Top 5 critical things to keep in mind before starting your first freelance project

Getting your first freelance project is a feeling that you will never forget. And the day you get paid for that would be even better. But the journey from the first contact with the client and to the completion is not filled with roses. It can easily go sideways if you don’t keep track of certain things. 

So, here are the top 5 critical things to keep in mind while starting your first freelance project

Clarify the requirements of the client

You might be eager to just start working on the solution but the most important part of any solution is getting to know the problem first. Know what your client is looking to solve via this project. What are his pain points? What problem is he facing that he wants a solution for?

Knowing his problems will enable you to deliver a customised solution that addresses those problems. Now, remember that a client may not even know the exact problem. So, you have to dig deeper and uncover the real issues.

For e.g. If your client says he needs a website, that is a surface level requirement only. What you as a professional needs to know about is what exact goals he wants the website to accomplish? Does he want more leads, or conversions or Is the purpose branding only etc.?

Ask thoughtful questions from the client to bring to light real objectives that the client wants the website to achieve. Then create a bespoke product which helps to achieve those objectives.

Clarify the scope of the project

Another important mistake that many beginner freelancers make is that they don’t define the scope of the project clearly. Scope means what are the exact deliverables of the project and how much work exactly needs to be done. 

Clearly define what work would be done under the project so that there is no misunderstanding later on. And this can happen if you are not careful. 

For e.g. Client needed a website and you said to the client that you will build his website. You start your work and when you deliver the website to your client he immediately calls you and asks angrily that he thought the website would be responsive or mobile optimised too. But you say to the client that you never told him that you only said that you were going to build his website. Both you and the client here are correct but neither of you defined the exact set of deliverables and just expected the other party to understand.

So, to avoid these types of confusions later on it is better to define the scope of the project clearly at the start. Mention clearly in writing the work that you are going to do under the project. 

Ask for at least 20% payment upfront

Do not be naive and start any project without at least getting 20% payment upfront. The world is full of dishonest people and there is no harm in asking upfront payment for your work. You aren’t asking for the whole payment here but just 20%. Although in ideal cases the upfront amount should be 50% but let’s just admit that’s not going to happen at the start of your career. 

When a client pays at least some amount upfront he is invested into the project. He values your time and respects your decisions. That payment also secures you in case the client changes his mind and decides to abandon the project. 

Decide the number of revisions

One of the most frustrating parts of the project comes when a client asks for an unlimited number of revisions of the first draft. It is perfectly normal that a client is dissatisfied with the first draft but if he asks again and again for a revision that can quickly turn into a never ending cycle. 

If you don’t set the limit to the number of revisions that a client is entitled to at the start of the project you will regret this later on. If you don’t define the number the client will think that he is entitled to never ending revisions till he is satisfied. 

Just think about this, are you ever satisfied with anything. When you order a pizza, or ice-cream you might think that it’s not upto the mark. You complain and get your order changed but then again you are dissatisfied. This can go forever and would be infeasible for the shop to continue providing you the replacement.

Client’s satisfaction is your job as a freelancer but If you are always willing to give into every request of the client you would never be finished. Putting a limit on the number of revisions also makes the client think that he’s only got a set number of revisions and he is subconsciously forced to like from the options that you provide him.

Single point of contact

You might have heard that saying that too many chefs spoil the broth. Well according to the website this means-  

Too many people involved in managing an activity can ruin it. This expression alludes to each of many cooks adding something to a soup, which finally tastes awful. 

This is rightly said and applies well to every field of life. In your freelance project this would imply that you should decide before starting the project the person that would be responsible for providing the feedback on it. 

There should only be a single point of contact who handles the project and provides feedback to you. You can’t let the client assign a random person to the project each time you send your draft for the feedback. That would result in a mess because each person would think differently and would have their own opinion. 

Let the client know that you want to deal with a single person only which can be either the client himself if he is a solopreneur or a person appointed by him if he has a company. 

This would ensure that the communication is clear and there is no delay due to varying opinions from different people from the client’s side.

Just to make this clear a client can obviously discuss the drafts that you will provide to him with his team but what they decide should be communicated to you by a single person only. And that person should never change throughout the course of the project.

Now, I haven’t read these from a blog or a book. I have learned all the above things from my own real life experience and sometimes at a cost so If you follow the above points it would really help you in executing your first ever freelance project successfully. 

Thank you for reading the article. I hope it provided some value to you. If it did then please do leave a like or comment that would mean the world to me.