I’ve always had a problem with work ethic. I would show up for work, ready to perform what was clearly outlined in my job description. But by the end of the day, I’d feel frustrated because I’d performed so many more tasks – tasks I wasn’t being paid for.
In all reality, my employers didn’t care what I did, and I can prove this. There were days when I’d show up for work and bust tail, meeting deadlines like a boss and going the extra mile. On other days, for example if I wasn’t feeling well, I’d show up and do literally nothing. One day I brought an adult coloring book to work, and there I sat for the entirety of my shift. The only show of productivity for that day was a gorgeous dragon in shades of purple and green.
At the end of the week, no matter what I did, my pay was the same.
It doesn’t work like that anymore. I work for myself, yes, but I’ve got clients to answer to. And if I don’t come running when they call, guess what? They’ll never hire me again.
The gig economy is beautiful. You’re afforded the flexibility to set your own hours, take a sick day if you must, and choose your “bosses,” the clients with whom you work. But you’ve got an added burden. You absolutely must prove yourself indispensable to them, or else you’re out a solid chunk of pay.
Proving your worth to a client isn’t hard. A satisfied client is usually a repeat client, unless there’s simply no more work to be done. Here’s how to ensure that every client is a repeat customer by making yourself indispensable to him or her.
Show up on time
The same way you would in an office job, it’s important to “show up on time” to your freelance job. That doesn’t mean calling your client at the scheduled hour, or chatting with them at a predetermined time. It doesn’t even mean that you consistently meet deadlines, though that’s certainly a part of your indispensability.
Showing up on time to your freelance career means that you anticipate your clients’ needs. You’ll keep up with news and industry trends, and be willing to offer timely suggestions which will advance the business and brand. You’ll pitch your client, providing solutions to problems he wasn’t aware existed. And when he accepts your pitch, you deliver. On time.
Become a mind reader
I mentioned you’ve got to keep up with industry trends. That doesn’t just apply to your own industry. If you’re an IT security professional, you’ll certainly need to keep your certifications current. An SEO consultant? You’d better know what Google’s up to.
But you’re also going to need to keep an eye on your client’s industry trends. You’ll need to know the industry and know the client’s business. Understand what will impact him and know how to solve it. Are they changing HIPAA? Help your client to formulate a compliance strategy.
Reading industry news related to your client’s line of work isn’t in your job description. But it’s a darn fine way to ensure that you’re indispensable to him, and to ensure that your contract becomes a long-term relationship.
Keep your promises
This one’s simple. If you say you’re going to do it, do it. If they can’t trust you, they’re not going to hire you again. That’s all there is to it.
Things come up in your personal life which may interfere with your work schedule. And one of the perks of freelance work is that you have that flexibility – you can jump up to pick up the kids on a snow day at school. You can take a trip to the dentist for an emergency toothache.
You don’t have to tell your clients every detail of your personal life. Joe doesn’t need to know that you’ve got a bunion. But he does need to know that you might be running tight against that deadline.
Drop your client a note if you’re running behind schedule. Which brings me to another point – don’t make promises and set deadlines you can’t adhere to. Clear communication is imperative before you even sign that contract. Outline what your client expects of you, and what you expect from your client.
Establish a human connection
Your clients are people. And those people hired you for a reason. Either they don’t know how to perform the task they’ve given you, or, as often is the case, they just don’t have time.
Get to know more about your client and his job. Then, get to know him as a person. You can do this by sharing bits of information yourself. Again, there’s such thing as too much information. Skip the bunion story. But instead, mention to your client that you’ll be taking Thursday off to attend your son’s award ceremony at school.
Your relationship with your client is akin to the relationships you fostered with your coworkers. There are things you don’t talk about, like pay and politics. But water cooler conversation with your clients is perfectly okay. In fact, I’d recommend it! Establishing a human connection with your clients is the best way to become indispensable to them, and you’ll likely develop a few friendships as you do.