Tag Archives: Getting Projects

5 Simple Strategies to Get More Freelance Work

Today we have another guest writer, Stef Gonzaga, founder of The Freelance Pinoy. You might know Stef from her blog, or from the webinar we did together last year, or from her various writing work.

Or you might know her from “Better Work” – a podcast that I co-host with her. It’s for Filipino freelancers who want to do better work, get creative, and make a difference. If you haven’t tried listening to the show yet, you might want to start with our episode on 6 simple ways to increase your freelancing income (no need to change your services or learn new skills) or our episode on the things we wish we knew when we started freelancing.

For her contribution today, Stef shares 5 ways you can get more projects from your current clients. Take it away, Stef:

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The #1 Thing to Ask Your Clients if You Want to Be Indispensable

Since last week’s update was a long guide, I’ll share a quick tip for you this week. It’s something you can start doing TODAY.

[Sidenote: As much as possible I like sharing simple, tactical things that freelancers of any industry and any experience level can apply. Para lahat tayo may ma-achieve na improvements, kahit pa-konti-konti. 🙂 Plus I try to make sure these are things I’ve done or am doing, para may ma-report akong authentic results. I’ll do my best to stay away from generic tips with no next steps.]

Here’s the tip, the next time you’re in a client interview, ask them this question:

 “What’s the most frustrating thing about your business right now?”

Why this question will make you indispensable

Among all the questions I ask my potential clients, this is the most powerful (which is why I’m sharing it). I have many other versions of this question, including “What’s the most painful problem in your business right now?” Basically the goal is to know and understand the things that truly hurt your client, the things that worry them, the things that keep them up at night. Here’s why this question is so powerful:

This is one of the “great questions” that clients tend to praise. To those who have been following my material for a long time, you already know that I ask 10 to 20 questions during my first meeting with new clients. This is one of those questions where a handful of my clients say “Wow, that’s a great question!” and hearing this boosts my confidence during the meeting. I’ve been doing this for a while, but every time I hear that during the first few minutes of a meeting, nawawala yung kaba ko. It’s like I magically transform into a serious, assertive business person.

For someone as shy and introverted as I am, that’s reason enough to ask the question because it helps me get into the right mindset for the rest of the meeting.

It shows that you are the type of proactive freelancer who is really interested in helping their business – even if it’s just to hear them out – and that you’re not only interested in getting paid. Another reaction I tend to get is hearing the client give a deep sigh, often followed by a long rant about everything that’s wrong with their business (the one with the longest record among my clients is this U.S. speaker and marketer who spent more than an hour and a half just answering this question!) This is a good thing. Not only are they telling you everything you need to know to help them out, they will also see you as a trusted confidant.

Anybody among your competitors can do an OK job performing the task. But how many among them will be the client’s trusted confidant? I’m guessing not many. Probably only you. From now on, as long as you do end up addressing their most frustrating problems, the client will think of you as “The person who listens to and solves my most painful business problems” and not just “a VA” or “a designer” or “a writer”.

It gives you “openings” for new projects to propose. When your client opens up about the most frustrating thing in their business, make it your #1 job to take a look at your own skills and see how you can minimize or eliminate those frustrations – then turn those into suggestions or project proposals. You’ll have a better chance of getting your projects approved this way, because you’ll be proposing tasks that address their most painful and frustrating problems.

Usually, akala ng mga freelancers na it’s their website or social media accounts that will help them get more business – but in my experience it’s usually this consultative approach that leads to more recurring projects and more referrals. Because of the different apps available today, every freelancer and her mother can quickly come up with a stellar-looking website and an automated social media account. Still, there’s no app that transforms a person into an interested, attentive listener, so you’ll have an edge in the key department that your competitors might be neglecting.

 Just Ask

Applying this is simple: the next time you find yourself in an interview with a potential client, just ask “What’s the most frustrating thing about your business right now?” Here are some ways you can introduce the question (note this down where you can see it the next time you’re on an interview):

  • “I really want to do my best to help you out. With that said, can you tell me what’s the most frustrating thing about your business right now?”
  • “Is it alright if I ask you a few questions about your business, just to understand it a bit better?” (Wait for their answer.) “My first question is: What’s the most frustrating thing about your business right now?” (You can follow this up with a bunch of other questions, including the ones that filter out scammy clients.)

That’s it! You’ll be surprised that something as simple as asking the right questions can have such a dramatic impact in the way clients treat you, and even in the way you see yourself as a professional.

 

Which skills will help you find online freelancing projects?

The following article is by Filipina freelance writer Aimee Espiritu. She called me out of the blue a few months ago and convinced me to spend 30 minutes on Skype to let her pick my brain. That’s right, she “convinced me”. See, I get A LOT of requests to go on Skype or meet face-to-face from freelancers who want 1-on-1 help. The problem is that sometimes I decline because 1) the requests are very vague 2) it’s clear that the other person isn’t really sure what he or she wants to get out of the conversation.

But Aimee was very clear and very specific. She set a clear time and date for the meeting and told me exactly what the agenda was (to learn what I do as a freelancer, where I got my clients, what a typical working day is like for me). That’s why I didn’t hesitate to get on a call with her. That’s also why I didn’t hesitate to invite her to share her insights with you today and next week.

Today she’s going to share with you the exact process she went through for picking skills and services she can sell as a freelancer. Her process is so specific that she’s laid them out for you in steps – all you have to do is try it.

Take it away, Aimee.

– – – – –

I have a confession to make.

When I started looking for freelance opportunities, I had all sorts of insecurities:

  • Newbie lang ako! Wala akong skills!
  • My degrees are not applicable sa ganitong work.
  • SPED teacher dapat ako. Paano ‘yun online?
  • Wala akong alam sa office or corporate world. Di ako pwedeng mag-VA.
  • Wala akong professional license!
  • Hindi kasi ako web developer at wala akong alam sa IT or software development.

But the fears are not true. If you dig deeper:

1 - invisible script

In short, the problem is not having skills but finding out how you can earn money from them through online freelancing.

(Note: my stick masterpiece)

(Note: my stick masterpiece 😉 )

If you are a newbie, I’m going to suggest ways on how you can choose skills that are relevant to your strengths and interests.

If you are a seasoned freelancer, you can still make this a guide to specialize further.

Here’s how you do it:

The Process

I got the idea from a program by NYT best-selling author Ramit Sethi – “ Find Your First Profitable Idea”. In a nutshell, you look for services to offer and check if someone’s paying for it.

But in this post, I’m going to address specific issues – particularly how can a Filipino freelancer transition from offline to online. I will also add insights from other experts and courses. Above all, I will share my experience and mistakes; and recommend ways on how you can do better and score projects faster.

Step One – Brainstorm

In this step, you have to quickly list down all possible freelance skills you can think of. Personal development author and speaker, Brian Tracy, recommends jotting down at least 20.

If you are a beginner, try to recall your:

  • specialization / educational background
    – ex. “I specialize in PR/events.” [Organizer of online product launches]
  • responsibilities in your previous company
    – ex. “I use Excel to encode receipts and billing statements” [Data entry or Bookkeeping]
  • workshops / seminars attended
    – ex. “I enrolled in a paid online course on becoming a VA” [General VA]
  • computer tasks at home
    – ex. “I design invitations for my inaanak’s 1st birthday.” [Print design]
  • other roles outside home/office
    – ex. “I’m the official photographer of my Church. I adjust lighting to make pictures more beautiful.” [Image editing or photographer]
  • leisure activities
    – ex. “I use FB a lot.” or “I surf the internet.” [FB posting/management or Web research]

Look at the example:

3 - brainstorm 

Bakit di na lang mag-apply ng work agad?
Why do we have to brainstorm?

In brainstorming, you examine all possible options. Sometimes it is easy go ahead with the first few services that come to mind. After all, who knows your skills and strengths better than you do?

But in this context, it can work against you.

What if your “obvious” skills don’t involve computers? Should you stop trying? For example, I saw a newbie who was a chef. On the surface, cooking is really not an online skill. You can’t cook using a computer. So he followed the popular advice for beginners – go to data entry.

4 - bad advice

(Note: Don’t.)

Truth is, a simple search reveals this:

5 - cooking online search

He can write food reviews and original recipes because some online food magazines are paying for that.

Plus, he uses Facebook. So he can also start learning Facebook management – specializing in catering/kitchen equipment businesses.

That’s why it’s important to brainstorm. You rediscover skills that you never considered initially. It becomes an “Ay, oo nga pala!” moment for you.

Plus if you don’t this, you might second-guess your decision later on. When that happens, you will be constantly shifting from one field to another.

It wastes a lot of time and effort. From my experience, it is also very tiring.

Your turn (Action step #1):

  • Get a pencil and sheet of paper or open your notepad/Word.
  • Write down your question at the header – What skills should I sell? / What skills should I specialize in?
  • List down at least 20 skills.

Quick reminders:

1. Have fun. Just write them down no matter how simple, obvious or impossible.

2. Don’t worry if the skill doesn’t require a computer. You’ll get to that later.

Step Two – Create your core skills inventory

Now that you have listed down at least 20 skills, you are going to classify them into three groups – A, B and C.

  • Group A – you can offer the skill immediately and execute it well enough
  • Group B – you like it but you don’t know how / you plan to study it in the future.
  • Group C – you’re not interested and you have no plans of doing it.

Your list now should look like this:

6 - newbie csi

7 - pro csi

According to Jay McLean and Kathy Lacuna, Group A becomes your list of possible services. You can also write them in your resume or online profile under “Core Services” (if you want to apply for work immediately).

Please note that the list is not set in stone. You may change this as you gain more experience. What’s important is that you have an idea where to start.

Your turn (Action step #2):

  • Get another paper and divide it into three.
  • From your list of 20+ skills, classify them into Groups A, B, and C.
  • Use these dialogues as guide in categorizing your skills:
      • Group A – “Kaya naman at pwede i-offer ngayon.”
      • Group B – “Next time. Pag-aaralan ko pa.”
      • Group C – “Ayoko.” Or “Wag na lang.”

 Optional step – Translating skills online (for newbies)

What if after going through the exercise, your best skills (Group A) are still not applicable online This is where you need to flex those “Google muscles”.

There are many ways to achieve this. You can be very creative in your approach. But here are some suggestions:

1. Google with the keywords: “[field] related to online” or “paid online jobs for [field]” or “online jobs using [tool/website]” – e.g. online jobs using Facebook. If you want to be more specific, add “Philippines”.

2. Check job bidding sites, online classifieds, and craigslist too.

3. Visit groups in FB, LinkedIn and forums.

If it appears in the search engine results, there’s a good chance someone’s getting paid for it – which means you can earn from it too!

For example, let’s try: Engineering.

First of all, I don’t have a background in this area. My initial thought is that the related projects are confined in the office or project site. I *think*
this is not something you can freelance. But let’s see what happens after using the keywords above.

After searching the web, I realized I was wrong:

8 - engineering online

(Screenshot from flexjobs.com)

Based on the picture, BS Engineering graduates can be researchers or assistant researchers. The job post requires commute so it’s impossible if you live in
the Philippines. But what if there are opportunities similar to this one back home?

Using the keywords “online jobs related to engineering Philippines”:

9 - engineering local

(Screenshot from jobisjob.com.ph)

9 - engineering local

(Screenshot from odesk.com)

The job posts say engineering graduates can also act as consultants and report to the office twice a week. Or if you really prefer to work online, you can design for clients abroad.

As pros might have observed, this is common sense. Unfortunately, I’m one of the sad few who forgot about it. (He, he)

Instead of starting with my interests and skills, I went out of my way to follow the popular advice such as “become a blogger” or “be a General VA”. And I paid for those courses.

There’s nothing wrong with learning. But I could’ve begun freelancing without spending a cent. This is also why I included this step. So other newbies can start with effort as their sole investment.

Once you are sure that the skill can earn you a living, that’s the time you start paying for classes or workshops.

Your turn (Optional action step):

  • If your skills in Group A are not applicable online, you can search the web for possible opportunities. Some places to search are:
    • Google
    • Quora
    • Social networking sites – FB, Twitter, LinkedIn
    • Job ads

· Use the keywords:

  • “[field] related to online”
  • “paid online jobs for [field]”
  • “online jobs using [tool/website]”

Step Three – Research and Specialize

From your Group A list, you are now going to pick one to specialize in.

But this time, you are going to explore more about each service/skill through research. You can either google about each skill or interview other freelancers in the same field.

Since your goal is to earn money, find out what you can on the:

  • potential rates
  • possible “level up” options

Here are some examples:

For newbies:

Writer

General VA

Social Media Manager

Possible rates Usual starting rate in online job post ads is $10 for 500-word
article
Monthly fees around $450 to $750 based on salary guide by Chris Ducker as of 2013 Ex. Retainer fee of an SMVA, Kimberly LeRiche, is $50 per hour
Possible next step Copywriter –Ex. Natalia Sylvester charges $300 for
homepage copy
Multi-VA setup – create your own team of VAs either by hiring or subcontracting them.Ex. Ella Pelayo’s The Office Escape When you get more experience, create a social media course or ebook for sale. Lewis Howes created LinkedInfluence, selling at $97.

For pros:

Copywriter

Technical Writer

Marketing Professional (Content Marketer or Social Media Marketer)

Possible rates In a post by, Joshua Black: initial rates
may range from $200 to $500 for 350-word web copy
Range from $20 to $70 per hour. May increase depending on contract. Based on sales page by Susan Bilheimer. Starting rates for marketing professionals can range anywhere between $20 to $69 per hour.
Possible next step Specialize in direct mail copywriting at $50 to $150 per hour. Technical writers are highly specialized in a particular industry.You can switch industries or add other writing services, like proposal and/or grant writing – around $40 to $80 per hour. Online Marketing Strategist –If your client’s business expands, you may oversee the company’s overall web strategy.

The point is NOT to copy my examples. As I pointed out earlier, you don’t have to become a writer, general VA or social media manager when starting out.

The crucial takeaway here is there are MANY ways you can start and grow your career/business. Later down the road, you can:

  • be a remote consultant for foreign small to medium sized businesses
  • create a remote/outsourcing agency
  • sell info products online
  • manage projects for big corporations

It’s your call.

Your turn (Action step #3):

  • Research about the skills in your Group A through:
    • web research
    • interview with other professionals in your field. (Note: I’ll go into detail about how you can reach them later on.)
  • Choose one and check if it can earn you a living.
  • If yes, specialize in your chosen skill. 

It’s a Compass, Not a Map

When you go over the process, don’t think of it as the “ultimate strategy/path” or a map to success. It’s not exact, and no one will tell you what the next concrete step is – because it depends on you and your unique combination of skills. Imagine instead that this is your compass. It points you to where you can start your new adventure or a new chapter in your freelancing journey.

aimee pic lol

 


Author Bio: 
Aimee Espiritu writes about freelancing, psychology and technology. You can connect with her on Twitter or Google+.

Look Out for These Freelancing Projects

As freelancers, we always hope that each and every project goes perfectly and for us to have wonderful relationships with all of our clients.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Things go wrong, people get annoyed or don’t get along with each other, issues arise, and you can end up feeling like tearing your hair out!

Just for fun, here are a few of the things that can go wrong on a freelancing project:

  1. Picky or indecisive clients. The worst type of freelancing project is one that never ends. Two revision requests are okay but who wouldn’t lose his patience with twenty thousand reviews and changes?
  2. Late payments or no payments at all. It can be horrible when you complete hours and hours of work and then wait in vain for payment that never comes.
  3. Rush projects. It always seems like a quick and easy endeavor with a quick return, but usually, these end up in disaster, and a huge return is stress.
  4. Impossible requests. Sometimes a business owner doesn’t really understand that what they are asking for is impossible. For example, a client may ask you to create an online store in one night, with little to no cost. Impossible, and definitely not worth your time.

While there are projects and clients you shouldn’t touch with a long stick, like the other client types described here by By Reputation,there are of course, projects that you should intentionally search for. These are the projects that fulfill you professionally and emotionally.

These specific projects depend entirely on your personal preference and needs, but here are some general ideas on ones that every freelancer should embrace.

One that you enjoy

You chose to freelance over an office-position for a reason. You don’t want to be filled with dread every time you turn on your laptop. You should feel excited and fulfilled by what you do. Choose projects that interest you, challenge you, and ones that you enjoy working on.

Has long-term potential

Steady income is hard to come by in the freelancing world. Most freelancers are chasing after long-term projects and clients, for income they can rely on every month. Look for opportunities that may start off small, but could grow into a long-term relationship. Or better yet, create those opportunities and propose projects to your clients which can help their businesses and which you can do for them every month.

Reasonable or better, high pay

Let’s face it, income is important. In order for your freelance career to develop into a full-fledged entrepreneurial endeavor, you need to make some profit. Projects that pay well can be rare, but very much worth it.  A high rate can sometimes make up for aspects of the project you may not be too excited about.

Experience-builders

One of the best parts of freelancing is being able to diversify your skills set and gain experience in a wide range of projects, skills and activities. Choose projects that challenge you, and that helps you broaden your experiences and skills.

If you’ve been freelancing for some time, I’m sure you’ve had less than pleasant experiences with some of your clients and a few horror stories with your projects. Let us know how you handled it? And what lessons did you learn?

jovell

Author Bio
Jovell Alingod is a freelance writer who’s worked on several long-term, fulfilling, and well-paying projects since 2010. Sign up for the FREE Web Writer’s Toolkit she created if you want to improve your online writing skills so you too can increase your chances of getting projects you enjoy and which pay well at the same time.