An article by Sara Horowitz entitled “Freelancers in the U.S. workforce” quoted that: “The freelance surge is the Industrial Revolution of our time.”.
And stats are encouraging this statement. In 2016, the freelance economy grew to a total of 55 million freelancers in the U.S., making up 35% of the total U.S. workforce, and generating an estimated $1 trillion in earnings.
Major advantages to starting freelancing include flexibility, earnings potential, control over life and business decisions, and work opportunities.
Companies enjoy working with freelancers thanks to their professionalism, cost per hour or per project and commitment to delivering results. But market feedback alone isn’t enough to scale your freelancing success.
As you grow into your freelancing career, other factors define it. Assertiveness is one of these key factors. Here is why.
It’s All about Standing up for Yourself…
You would think that as a freelancer, there is no need to be assertive. You are wrong – assertiveness is needed in all aspects of business, whether you are the one executing or calling the decisions. As this white paper by AcuityTraining quotes, it’s all about “the ability to express your opinions and feelings clearly without undue anxiety”.
In freelancing, there is no guarantee that clients will always know what is the best work dynamic between their business and the service provider (you). It is up to you to be firm from the beginning and explain:
- Why your rates are high;
- Why some things require time;
- What are other costs involved in the process;
- How you operate in terms of business;
- When and Where they can contact you;
- How communication happens, and at what level;
- Add your own to the list.
… And Learning from Mistakes
Listen, nobody is born knowledgeable. This is acquired in time, through trial and error.
Freelancing is all about learning on the go – a never-ending learning curve, for that matter. It’s okay to fail and it is okay to make mistakes. The important aspect is to learn from them.
Be open and confident about your imperfections and your ability to overcome them! Honesty will win you more contracts in the long-term, in a world where everybody twists the truth at least by an inch or two.
“Nothing is perfect. Everything is perfectible.” – Karl Popper
Pricing Your Worth…
This goes beyond the saying “What you see is what you get”, and more towards “how you price your own value”. Any client will try to negotiate, especially if you have:
- A visible freelancing background where previous rates are displayed.
- A financial track record proving that you “charged less” than your average quote.
- An environment footprint (due to industry, location, skills, economy) bearing a pattern of financial fluctuation (meaning average rates can go up or down frequently).
This is where your confidence comes in: it is up to you to prove your worth and separate yourself from the rest. If you remember the Gauss “bell curve” distribution, the majority falls into the 68.2% (34.1% on each side) of the mean, followed by 13.6%, 2.1%, and 0.1% on each side.
If by any patterns, your rates are automatically placed alongside the mean, that doesn’t imply it’s a “final position”. Remember, you have the final saying.
Here are two examples:
- According to geographical factors, freelancers in some countries or areas are expected to have a lower hourly rate. Let’s say freelancers from other countries are expected to have lower prices than freelancers from the US.
- Some industries are expected to pay less due to demands. An example would be copywriting compared to iOS development.
And in most cases, this is true. However, nothing stops freelancers to step away from “the norm”. There are copywriters who earn a six-figure income without an issue. As there are freelancers from other countries that charge a minimum $100 per hour, independent of their industry.
And Managing Disputes the Right Way
Being angry and frustrated will not help you win in the long run. Here is how to manage a dispute or a problematic issue with a client:
Use active listening. Let the client start first, and show his/her that you value their opinion.
- Start small. Try to launch the topic that you aren’t 100% happy with how things are going in this collaboration (i.e. communication sector) and suggest alternatives while being open to the client’s contribution in the same time.
- Learn to say no, and explain why you think this is the right decision for both parties.
- Let go of guilt. There is no point in stressing over this and feeling bad if collaboration fails. Sometimes, this happens and we can’t really have control over it.
- Assess if you want to keep the business relationship alive or not. Be honest and exclude the “money” part. This is 100% based on how you feel and how motivated you are to carry on. Not about the money that comes out of it.
- Go for a win-win situation, even if you’re ending or keeping a collaboration open. Both you and your client should have something to gain from this experience. This blocks away potential frustrations and leaves room for future projects/recommendations.
- No matter your decisions, always offer value and leave your “footprint” on the project. Even after walking away, your client should feel like they’ve received something valuable in return and this wasn’t a waste of time.
Assertiveness is a skill that can be taught, learned, and applied. Even if you are just debuting your freelancing path, and feel you aren’t there yet to “demand” that high price quote, remember anyone should receive respect, understanding, and a friendly attitude.
Your client is not your boss. The dynamic is based on growth and goes both ways: by buying your services/products, the client’s business grows and becomes more successful. By selling your skills/products, your business grows and becomes successful. If the thread breaks halfway, manage it with dignity, assertiveness, confidence, and respect.
Invest your energy and time in projects that are worth it, where you can dedicate 100% sweat, passion, efficiency, and results.