These days freelancing is one of the fastest, easiest ways to make a healthy income while working from home. I got my start in the online business world as a freelance writer and it quickly became a great source of income for me.
However, I feel that most freelancers, especially from developing nations such as Pakistan, undermine their abilities and engage in price wars on platforms such as Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and others. And we really need to stop devaluing our skills and expertise in this manner.
Our work, talent and skills are just as good and often times better than other workers from more developed nations. There are plenty of Pakistani freelancers – both individuals and companies – who are able to command market prices and not compromise on either price or quality. So there’s no reason you can’t also.
In my 12 years of working on Elance, including several years where I conducted training workshops for freelancers, I have noticed that there are typically 7 mistakes that Pakistani freelancers make that stop them from making a very lucrative income. They are:
#1: Poor Marketing
While your skills, talent, education and experience are all necessary, you also need to learn one very crucial skill to succeed in freelancing: marketing.
Elance CEO Fabio Rosatti says that successful freelancers are those who have a business mindset, and I agree. If your goal is to use freelance platforms as a hobby, then don’t expect to make serious money. But if your goal is to run a professional freelance business, then you must market and position yourself as an expert.
To do this, you must first understand that the purpose of your proposal or bid is not to win the project. The purpose of that initial proposal is to build trust. Because if they don’t trust you, they will never buy from you.
#2: Unclear Value Proposition
Often I see freelancers underselling themselves by not understanding how their work impacts the client’s business. You have to look at the big picture, and understand why the client is going to hire you.
For example, I write articles and blogs for clients. But that’s not my value proposition. My work builds my client’s reputation as an expert, and that’s my value. Maybe you’re a web developer. Your value is not that you can build a responsive wordpress website. Lots of people can do that, and do. Your value is how well you understand your client’s challenges, and how your website will attract more leads for that specific client, convert better or load faster, etc
#3: Working for Everyone (and therefore no one)
I often see freelancers placing bids on every project in their work category. And then they complain that no one hired them. They are making the classic mistake of being a jack of all trades and master of none.
You have to become valuable to one kind of client first and prove yourself, before diversifying and trying to work for everyone. To do this, you need to find the client with whom you are the best fit – in terms of project skills, temperament, business culture, ability to pay and more. There will always be particular types of clients you’ll enjoy working with more than others. These people are your ideal clients and they will pay you the most money.
#4: Low-Balling / Competing Solely on Price
It’s a popular misconception to price yourself according to the geographic region you hail from. But I’ve never understood what pricing has to do with where you live. The only factor to consider should be the quality of work you’re providing.
Instead of low-balling and undercutting, successful freelancers price themselves according to the value they deliver to a client.
It shocks people when I tell them that there are clients who pay $200 and above for a single blog post. But it’s true and I know this because those are my clients. And the reason they pay that much is because my pricing is in line with the value it delivers to their business.
#5: Generic Proposals
I’m an employer on Elance as well as a freelancer so I see many proposals that are obviously cut and paste jobs – and really bad ones at that. In a sea of canned proposals, if you make the tiniest effort to actually read the project description and respond to the buyer’s specific questions, that alone will get you miles ahead of the competition.
Just stop writing generic proposals and stop racing to be the first to place a bid on the project. When clients receive a proposal they can only see the first few lines of that proposal and they make a decision whether to read further based on your first 1-2 sentences. That’s it. If your first 2 sentences don’t talk about their project specifically, forget it, they won’t even bother to read the rest of it.
#6: Zero Personality
As freelancers we often forget that the person on the other end of the screen is also a human being. He also has feelings, emotions, bad days, good days, etc. Why not take some time to build a real connection with them rather than placing bids like a robot?
Often when a buyer’s project description appeals to me, I make it a point to mention why their project excites me or why we’d enjoy working together. If I can relate to a challenge or pain point in their life, I mention that too. It makes the freelancer seem like a real person they’d enjoy working with as opposed to someone just collecting cash.
#7: Winning Jobs vs. Winning Clients
I’ve often said on Elance that my 45% repeat client ratio is the secret to my success. That’s because repeat clients are the secret life blood to a healthy income for a freelancer. Having repeat clients means that you don’t have to write bids all day to win work. Just do great work and the client will come to you with more work.
One of my favorite reasons to get repeat work from clients is that they also pay higher. I raise my prices every year and the clients who keep coming back are happy to pay more because they are so satisfied with the product they’re receiving that they’d rather pay the higher price than go through the hassle of looking for someone else. Just make sure you provide great value and are easy to work with, so that the client keeps coming back.
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