We aren’t evaluated in a vacuum.
We don’t encounter people in a vacuum, but in the midst of their lives, when they’ve had experiences we can only guess at.
Whatever interactions we have with them they compare against those they’ve had with others.
Their expectations for the work we do with (for) them come from their experiences with other freelancers, whether they be graphic designers, wedding photographers, ghost writers or anyone.
Some clients have had some misgivings with some of the work they’ve commissioned, and they may have written these off as reflecting the limits of what they can possibly expect. That’s why a freelancer can benefit so greatly from giving clients the things they aren’t getting elsewhere.
Understanding what other freelancers are getting wrong and being sure to do that thing can get you some good reviews, referrals to new clients, decent pay and lots of appreciation.
Know Which Space to Fill
I’ve recently had the opportunity to fix some jobs previously done by other writers. That gives me a great insight into what the work of others looks like and what clients are looking for.
Now, you may not have had that opportunity, so you may want to do some research if at all possible — eavesdropping on the work of others in your field.
Another thing to do is to ask new clients if there are things that others have done that they were dissatisfied with. They won’t always volunteer this and may have a hard time articulating it. But they’ll probably come up with just a little to get you started.
You could also analyze the craft itself, but there could be a difference between some of your ideas and some of what the market — or a particular client — wants.
Here are some universal things that most clients seem to prefer — the most valuable things to supply.
Your client is going to do something with whatever you create for him or her. Your business owner needs your accounting work to go over well with the IRS, while graphic designs for your clients are meant to appeal to specific audiences in specific ways.
It really doesn’t matter how good your work is if you can’t articulate what about it figures to do the trick for the audience.
The client may prescribe this very clearly and specifically or may leave it up to your creative vision. Work that meets this need tends to glow with an aura, usually marked by logic, neatness and a good sense.
Call it point-of-view or an editorial stance. Or work for real people. But if you’re a writer or designer or crafts maker, your work (unless you have a good reason to suspect otherwise) needs to appear to be the product of some identifiable personality, meant to appeal to a personality.
I’ve re-written quite a few pieces to satisfy this requirement. The previous text may have been quite good in some ways, but it came off as generic, written by no one for no one.
Whether you’re a web designer or writer or who-knows-what, your clients always like intricate work. Think of it as though you were making a dresser.
Sanding it, tightening the knobs, attending to the trim — little details are the things that will set your work apart. There’s a psychological edge in showing you’ve attended to the little things in a thoughtful way.
Never have I been told, “Jeff, don’t ask questions; stop giving me status updates.” I’ve often been praised for my communication, which makes me think a lot of other freelancers must let things twist in the wind.
People love being asked questions — it’s a great human exchange, and it shows care on the part of the asker. Detailed questions indicate a thoughtful and detailed mind.
So, fill in the negative spaces for existing and new clients. While you have to do all things well, creating a great overall product, focusing on things that are rare or that satisfy nagging needs will get you a long way!