Excellence is the name of the game when you are a freelancer and in control of your own business success. You are in control of your business and it's your responsibility to rectify problems as soon as they arise and with as much class as possible.
The key to exceeding customer expectations is to deliver on time, and budget, and offering exceptional value.
Submitting your bid: Value is not about being the cheapest
Be confident enough to offer a quote that's equal to the value of your work, instead of what you think the customer wants to pay. When you do freelance work, you are exchanging time for money. Consider how long it will take you to complete the job and consider the time you are saving the client.
There are many people who will charge less than you and many clients on job forums are bold enough to say that they will only consider the cheapest bids - don't apply for those jobs. Sooner or later the client will be more than happy to pay a fair price for a quality re-do of the job.
During the project: Let the customer know that you want them to succeed
It is important to work according to your schedule, even if you have to work on weekends or at night. Some freelancers miss deadlines all the time.
It may be hard to plan your time on large projects, but it is important to keep clients informed. Customers want services delivered on deadlines.
The best way to avoid missing deadlines, is to consider how long it will take you to complete a project and then add half the time to that. In other words, if you think you can complete it in 2 days, add another day as a safety net and give the client a total estimation of 3 days. They will be over-the-moon when you deliver ahead of schedule.
If you are running late and are unsure that you will meet a deadline, contact the client to let them know how far you are and let them know that you are working double-time to meet your deadline (only if you are indeed doing that - don't lie).
On completion: Keep in touch
If you know that you have delivered your very best work, and you are building your portfolio, you should not be afraid to ask the client for feedback.
Most people don't handle critique well, but if you want to be in your own business, you need to know how you can improve on customer service for future projects.
Don't let your customers forget about you. Keep in touch using email newsletters, and by adding your clients to your business social media networks.
Setting Your Freelance Rates
I don't think any freelancer knows how much to charge right from the beginning of their career. What's even harder is to find customers who are prepared to pay you the same rates as an experienced freelancer, when you don't have any experience to show (yet). I hope that this guide will give you an idea about how to set the right rates right from the beginning.
Setting Your Minimum Rate
Your first step is to determine the minimum hourly rate you're prepared to work for. This is not a number you suck out of your thumb, but rather a careful calculation that combines your personal expenses, plus your business expenses, divided by your hours worked.
Remember that there may be several variables that affect how many hours you work, however, if you are conservative, you know how many hours of work to shoot for in a month, and you have an idea of the minimum rate you need to charge.
Warning: Your MR is based on how highly you value your service and time. It needs to be a number that will put you in the right frame of mind to deliver excellent service. If your MR is too low, you will not deliver your best work and your clients will not return.
Hourly / Fixed Rate Pricing
The debate about hourly vs. fixed rate pricing will never end, however, you can choose which suits you the best. Job forums such as oDesk offer employers the optioin to place fixed rate jobs, or hourly positions. Let's take a look at the differences and to help you choose which suits you best.
A larger percentage of clients prefer to pay by the hour, thinking that they will get more value, which is not necessarily the case. For you as the freelancer, charging an hourly rate may cause you to work slower than your potential and it will cap your maximum earning potential.
Raising your hourly rate may make it harder to find clients.
Fixed Rate Jobs
Fixed rate jobs enables freelancers to work more productively and as a result earn a higher equivalent hourly rate. Your clients will also be impressed with your efficiency and fast turnaround times.
Deciding to charge a fixed rate does not mean that you can't apply for hourly rate jobs. By presenting a bid in a certain way, you can make it seem more appealing.
Saying only that it will cost $100 to produce a project will have a much better outcome than telling the client that it will take you an hour to produce the project, and that it will cost $100.
Therefore, present your rates in the right way to be perceived as value for money. Then be sure to deliver the quality project well before the deadline and your client will be impressed with your competence and ready to refer clients to you. If your client insists on paying an hourly rate, be sure to let him or her know exactly what to expect from you per hour.
Look at the project through your client's eyes. Consider how the work will benefit the client and how it will affect his or her bottom line. This factor affects the value of your service and that should be considered when you decide on your pricing.
You will need to bear your competition's rates in mind when you consider pricing options. It's a great idea to search for industry standard rates, and to find out the rates of your competitors. Bear in mind how good they are (not only at the job, but also at customer care and service delivery).