I started my journey as a freelance worker a little over a year ago. I said goodbye to my boss, packed my cardboard box and walked out of the only workforce that I had ever known. As I exited the building for the last time, the automatic sliding glass behind me closed the door on the cubicles in which I used to reside.
A couple weeks later I ventured off into the great unknown: virtual freelance work. I remember that first client meeting. We had a video chat scheduled for 9am. I woke up early that day, curled my hair (which doesn’t happen often because #momlife), I put on a blazer and a statement necklace and was ready to take over the world. I had my table which doubles as a desk completely cleared, my notepad and pen in place, and my coffee was hot. My introduction was thoughtfully scripted and perfectly memorized.
I have to admit, it felt a little like a blind date—butterflies and all—except no one was buying me dinner and there certainly weren’t any roses involved. But I was determined to win over this new freelance client and for this to be the start of a beautiful working relationship.
I have learned a lot since that day.
Set Up a Match Made in Heaven
Taking on a new freelance client needs to be carefully contemplated and strategically thought out. Rushing into a relationship with a client that is not the right fit can easily become a quick recipe for disaster.
To set you up for successful relationships as a virtual freelancer, ask yourself these 4 questions before agreeing to work with any client:
1. Can I realistically fit this new freelance client into my schedule?
Some days I have to remind myself that I simply can’t do it all. I am a work at home mom, a wife, and a freelancer. I have a lot to juggle, and there often simply isn’t much room left in the margins. Committing to take on a new freelance client means that something else in my life has to give.
Before saying yes to a new freelance client, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about scheduling.
- How many hours will they need from you per week?
- Will those hours fluctuate on a week-to-week basis? How quickly do they expect projects or requests to be turned around?
- Can I work on my own schedule, or will I be needed at specific times throughout the day or week?
Find out as much as possible about how this work will fit into your weekly routine, and decide whether you can accommodate the client’s schedule requests and expectations.
And remember to be realistic here! A daily call that starts twenty minutes before school pickup may sound doable in theory—but am I really going to be on my A-game while loading the baby into the car and maneuvering around that one spot on the ride where my calls always get dropped? Probably not.
2. Are our time zones compatible?
Although there are many great ways to manage working across multiple time zones, sometimes it is simply not the best fit—especially if the time zone differences are extreme or if your various clients are spread throughout different time zones. If a client expects a lot of live communication throughout the week but your time zones only allow three waking hours together it will make things very difficult.
My rule of thumb here is that I try to work with clients who are mostly in my same time zone, or within only an hour or two—and to never have more than one client at a time who is more than three hours ahead or behind. Sorry Germany and Australia! This girl needs a little shut-eye.
Figure out which time zones you can best accommodate, and commit to only saying yes if it works with your schedule.
3. Do I see any red flags?
My friend once told me about a less than ideal blind date experience she encountered. Halfway through the dinner her date started talking about his secret train collection that he kept under his bed. It was at that minute she knew she was done. Trains weren’t really her thing.
Although I’ve yet to have a client tell me about their secret collections, the point here is that it’s important to follow your gut and don’t ignore any signs that something strange might be going on.
Not all personalities are going to mesh. Not every client is perfect for you, and that is okay! If your gut is telling you that the relationship is simply not going to work, don’t force it. Think about the trains and respectfully decline the opportunity.
4. Does this work make me happy?
One of the main reasons I embarked on the journey to becoming a freelance worker was because I was tired of being confined to an office space for 9 hours a day doing work that I didn’t love.
As a freelance worker, I am now able to seek opportunities that make me excited. I know my strengths, I know my skill sets, and I want to do work that I am good at and that I enjoy. After all, research shows that happiness makes the brain work better, and who doesn’t want a better working brain? Sign me up!
So before you say yes to a new freelance client, really consider what it is you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. Is it going to make you dread waking up every day? Then say no!
When you’re new to the world of freelance work, it can be tempting to say an immediate “sure, why not?” to every project or client that comes along without really thinking it through. You need a paycheck, after all, and who knows when the next opportunity will come through? But remember that at the end of the day, your goal is to build long and sustainable client relationships so that the work keeps coming in and supporting your over-all lifestyle.
Saying no is never easy. But ultimately, saying no to the wrong client is simply a yes to that perfect fit that you haven’t yet met!