FREELANCERS CAN GET A TON OF BUSINESS FROM INDIVIDUALS, BUT WORKING WITH THEM PRESENTS DIFFERENT CHALLENGES FROM WORKING WITH A COMPANY.
A freelancer’s clientele doesn’t only consist of companies, but also of individuals. Just as companies are becoming more interested in contingent talent, individuals are looking for alternatives to the tasks that they would have hired a company to provide or would have just done themselves. Freelancers won’t only take the place that full-time employees used to, they will also fill gaps that weren’t being filled by anyone. Whether you’re a copywriter, a computer programmer, or a graffiti artist, there are an infinite number of jobs out there from everyday people; jobs that for the first time, are being given to a freelancer to complete. For those of you who are more accustomed to working with businesses, working with an individual can be nerve-racking because it’s new territory. On the other hand, one could underestimate these challenges because “it’s just one person, how hard could it be?” Well whatever your mindset is going in, there are some real adjustments one should make when working with one person.
Depending on the project, some individual clients won’t have a strict deadline for you to deliver to. The task they need you to do is a personal one and will be finished when they say it’s finished. This can be a good thing as it could lead to a project being extended indefinitely. The problem is that the opposite usually happens. A client either loses interest or confidence in the project and puts it on hold. When the whole impetus for the work depends on the whims of one person you can experience an annoying amount of stopping and starting. You could end up wasting time not looking for new work because you’re unsure of the status of this project. In this scenario you don’t want to put undo pressure on the client. First off, don’t try and manipulate them into giving you more paid work when they don’t need it. This will only blow up in your face and lead to bad reviews. Judge what you think the project really needs. If a client has been hesitant about continuing a project but you think that the task is nearly complete, let them know that it wouldn’t take much more time or effort to finish. If the same things happens but the project is far from complete, let the client know that too. If they let you go they let you go, at least you’re not in a state of limbo.
All clients are certainly not the same and should not be treated as such. That being said, if you’ve worked in an industry for a long time, you probably have a pretty good sense of the different personality types and communication styles of your potential clients. When it comes to individual clients, you can throw all those preconceptions out the window, they mean nothing now. Individual clients are as weird and wonderful as humans are so you probably won’t ever be able to nail down all that many consistent behaviors. Also, while most people have jobs, and understand how to behave in professional settings, the project you do for a person could have nothing to do with their work. That means they may be contacting you in their leisure time and treating you as such. In response to this new range of personalities, you should try and create some new rules for yourself.
Appropriate working hours (individual may only be able to contact you after they’re finished with their work day), usable software (individuals may not own or even know about the same pro software that you like to use), and communication style (individuals may want to talk to you more freely and openly than a company would) all might need to be adjusted. Like always, you want to try and be accommodating while also setting some ground rules. Just keep in mind that an individual client may require completely different behavior to accommodate than a business.
ROOM TO EXPLORE
After working with individual clients you might not be able to go back to working with businesses. The main reason why: creativity. Individuals will look to you for much more guidance and initiative than most businesses will. With a company, you’re usually required to complete a certain task in a certain way. A company understands what it is they need. Sure they’ll ask you for advice, but you’re working with people who know what they’re talking about and will only allow so much leeway. With an individual, you’ll often have a much less limited brief. These types of clients hired you because they believe you can see things that they don’t and want you to run with it. You of course don’t want to take advantage of these clients’ naivete, but rather, you should help educate them. The more a client believes you care about them and their work rather than just money, the more likely they are to keep hiring you. While you may be able to really flex your skills and imagination with individual clients, you still need to explain why you’ve chosen the direction you’ve chosen. Bring them along with every decision. They’re looking to follow your lead, not have you leave them in the dust.
There may be no greater joy for a freelancer than a fun and interesting client. Individuals offer that in spades, so next time maybe go with the job from that doctor in Atlanta rather than that agency in LA.