Awful situations can teach us a lot, and it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your freelance career, you’ll suddenly be dragged into tough client situations — situations in which you find yourself standing in no man’s land, with no alternative plan at the ready.
I’ve always been able to retain two or three clients because of my flexibility and humble behavior. I’ve worked with them for ages and never thought about increasing my clientele, just because of stress and workload, I suppose.
The worst situation imaginable knocked on my door just a few days ago, when one of my trusted clients suddenly flew off with no firm reason. He came back a few days after that, but that span of time was a nightmare for me because I depended on him for a large portion of my bread and butter. He was once a reliable client, and his reasons for leaving are still vague.
Freelancing is a notoriously unpredictable business. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I know that every problem has a solution. This article discusses actions you can take to ensure you’re ready for when the tide turns.
1. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
The first thing to learn from the experience I shared above is not to work with too few clients. Always keep an eye out for prospective clients. Not all clients are unreliable, of course, but if you want to gain exposure and reduce some of the risk, work with several reliable clients or even with an agency.
2. Update Your Profiles
Regularly update your user profiles on every website that you generate business from, so that everyone who sees them will be updated about your services, availability for freelance work and your current skills.
3. Keep Your Portfolios Current (Online and Offline)
The key to winning new clients is to regularly update your online and offline work portfolios. Include URLs to your online portfolio wherever you can, such as in your business card.
4. Market Yourself
Many people in this business have a lot of potential but not the skills to market themselves professionally. It’s not rocket science, though. Marketing yourself doesn’t mean wearing a two-piece suit and putting gel in your hair, but it does take confidence. Be honest with clients about your skills, but don’t be afraid to promote your accomplishments and abilities.
Make use of all the marketing tools at your disposal. Send newsletters to prospective clients and companies, socialize on multiple platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Fly your flag everywhere you can.
5. Use Various Platforms to Get Freelance Gigs
These days, if you have potential, people won’t let it go to waste. There are so many ways to apply for freelancing jobs and to increase your clientele. A few worth mentioning are oDesk, Elance, GetACoder, iFreelance and Guru.com. To keep up with freelance job boards, subscribe to these 10 RSS feeds for design and development jobs.
6. Be Honest with Clients
Being honest with your clients is the key to a long-lasting relationship. Be yourself, and be open to criticism. Be humble and flexible, and remember: it’s a competitive market — if you won’t do the job, then someone else will.