By NELLIE AKALP
Through no fault of their own, freelancers sometimes struggle with an image problem. Some prospective customers have had negative experiences with independent contractors in the past, and that distorts their perception of all freelance professionals.
So, how can you overcome resistance and gain the trust of hesitant prospects? Consider these five tips for building their confidence in you.
1. Create a business entity.
Many freelancers work as sole proprietorships for the sake of simplicity, but operating as a sole proprietor may give the impression that you’re not a “real” business. Some prospects might find it more reassuring if you’ve formally registered your company as an LLC, corporation, or some other official business entity. Realize that forming an entity will affect you legally and from a tax perspective, so it’s critical to seek advice from an attorney and accountant or tax advisor before deciding which business structure offers the most advantages in your situation.
2. Brush up your brand image.
Take a step away and view your brand the way a prospect does. What impression are your logo, website, social media accounts, and other marketing and sales materials conveying about who you are and your capabilities? Consider asking a few neutral third-parties to share their perceptions of your brand. If you’re not sending the message you want to communicate to prospective customers, it’s time to revisit and fine-tune how you’re presenting yourself. That may involve enlisting the help of a professional website designer, photographer or copywriter. Or it may mean overhauling your LinkedIn profile and updating or enhancing your portfolio.
3. Study up before talking with them.
Before engaging with prospects, do your homework to learn about their company and the industry in which they operate. This will not only allow you to demonstrate your interest in them, but also it will give you nuggets of knowledge to help you craft smart discovery questions to assess their needs better. The more you know up front, the better able you will be to wow them with a tailored proposal to address their unique challenges.
4. Welcome them to talk with references.
While your portfolio might aptly showcase your skills and demonstrate the quality of your work, it does not give prospects a sense of what it will be like working with you. Do you meet deadlines? Do you collaborate well with others? Are you responsive to questions? Do you communicate clearly? These and other questions can only be answered by people who have had the experience of working with you.
5. Provide detailed proposals.
Give prospects proposals that provide specifics about the scope of work you’ll perform, deadlines, the prospect’s responsibilities, your rates, payment terms, and other information that details what they can expect and what they will be agreeing to. Without leaving room for interpretation, you can put prospects at ease by putting in black and white what you’re committed to doing for them and what their obligations are.
Final Thoughts on Showing You Mean Business
You may need to put forth some extra effort with prospective customers who have been burned by irresponsible freelancers in the past. But by taking steps to show that you treat freelancing as a business and take it seriously, you can overcome resistance, build mutually-beneficial relationships, and serve as an example of what the experience of working with a responsible freelancer should be.