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How To Fail As A Freelancer

If you can’t do this, you won’t be able to retain your clients

There is a key mental shift that is required if you want to be a freelancer. To provide a valuable service to your clients, you need to be able to assign yourself tasks.


A freelancer is not a full-time employee. Even if the project leads to similar hours spent working, the key difference between working as an employee and as a freelancer is that you can’t rely on your client to know what tasks need to get done. You have to lead the client in the right direction, that’s why they hired you.


If they wanted to manage someone, they would have hired an employee to complete routine tasks. Instead, they took a risk in picking you to help them.


Consultants are great at client retention and although a consultant and a freelancer approach projects differently, there’s a lot that can be adapted to freelance work.


Think like a consultant: what are the unknown tasks?

25% of a consultant’s work is done BEFORE they even propose a project to a client. They have to first create a project proposal for the client, which justifies their services. The only way to truly justify the cost of a consultant’s services is by showing the client that:

  1. There is an unknown problem that they need to solve in order to sustain themselves or gain a competitive advantage,
  2. The consultant can provide a novel solution to this unknown problem.


This proposal can only be successful if the consultant is willing to take their own risks and assign themself the task of helping a company essentially for free, in the hopes that they will be hired for implementation of the project.


A freelancer doesn’t need to assume the same risks but, the same consultant approach can be applied during a project.


Freelancers have the advantage of leveraging platforms to help them source qualified clients. Unlike the research requirements needed to obtain a consulting project, a freelancer needs to create profiles on several freelance platforms, see a list of client projects and requests on these platforms, and notify the client that they would like to work for them.


If successful during the proposal and interview process, the freelancer can then begin working for the client. Yet, where most freelancers fail is after this stage of the process. The true value that they can provide is wasted as they expect the client to be the taskmaster during the project.


In most cases, the client actually ends up discontinuing the project because the costs of maintaining a relationship with the freelancer outweigh the benefits.

A freelancer must foresee and sell future tasks

If you want to be a successful freelancer, you must not only accomplish the goals of the initial project but, go above and beyond expectations by delivering work for tasks that were not requested. A client will only continue a relationship with you, if you demonstrate that the relationship has more beneficial outcomes than costly ones. If you want to be a freelancer, you have to be a self-starter.


If you can successfully assign yourself your own tasks, ideally before a client even knows that those tasks need to get done, you will be seen more as a partner in their business journey—rather than an additional burden. Doing this will not only help you retain your clients, it helps you get an increase of referrals when you request them.


If you have experience as a freelancer and have experienced a client discontinuing their relationship with you, ask yourself, “Did I accomplish more self-assigned tasks than expected ones? Did I do more than what was required?”


It may seem unreasonable to consider doing extra work without getting paid for it. However, when you consider that this extra work benefits your reputation and your chances of continued work in the future—it goes without saying that a client will hire the freelancer that goes provides more value than the one who simply does the minimum work required.


 you want to fail as a freelancer, don’t work harder, don’t consider the unknown tasks, do what’s expected of you, and just focus on the minimum.


Your competition will be focused on what matters—providing value.


Related: Finite and Infinite Games


Image Credit: Unsplash

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