If you’ve read the news anytime within the past few thousand years, you may have noticed that a quite a few people aren’t so great with maintaining their reputation. And that certainly holds true in the business world, just as it does in everyday life.
In web design, it often seems quite the opposite of all that nonsense. We’re more than willing to share code and advice. We use Meetups and WordCamps as venues to help educate fellow designers and the general public. There’s a whole lot of good being done.
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Still, there have been instances where things aren’t always on the up and up. Over the years, I’ve personally dealt with several clients who have had bad experiences with a previous designer. Their negative experiences ranged from missed deadlines, unfinished work to a general lack of communication.
As a freelancer, your reputation means an awful lot. Luckily, you’re the one who gets to build it. You start out with a clean slate and, over time, have experiences that will come to define your business. Therefore, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to enhance your reputation.
Here are some tips for building your freelance street cred:
1. Build Trust
It doesn’t take a behavioral expert to know that trust is a key factor in any relationship. After all, why would you hire someone that you don’t trust?
The good news is that the ways to build trust aren’t very mysterious. You get there through little things like being upfront about your pricing and responding to questions in timely manner. In other words: Common courtesies go a long way. Those little things are what make people feel most valued.
2. Explain Your Process
Clients don’t want to be left in the dark regarding the work you’re doing for them. From the outset of your relationship, explain the process for how you typically work on a project. Let them know what to expect and when to expect it. Keep them in the loop as you move through different stages.
Providing a bit of transparency is a great way to reassure clients that they’ve made a great decision in hiring you. Some will want a more detailed explanation than others, so adjust accordingly. But even a general outline of what’s happening can have a positive impact on how others see you.
3. Take Feedback Seriously
It’s not unusual for someone to offer feedback that you either don’t agree with or maybe even find a bit ridiculous. Regardless, listen to what people say and treat their opinions with respect. Offer your own professional feedback in response.
Establishing a good dialogue can improve the final product. It also helps to build the kind of working relationship where a client will feel very comfortable referring you to others.
4. Deliver More Than Expected
Putting forth an extra effort makes a very positive impression. For example, when agreeing to a deadline on a project, getting it finished a day or two early will win you some major brownie points.
One way to achieve this is by using the old “under-promise, over-deliver” technique. When giving a time estimate, provide the worst-case scenario date. When you finish early, you’re a hero. And, if things do get hectic, you now have a more reasonable deadline.
Whatever it is, make sure that your client feels like a priority. You’ll be thought of as a hard worker and someone who cares about quality.
5. Be Consistent
One of the most important traits you can display is consistency. That includes things like always responding to a message within a certain amount of time, maintaining a regular work schedule and hitting your deadlines.
This also goes back to #1, as being dependable goes a long way towards building trust. When people know that they can rely on you, they will appreciate the fact that your work is one less thing they have to worry about.
You Are Your Reputation
A great reputation is a freelancer’s best advocate. It’s a crucial factor in whether or not we succeed over the long term. Unlike the traditional office gig, we don’t have the benefit of a corporate brand or high-priced marketing campaign to win new business. We are the sole builders of our own personal brand.
That’s not to say you’ll never have a negative experience. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. But more often than not, a positive reputation will bring positive results.