Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Realistic Blueprint For Fresher's To Help Build Their Portfolio

Just like in any other field of work, fresher’s starting out as freelancers too have to face their share of difficulty trying to convince clients of their capability and competence. The most important fact that works against them here is the absence of any prior experience in the field which could strengthen their credentials. So what does one do? This is a realistic situation as everyone who is someone today was at some point of time a pure fresher himself. So what did he do differently that made him sit where he is today? The answer is in the approach.

Any individual who is really serious about excelling in his field will be careful enough to scan his target market and chalk out his game plan before he would think of getting clients. It is usually seen that fresher’s are more than eager to start working and for the same they get ready to work for rock bottom prices. This is surely not the right way ahead. By this I do not mean that an individual should start quoting sky high and illogical price quotes but yes, the figure quotes should amply justify the hard work that you would be putting in towards the project. There are some simple steps that you can do here towards building your portfolio:

Blogs– An excellent way to start building your portfolio would be to straightaway go ahead and launch your own blog. Your personal blog will not only provide you the perfect chance to showcase your work but at the same time allow you to get live feedback from readers in the form of comments which could further help you refine your skills.

Working For Non-Profits – Though writing for free is never advised but this is surely one area where writing for free would not hurt. The reason is that if the nonprofit is a big name then it could be the perfect image building chance that you could want. A good PR move it could work as a perfect reference for you and lend a big help towards your credibility and image. On the other hand, writing for free for a normal webmaster whom no one would have heard of just to gain experience would be of no good.

Article Marketing – The main purpose of availing the services of article websites on the internet is to try and get some marketing value out of your articles. These articles could act as samples which you can send to prospective clients. But there is a catch here too. It is usually seen that many freelance writers write and submit articles to large, non specific and general article directories. Instead, I have always felt that it a good idea to write and submit your articles to niche article sites or to blogs which cater to your specific domain and specialty area. The reason for this is that these specific and niche websites and blogs carry more credibility and come with a built-in audience than the general non specific article directories do. They provide you a chance to link to prospective clients easily thereby allowing you easy and quick access to future assignments.

Websites For Freelancers – When staring out as a freelancer one can also make use of several websites which allow you look for freelance projects posted on their forums and allow you to try and bid for the same. Some of these websites are good starting places for beginning writers while others will help you build a network or even outsource some of your work. But freelancers need to beware as most of these websites need you to become their member for a fee in order to access their entire gamut of projects. Also it is seen that on most of these websites it is very difficult to get paid decent amounts for your work as most of the clients here are on the lookout for freelancers who can deliver the work at rock bottom prices. But yes, with patience and careful segregation it is possible to land up with some good options here.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

How Genuine Is That New Prospective Lead?

For all freelancers, any kind of incoming client lead is good. But not always do these leads transcribe into actual clients. In my case, I have had so many leads lose their shine when they turn out to be in quest of one single aim- free advice. I have had this happening quite often especially when I started out as a freelancer. It is not that I am against providing advice but you shouldn't’t add all that value for free — whether for a client who wants more than they’re willing to pay, or one who isn’t really serious about the project in the first place.

There have been times when I was contacted by prospects expecting me to do all their marketing panning as well as suggestions towards structuring the content of their websites for free. Scheduled meetings to ‘discuss’ the projects have often turned into the same.

So how does one differentiate as to if this new lead you are in touch with is another of these free advice seeker or is a genuine prospective client?

Imagine a situation wherein you get in touch with a new prospect and start talking with him regarding the project. The client seems genuine and you share with him some good conversations and laughs. Conversations with that client leave you on a high and you simply feel the rush to start to work for him. But when you start discussing the actual modalities of the project including the budget and the deadline, the client seems to be at his indecisive best. My advice here, BACK OFF!

In 95% of the situations I have seen that such clients do not end up giving any work and all they seek is an estimate for the project and like in the previous case, free advice!

So this leaves us with the same question. How does a freelancer decide if the client is really just another pretender? The following rules that I always abide by work for me:

Enquire about the project budget: If the prospective lead is serious about the project and are actually on the lookout for a specialist then they’ll have a budget. On the other hand, the pretenders will either completely try to skirt this topic or else will start tossing out unrealistically low figures.

Ask for the project deadline: An inconclusive and sketchy answer here simply spells trouble. If they don’t value a project enough to schedule it, then don’t expect to get paid for it too!

Ask for mutual contracts to be signed: There is nothing more that pretenders get scared from than legal bindings on paper.

Insist for an advance payment: Prospective clients meaning business would understand your need of saving your interest with an initial payment and very often agree for the same. Pretenders on the other hand would stop their communication right there!

As a freelancer you really need to start understanding that there is truly nothing called as "free lunches". The lunch meeting that you might have to go for right now with a lead just might not be the expected free lunch offered by him but one of the tricks up his sleeves to try and play around with your experience. BEWARE!


Monday, March 1, 2010

An Inspired Entry

It is very rare that you will find me inserting actual scripts from a blog that I would have read. But this is one instance when I just could not hold myself from doing it. The blog was written in such an inspiring way that i thought of sharing it with everyone here.

The blog was about how freelancers should price their work. The article says: " A person’s willingness to pay for something is directly related to the value they see in it. And like it or not, that value may be as fluffy as “a better life”. Or it may be something quite straight-forward that you just don’t realise. Either way, if you don’t charge correctly for that value, you lose." Rightly said!

The article goes on to say that " frequently freelancers and young agencies in the web industry lose business because they over-value their work. Be honest, how often have you cursed the other guys that won the job on price? The cowboys. The jokers that couldn’t mark up a holding page. Idiots. Their own site doesn’t even validate! But all that happened was that you tried to sell your expertise to someone that just didn’t value it. And can you blame them? Maybe their site needs to describe their business and provide contact details, but doesn’t need the latest, greatest HTML 5 tricks? They don’t give a damn about “perfect” markup and neither do their customers. So why would they pay for it? Would you pay €20 for a pint if the barman told you he’s serving it in his favourite glass, made by a famous, naked, dancing, glass-blowing tribe from Brazil?"

What stands out here is the fact that the freelancer needs to understand the requirement of the client. It is OK to try and sell your services to him but this should not overshadow the basic requirement that the client seeks. Accordingly, this should form the basis as to how you would charge the client. Charge him for what he wants and not for all that, that you can offer! PERIOD.

Rightly stated in the article is "nine times out of ten, your clients value only your availability, flexibility and malleability, not your sweet Javascript skills. Price downwards accordingly."

The entire article is available here.