Media Production

The Big Secret to a Successful Freelance Career

The freelance life is a challenge. At some point, every employee in America has thought about leaving their job and working for themselves. But the realization that freelance professionals wake up every morning unemployed usually jolts them back to reality. Managing projects, inspiring confidence, being professional, dealing with risk, and more all add up to a successful freelance career, but one thing stands above all others. If you can’t do this, then don’t become a freelancer. The single most important aspect of a successful freelance career is:

Managing Client Expectations.  Client expectations will be the single most important and challenging issue you face. What the client expects you to deliver and what you intend to deliver are often two different things. Plus, the real secret is this – the bigger the client, the less it matters. Big clients don’t sweat every check, or every version. They have experience and understand the process. It’s the smallest clients that take the most management and time. For a small client, every check is painful to write. Every unexpected surprise is the end of the world.

To help you manage your client expectations, here’s 3 important steps:

1) Don’t be afraid to be clear.   Spell it out. They’re not creative professionals, so they don’t understand the process. Help them know what to expect from the project. Trust me – at the end of the project, it will be worth it.

2) See the project through their eyes.    Sure it might be a chance for you to win a video award or film festival, but that’s not the client’s goal. Until you understand their goal, you’ll never deliver a winning result.

3) Create a paper trail.   Use email. If you talk on the phone, follow up in writing. Write up deal memos, agreements, or whatever you need. Never be caught without proof of what you both agreed to produce.

Client expectations have nothing to do with your experience, professionalism, or skill. But it will make a dramatic difference in your success. Focus on making sure the client is expecting an accurate result, and your career is headed for success.

Have you ever been frustrated trying to satisfy client expectations? Let me know your experience.

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One Comment

  1. Having run my own freelance company since 1998, my #1 “client expectation” rule is communication. Whether working with big or small clients, I have found that lack of communication will cause more problems than you care to deal with. Communicate plans, schedules, milestones, costs, revisions, cost of revisions, deliverables, lead times, and a host of many other elements of the creative process. I have found that by simply communicating as much detail as possible, you can alleviate confusion and questions about what a client expects.

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