There is a common myth that it doesn’t hurt to try. But as far as freelancing is concerned, this myth holds next to no value.
The world of freelancing is wide, vast, and full of opportunities to earn, learn, and grow. But often, success in freelancing means taking on only the clients and projects that you’re well-equipped to complete at the highest quality. It can be difficult to stay disciplined in the beginning, but it’s worth it in the long run if you are determined to make it work.
Freelancing means getting out of your comfort zone as well—always learning and getting better. At the same time, however, you must not compromise on the quality of your work.
For a marketplace like FreeeUp, where our mission is to connect clients with the top skilled freelancers, there is no compromise when it comes to quality. It’s important for freelancers to be experts in their fields and focus on projects that fall under their top skillsets.
While some newer freelancers—and marketplaces that aren’t vetted like FreeUp is—are comfortable taking on new projects and learning as they go, that doesn’t fit the FreeUp model. This post covers why we approach freelancing skill levels the way we do and why it’s beneficial for both freelancers and clients. Most importantly, you’ll learn here how to know when you’re up to the task so you can decide whether or not to take it on.
When you’re choosing what type of projects to do as a freelancer, you have complete freedom to decide your approach. You decide on what—and whether—to specialize, if you offer packaged services or custom pricing, and pretty much every other aspect of the clients and projects you take on.
The decisions you make about your freelancing business determine your success or your failure.
If you opt to take on projects that you’re not really well-versed in, there are several pitfalls you may run into.
If you are pursuing a career in freelancing, you have to think about the long run. If you take on projects you’re not qualified for, you may get that early revenue, but you risk your freelancing future.
What if the client doesn’t like the work and gives you poor reviews? If you don’t complete a project to the client’s satisfaction, especially for reasons that were avoidable, you may not be able to get similar projects in the future. And you certainly won’t be able to add it to your portfolio.
Taking projects only when you are 100% sure of completing it to the satisfaction of the client will not only add to your freelancer portfolio, but positive reviews from your clients will be a great help in getting more project recommendations. On the contrary, if you take any other project while not being an absolute fit for it, you might be risking your long-run prospects.
Whether a project requires knowledge in search engine optimization (SEO), software development, project management, or any other field, being an expert gives you an edge.
For example, if you take on an SEO project but you’re not up to date on the latest techniques, your client won’t get the best results. The same goes for any other discipline or skill. And even though the client isn’t an expert in that field, either, they will know that you didn’t perform at a high level.
Being an expert in your field generally means you’re on top of the latest innovations and strategies. By taking on any project that comes your way—instead of focusing on your strongest skills—you usually can’t be innovative enough to go into the depth of the niche and provide the client the best results.
Again, this results in a poor client experience and reduces your likelihood of being hired long-term or by other clients.
Being an expert freelancer means knowing a niche from the core. If you take on projects randomly or projects you have a limited knowledge of, you are more likely to have to do more research on the basics and spend more time on each step.
This can result in going over estimates and delivering late work, which reflects poorly on any freelancer. It can also affect your earning potential if you don’t bill for those hours. In turn, this can tempt you to continue on the downward spiral of faking it until you make it.
Experts in their field can easily discern quality from mediocrity, especially in the world of freelancing. If you complete a project and the client isn’t happy, they’ll likely move on to try to find a freelancer who is actually experienced. Once the expert freelancer reviews your projects—which many clients have new freelancers do—you’ll be revealed for your lack of expertise. Word travels fast, and your reputation could be ruined, even when it comes to the projects you could crush.
When you focus your freelancing efforts on the types of projects you know you can handle at the highest quality level, there are many benefits.
Being an expert freelancer means you know your niche inside and out, and your work speaks for itself. For anyone viewing your portfolio for the first time, things like your reputation, your reviews, and your recommendations are the main factors that determine whether or not you’re the right fit for their project. When you focus on projects that align with the highlights in your portfolio, it will make your profile the best choice for potential clients.
For a type of project you’ve done before and know in-depth, you’ll likely have to spend little to no time researching basic concepts. This results in more time spent on improving the quality of your deliverables. The more experience you bring to the table, the more time you are able to spare from researching, and therefore the more time you can spend on getting the best results for your clients.
At FreeeUp, we are focused on connecting clients to freelancers who can deliver the best outcomes within desired timelines and budgets. If you take on a project you have limited knowledge about, you will be less capable of providing an accurate timeline and risk missing your client’s deadline.
On the other hand, when you’ve done similar projects previously, you have a strong handle on how long tasks will take so you can provide more accurate estimates and timelines, which keeps clients happy.
Many clients are willing to pay for experience. When you focus on a narrow range of projects—and are very good at completing them to a high level—you have standing to increase your rates over time and charge more for your time and project completion.
At FreeeUp, we want freelancers to enjoy the freedom of being financially free. As you proceed, you can charge more because you have proven results and can deliver in less time.
Before you accept a project, you need to be sure you’re fully capable of doing the project justice in terms of timelines and quality of work. Here are the factors to look at to determine if you’re the best fit for a client project.
The best way to be sure if a project is right for your skillset is to see if you have worked on a similar project before. If you have done similar projects before, it will give your confidence a boost and ensure you can deliver high-quality results to your client. You can gauge the similarity of a project to your previous projects by closely reviewing the project details, researching the client, and asking questions before accepting a project.
In addition to having completed similar projects before, you need to have completed them to the client’s satisfaction. To know if you are the best fit for an upcoming project, look at your previous reviews. An experienced freelancer always has an understanding of how positively or negatively clients feel about their work at any given time. So, if you have had positive reviews for similar projects from your former clients, you are likely a good fit to take on a similar project.
Outside of researching the client and their industry, if you require a lot of research on the actual tasks involved in a project, it can indicate that you are not the best fit for it. New freelance projects require some level of research, but it should on topics like the business and industry—not on actually executing the project. If you see yourself allocating a lot of time learning how to do a task, it is better to ask for clarification or pass on the project.
We all have gut feelings, especially when we are deciding whether to take on a project. This factor, while immeasurable, is a valid indicator of your capability to successfully complete a project. When deciding if you’re right for a certain project, trust your gut feeling. If you feel like you will do justice to the project with your skillset and you are sure to provide the best quality work to the client, you can take the project on. If you have hesitations, pass on it this time.
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you can’t expect to automatically be an expert. So how do you build up your skills to the point where you can feel comfortable taking on projects?
Being an expert freelancer means you’re very skilled at a few areas of expertise. Choose which types of skills and tasks you want to be really good at and work toward those. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to master a large number of disciplines or you won’t do any of them justice.
Many disciplines have certifications you earn for taking courses and completing sample work. Some common examples are Google product certifications, Apple training, Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and many more. These certification courses offer a way for you to grow your skills without the pressure of a client project in the works. Certifications also look great on your profile and help prove to clients that you’re skilled enough to take on their project.
There are endless training courses online. Sites like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Skillshare, and many more provide courses on a seemingly endless number of topics. You can take these courses, many of which are quick to work through, to build your skills from professionals without having to set foot in a classroom.
When you’re transparent that you’re learning a skill, there’s no harm in taking on a project you haven’t done before. In fact, doing so is a great way to learn and become proficient enough that you’re a pro. You can find practice projects by tapping into your existing network, offering your help with the type of skills you’re looking to learn, and being clear that you’re using the project for practice. Some freelancers do this and offer a discounted rate, while others do the initial project for free—just for the purpose of learning.
At FreeeUp, we review and vet all freelancers through our application process before they’re let into the marketplace to start connecting with clients. We believe in connecting clients with the best freelancer for any given project based on requirements, skills, budgets, timelines, and other factors.
When you apply to the FreeUp marketplace, be sure to stay centered on your top skills and show us how you can best help clients and their businesses. Show your previous projects, experience, client success, and more.
Curious about what types of skills you can specialize in? See our ever-growing list of freelance skills.
Megan Horn is a B2B writer and marketer. She works with companies to tell their unique stories to create engaged, loyal customers. Learn more at https://www.meganhorn.com.
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