the faint scirocco of their rotting career will remain with you throughout the engagement. Step up and do the rest of us proud. Yes, we are watching.

So pretty straightforward stuff, but it all tends to get lost in the technology watusi in which we currently find ourselves. And the basics do bear repeating, often.

Maybe cut the following part out and put it on your computer:

Ask for The Order
Ask For Referrals
Be Professional

The mistake a lot of freelancers make is not asking what a client needs, but telling them what they need. No CEO worth his salt got where he is being browbeaten. It simply makes sense to find out the pain points before coming up with a solution. You need to ease their pain, not add more. Getting into a complex discussion of why a company needs your particular specialty before you even have the slightest idea what they do, will not only lose you the account, but you can forget referrals.

Most good clients prefer to do business either face to face or on the phone. Social media seems structured to try and generate business without the human touch. That's just wrong, in my opinion.

Because hopefully we all still like to be touched.

 

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