10 Freelancer Best Practices for Strategists, Planners and Researchers

freelancer on computer and phone

According to The 2015/2016 Strategist Survey Report, created by Heather LeFevre, Freelance Strategist, freelancers in our field work as many hours per week as they’d like. So for an educated, experienced, working freelancer like the 2556 strategists who took her survey, freelancing meets their career, and life, goals.  How to make it work for you?  Following are 10 freelancer best practices.

1. Find the right amount of independence/support in a team.

Some freelancers want to accept an assignment, work independently, and provide results.  Others prefer to work more closely with a team, collaborating on process, interim deliverables and recommendations.  Either approach can be effective depending on the style and needs of your client.  Just make sure you’re setting and meeting expectations before you start.

2. Communicate intelligently.

Set up times to check in with your client and respond to communications in between.  Sending out group messages with open ended questions can create chaos and confusion.  Have a single point of contact for clarifying questions and use team tools to check in on progress.

3. Ask questions.

Not sure what an end-client meant after a call?  Wonder if assumptions have changed?  Think your approach should be modified?  Don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you, and the rest of your team, agree on why, when and what you’re doing.

4. Create a timeline and follow it.

For project-based freelance work, timelines can help everyone manage expectations.  Tools such as Basecamp, Google Sheets, or just an updated Excel spreadsheet can keep everyone clear.  Make sure to label deliverables, who’s responsible and duration in addition to final due dates.

5. Go above and beyond.

See something that wasn’t asked of you but feel you have the information or an idea that might help?  Offer it to the team right away so that everyone benefits.

6. Say no.

Feel like you’re being pushed beyond the scope of your agreement?  Assume your client doesn’t realize this, and communicate once more your agreed upon scope.  Pushing beyond the time and financial boundaries you’ve set can result in resentment on your side and a reduction in perceived value on theirs.  Have an honest conversation to build understanding.

7. Say yes.

If you can contribute more than planned, find a way to structure your additional work so that it’s fair to everyone involved.  New ideas or ways of working can turn into new projects for you and more value for your client.

brainstorming post its honest feedback

 8. Learn from feedback.

Listen to your clients, and if they aren’t giving you feedback, ask.  It’s better to risk feeling a tiny bit uncomfortable while still working together than just wonder why the relationship ended.  Assume they are telling you both positive and negative items because they want to improve your working relationship, and do whatever you can to respond and improve.

9. Be scrupulously honest.

Thinking of padding your hours worked, adding in some questionable business expenses or going behind your client’s back to work directly with their clients?  Just don’t.  Act as if they know every choice you are making and consider whether you are comfortable with this.  If you aren’t, don’t do it.  Any freelancer/client relationship worth having must be built on trust.

10. Add value to the bigger picture.

Asking questions of your client can also be a way to understand the final goals to which your piece of work is contributing.  This understanding will help you craft your work so that it helps everyone succeed, and can give you places to suggest more ways to add value to the entire organization.

Photos by WOCinTech, and gdsteam.

Freelance strategist and researcher Jennifer Cooper brings insights to food, culture, clothing and other consumer brands, and their agencies, to refine product strategy, user experience and communications.

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