Fiverr Upwork and Freelancer.com
Andrew here. I am not listed on Fiverr, Upwork or Freelancer.com. Aaron isn’t either. We never have been and we don’t recommend these types of sites to our members.
Clients coming to these sites are often looking to get creative work quickly or on the cheap. Or both. And they are typically looking for a task to be completed, versus a creative partner.
They also tend to be new at what they are doing, either because they’re starting a new company or are new to their job as head (or only member) of marketing.
And so they don’t understand the creative process, which means they don't understand where good ideas come from, how much time good work takes or the value good creative can bring to their business.
If there were interested in learning those things and had a good budget, they would probably hire an agency equipped with the staff to take them along on that journey. But they haven’t.
And so they are looking for a new logo, brand voice, website or cross channel social activation. Or all of the above. Oh yeah, and some ads would be cool too. Ideally for a few grand in a few weeks.
That is not a good job opportunity. Especially after the site takes their cut.
But we understand for many freelancers it’s their best way to get work and a paycheck, so we wanted to share some ideas for successfully navigating these waters.
Here’s our single biggest piece of advice.
Try and position yourself as a long-term creative partner who can help them strategically solve business problems, versus a contractor who can help with a task. And try to frame the conversation as the start of an on-going relationship that might lead to more work versus a single transaction.
It’s the advice you’re not going to get from these sites, because they operate on a quantity versus quality model. So let’s dive in on ways to do this.
First, consider presenting yourself as a company versus an individual freelancer. This will allow you to charge more, potentially bring on contractors more easily and usually commands more respect.
If things go sideways, a graphic designer saying they are going to talk to a lawyer sounds far less intimidating than that graphic designer explaining we are going to talk to our lawyer.
Next, ask the clients to invest some time in talking with you about the job and process before you start. Especially if this is more than a few hours of work.
If they aren’t interested in talking and just wanted to get started over email that’s a red flag.
Not to say you shouldn’t take the job, only that it probably won’t be a very collaborative experience or lead to more work. And there’s a chance it will be a painful process.
If they are willing to invest some time to talk, great. Come prepared. Be courteous, be excited, and ask questions about the brand or business they are building, their audience, their challenges and what they need.
This dialogue can be crucial because it will help you do better work, but you may also learn that while they hired you for a logo, the also need an app, and a brand film. Which could lead to an on-going conversation.
The more they talk about the job the more you’ll get clues to what they know, what they want, what they expect, how they think and how they want to work.
This is also where you want to get a sense of timeline, rounds and style of feedback, and be crystal clear on how payment will work and what will happen if a 15 hour job actually takes 30.
Be candid and honest. If they say they want 20 logo options in 2 hours tell them that’s a recipe for 20 really bad logos. Their reaction will be telling and a clue to how the project will go.
You should also help them understand what you can bring to the table.
Tell them about what you do, the value you bring and how you work. This is where you are helping them see the value in partnering with you now but also longer-term.
If they don’t know much about the creative process it may be because no one has taken the time to try and explain it.
One piece of advice we give freelance strategists is to prepare a deck helping potential clients understand the process and value of strategy.
This is a technique any freelancer working with a client new to hiring creatives can use. If you do share a deck, it will make you seem much less like a for hire hourly worker and more like a creative partner that can really help them.
You can also detail your capabilities and other creatives services you can offer that they might not know about, which could lead to more work.
All of these things are going to help them understand how you can you help them moving forward and be a real partner.
It’s also how you create respect, rapport, and all the intangibles that make a creative freelance job successful.
Having some face-to-face time versus doing everything over forms and emails can be the difference between a harshly worded email full of negative feedback and a second Zoom call where they explain how they need your work to evolve.
And then once the job begins, keep the lines of communication as open as possible.
I’m a big fan of over-communicating up front but then also during and after the job. Just because you don’t have a check in for a week doesn’t mean you can’t check in with questions, ideas or progress.
If you agree to turn in the first round of work Friday, why not send them an email Thursday telling them how much fun you’re having and letting them know you’d love to present the work via Zoom versus sending it over on email.
Or better yet send the work a day early and see if they want to walk through it over the phone tomorrow.
If the 15 hours job is already up to 7 hours and there is still a ways to go, the moment to raise your hand and speak with your client is now. Not when you’re at 14 hours and only halfway through.
Also do your best to reach out and get to know other team members and anyone else client side that might be able to help sell your work, hire you for more work in the future or pay you!
Why not proactively ask to get in touch or reach out to payroll or HR and see if they need any paperwork to ensure quick and easy payment.
If you get some negative feedback during the project take a minute to feel your feelings (negative feedback hurts!) and then ask enough follow up questions so your next round will knock their socks off.
As the project winds down, see if they have any other needs, or even propose something else you can help with. Especially if you are doing great work and it’s going well.
If you’re helping with audience strategy, and they could use some help with social strategy, offer it up! Or if they need help with media buying strategy and that’s not your speciality, recommend someone who knows it.
When the job does end thank them profusely. And then check back in a month down the line, and another month or two after that to check-in and see if they have other needs. Sometimes an email from a trusted partner inquiring about work is the perfect reminder that the website needs an update, or there are a few blog articles that need writing.
And you know what?
These are tactics that you can apply to any freelance job.
Especially when you’re working with a new or inexperienced client.
After all, the more you can position yourself as a longer-term partner than a one-off contractor, the more time you’ll spend working, versus looking for work.
Oh, and hey, if this kind of advice is helpful and you haven’t already joined Mt. Freelance we’ve got lots more to share. And we’d love to have you as a member.
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