How freelance engineers can increase their success in the digital world - Part 2 – Think relationship
Sep 17, 2016 04:24
In this Part 2 of my blog series on how a freelance engineer can increase their success when competing for work in the digital world, I’m going to explore in more detail some of the challenges in building relationships in a virtual world.
New crowdsourcing marketplaces for engineers such as kkooee are changing the way engineering services are sourced, procured and delivered, and this presents a number of unique challenges to freelance and independent engineers.
In Part 1 of the series, I explored some of the fundamental differences between winning work in the new digital world, and the traditional face-to-face way. If you haven’t yet read the blog post, what we found is that, in many cases, it’s not unlike the way it’s always been. Clients will still make buying decisions based on their perception of value, relationships and expertise.
When it comes to relationships, the first myth that I want to dispel is that they are not important when using digital marketplaces like kkooee - people like to buy from people. You should see every potential project as a way of building relationships that can lead to repeat work.
So my first and most important tip is to THINK RELATIONSHIP. You need to put in place simple strategies to build a relationship with each and every client. And to help you do this here are a few practical ways that you can do this.
1 - All relationships start by making contact.
This sounds simple but it continually surprises me why freelancers don’t do this when looking for work on crowdsourcing sites. If you see a project posted on a marketplace like kkooee, message the client and ask a few questions. Firstly you’ll be able to better define their challenges, assess needs and provide a more customised proposal. Secondly and most important, you will stand out from the crowd. The client will know your name (and hopefully remember you), know you are interested, and will typically view your profile. You want to be viewed as an engaging professional, not one of many online profiles. Just remember there is a fine line between asking a few questions and annoying the client with constant content – so don’t overdo it.
2 – The virtual project kick-off
Once you win the project, rather than immediately kicking off the work, ask the client for a video conference meeting (using Skype or similar). Prepare for the meeting as you would if the client was coming into your office. Prepare a short agenda and make sure you check your surroundings to ensure that you look like a professional consultant. When you first meet with the client, ask them to talk through their project and what they are trying to achieve. Resist the urge to start talking about you; there will be opportunities for this later. Take them through your proposed approach. Ask them how they want to work with you during the project, specifically the regularity and requirements for progress reports, key decisions they want to be involved in and any millstone activities. Always keep in mind that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
3- The “almost done” meeting
Before you finalise your work, ask for a review meeting. This will give the client the opportunity provide input and suggestions before you submit the final deliverables. It will give you time to be able to resolve any potential issues or manage the expectations the client may have on the final deliverables. It’s really important to give the client the opportunity to at least feel they have a say on the final deliverables. No-one likes surprises. You want to make them feel that they were part of the services journey you have taken. Believe me, you will save yourself time by doing this.
4 – Debrief and lessons learnt
Most online marketplaces like kkooee have some form of Uber-style rating system where the client rates the engineer (and vice-versa). For freelancers, a good rating is absolutely critical as the clients typically use the rating when making a buying decision. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for more feedback once you have finished your project; you need to ask for personal feedback on your performance. Asking the client for this feedback has three benefits. Firstly, you can act on the feedback to improve your services. Secondly, you can reference the feedback when you submit other proposals for similar work. And finally, you have the opportunity to discuss future challenges and needs with the client (which may lead to additional work).
These four tips are really quite simple to put into practice. And they are no different to what I recommend professional service experts do - irrespective of whether they work in an online or traditional environment.
So, please remember, no matter what people say, relationships can be successfully built in an online environment. We are living proof of this at kkooee. I have built many great relationships with professional freelancers all over the world. I may have never met them face-to-face, but I trust and respect them as much as any of the relationships I have previously built through traditional methods.
In the next edition of this blog series, I’ll explore in more detail the importance of showing the client you understand them in your proposals. I’ll give you some more tips that will help you win work if you consistently apply some of them in your business development activities as a freelance engineer.