Take a look at the relationships you have with your clients. Are you happy with all of them? If you’re like many freelancers, you’ll have some clients who truly view you as an equal, as a partner in their pursuit of their business goals. But you may have some clients that make you feel more like an order taker.
The problem with being perceived as an order taker, of course, is that you’re highly dispensable. And as an order taker, it’s difficult to contribute on a more strategic level and charge accordingly for that contribution.
Clients sometimes come up with their own expectations of what role a freelancer should play (hint: if your clients want you to be nothing more than an order taker, maybe it’s time to look for better clients), but just as often, freelancers invite mistreatment by doing things that send out the wrong message.
Here are two behaviors freelancers commonly display which send the wrong message to prospects and clients. As you’ll see, fixing them is easy:
Wrong message #1: “My schedule is wide open!”
If a client or prospects asks for a meeting, it’s a mistake to say your schedule is free and clear, even if it is. Don’t say, “I can meet anytime next week!” Instead, offer two or three specific meeting times. Say something like, “I could meet on Monday at 9:00 AM, or Wednesday at 1:30 PM.”
This gives the impression that you are a busy professional, whose time is valuable.
Wrong message #2: “Summon me and I shall appear. Just like a butler.”
What sort of message do you think it sends when you jump to answer your phone every time it rings? You may think it sends the message that you’re always accessible to your clients. And you’d be right. But that’s not a wholly good thing.
The other message it sends is that your clients have unrestricted access to your time. And it may get some clients wondering why you’re so accessible. Maybe it’s because you’re not that busy, they may wonder. This is not a good thing. It’s difficult to earn high fees from clients who think you’re starving for work.
Here’s a better way to be highly responsive to clients without being at their beck and call.
Record a friendly voicemail greeting, saying you check voice mail messages twice daily (specify the times) and that you will return the call after one of these times. Then actually return the calls when you say you will, of course.
Try this for a couple weeks and you’ll experience another benefit… your productivity will skyrocket because you’ll limit unexpected interruptions.
Before you say, “Yeah, but Pete…”
Making these two small changes is really no big deal. Can I pull it off because I’m a delusional, over-confident superhuman, who’s already wealthy beyond my wildest hallucinations? No, of course not. I’m a regular person who runs a freelance business, just like you. But one day, long ago, I realized that these behaviors were not serving me. They were holding me back.