We’ve all got our vices and it’s super easy to form bad habits when you’re your own boss.

As freelancers, we often work alone for long periods. Freelancers are often not challenged on the how’s and why’s we do things. This can lead to complacency and inefficient working.

In this post, I’ll share the bad habits you should break in order to grow your freelance business.

Writing Poor Emails

Writing poor emails

If you’re going to write an email to someone, do it properly. There’s nothing that says “I can’t be bothered” or “I’m too busy for this” than badly structured emails that make little sense.

Everyone will make a mistake once in a while. But generally speaking, your written communication should be as polished as possible. I’m not necessarily talking about typos here either. We definitely all make those!

You should take the proper time to read and analyse emails from your customers. Believe me, it’s obvious when replies have been written based on only skim-read questions.

Writing poor emails to prospects and clients will put them off.

Being Impersonal

Being impersonal

When looking to grow your freelance business it’s important to retain clients. People invest in people and by being impersonal you could hinder any repeat business.

In my experience, lasting relationships come from building rapport and common ground with the people you work with. I’m lucky to have clients come back to me years after our first engagement. Try to leave an impression on anyone you collaborate with.

As a day-to-day remote worker, it’s sometimes difficult to be personable with sparse face-to-face contact. A few ways you can improve on this:

  • Build rapport by talking about things other than work.
  • Encourage the use of video chat for meetings.
  • Connect with prospects and clients on social media.
  • Be nice! Go out of your way for people every once in a while.

Bad Timekeeping

Bad timekeeping

Managing your time is a vital part of any freelancers’ regime. Not only in terms of getting things done but perhaps, more importantly, making the right impression on the people you deal with.

When I arrange meetings, they’re often done over the phone, Skype, Google Hangouts or similar. To keep things running to time, I like to set up a Google calendar event and send an invite to all other attendees. That way, everyone knows exactly what time to dial in and how long the chat will last.

Just because your meetings aren’t always in person, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on time. And, if you are going to be a touch late, be courteous and let people know.

Reliability is a trait that clients value as important as technical nouse. Break your bad punctuality habits right away.

Not Following Up On Leads

Not following up on leads

Even during busy periods, it’s always a good idea to follow up on leads. Not doing so is a freelancing bad habit.

Be sure to reply to everyone that enquires about your freelance services. Even if it’s to turn them down this time. Make it clear that while you’d love to help, you don’t have the capacity at this time or the budget is too low on this one.

I often find that people will be flexible with their requirements if they really want to hire you. Whether that be increasing their project spend or hanging on to book you at a later date when you are available.

It’s good practice to be pro-active with prospects too. When you’ve taken the time to write out a quote or share ideas on a project, you owe it to yourself to give them a nudge if you hear nothing.

A quick tip regarding leads; whenever anyone contacts you regarding work, add them on social media. This keeps you fresh in their mind for the current and future projects.

Any business contact is valuable to a freelancer. Chase them up and retain connections.

Reluctance to Phone Conversations

Reluctance to talk on the phone

This is one that I struggled with. In the first few years running my freelance business, I would actively avoid talking on the phone. I hated it and it stressed me out.

As my experience has grown, I’ve found utilising spoken communication to be imperative. Being available at the other end of the line offers a level of confidence to clients that is hard to achieve with text. It’s a strong method of building affinity and is part of offering a personal service.

One thing I can assure you is the more you converse with clients, the easier it will get. Quick tips that I follow to build confidence when speaking on the phone:

  • Schedule calls rather than offering up your number to anyone at anytime.
  • Prepare for calls by making notes and bringing up relevant assets beforehand.
  • Try to speak to every client on your books on a semi-regular basis.
  • Practice makes perfect.

Reactive Marketing

Reactive marketing

Marketing and the growth of your freelance business come hand in hand. One bad habit of freelancers I’ve picked up on is that they only start marketing when they’re going through a dry spell.

In any form of self-employment, there will be times of feast and famine. Sometimes you’ll have more work than you can handle and sometimes you’ll have no work at all. How you manage this is what will determine your success.

Reactive marketing isn’t the best idea if that’s the only time you market. What I mean by this is; marketing should be done constantly. You should try to keep on top of your portfolio updates, social media outreach and lead follow-ups whether you have a current project or not.

If you’re only starting to market yourself once you have no paid work, you’re likely doing it too late.

Failure to Stay Relevant

Stay relevant

Most remote freelancers who work from home, like me, are in digital trades. This industry is the perfect example of why staying relevant is so important.

Web development moves forward so quickly. There are new frameworks, languages and tools appearing every day. Setting time aside to brush up on new, suitable skills is something you should do regularly.

As well as technical skills, keeping on top of what’s going on in your trade will stand you in good stead. For instance, part of being a professional WordPress developer is knowing what the latest security flaws of plug-ins are, what front-end techniques are best for performance and what tools to utilise for the most efficient build stack.

Allow time to read, research and expand your knowledge base. Make yourself as hireable as possible. Give your clients confidence in your abilities. It’s always beneficial to stay relevant.

Posted by Tom Hirst

Consultant WordPress developer with 10 years experience freelancing for agencies and businesses globally. Available for hire.

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