It has been almost six months now since I started a freelance business. Looking back, I realize that it has been quite a while since I published something.  So let’s step back a little bit and draw the first conclusions.

Client prospection: what works vs. what doesn’t

When I launched my business in December, one of my first decisions had been to list and contact all the headhunters I knew.
Indeed, from my past experiences meeting this kind of people had always been synonym of success. So why not giving it a try one more time?

Well, I have to say that it didn’t take me long to realize that this approach was completely inefficient.
First of all I was not the right target. What a headhunter is looking for in priority is a topnotch employee… not a beginning freelancer. On the second hand, the niche market of Freelancing headhunters firm is mainly concerned about placing freelancers at the client offices directly. Once again, not a good fit for me (as I was only interested in remote missions).

As we are talking about disillusions, let’s now see the Hopwork case.
I heard about this platform approximately two years ago. At that moment they just raised some seed funds money and were (supposedly) the freelance market place that would disrupt the traditional labor market.
Well, what is obvious to me now is that beyond the marketing pitch this type of community websites do not work (but don’t get me wrong maybe I was not doing the right things either ;-)).

Fortunately despite my Hopwork misadventure I also had positive experiences with many other websites. Let’s look at three of them.

On the third place of this top: RemixJobs. This French generalist job platform is very well designed: when you select the right filters it sends you an email as soon as there is a match with your needs.
Secondly I would like to give a special mention to AngelList. Thank to this website I reach out a bunch of interesting prospects.

Finally on the top of the podium, Linkedin was my best business provider!
At the beginning of January I registered to a premium membership and added hundreds and hundreds of people. When you think about it: 1 Linkedin contact request = approximately 1 view on your profile … so therefore, more chance to get known. And it truly worked ;-).

My feedback: What were the keys to success?

1- At the beginning, clearly define your target

Before embarking headlong into the mass mailing campaign be sure to take a step back and analyze who is your preferred audience.
In my case I identified two types of customers who were the perfect fit for my profile: the fast-growing startups and the small/medium-size agencies.
Having worked previously within these two kinds of companies was giving me a decisive advantage: I knew already what their needs and pain points were.

2- Be sure to always have some projects to show to your clients

 Logically, when you start a freelance business you don’t have any client references yet. So to convince a new one that you are THE right person to hire a very good thing to do is to show your side-projects (having peer-references helps too).
So if you don’t have any yet, do not wait any longer and start coding!

 3- Winning a contract with a new customer: 5% chance + 95% of motivation and perseverance

Another important thing I noticed: To win a contract with a new customer you have to be “a finisher”.
It’s not only important to establish an interesting contact during the prospection phase it’s also incredibly critical to pay attention to all the details on the way to close a deal.

4- For every new client always start with a “trial period”

As an independent worker you are meeting and dealing with a lot of different people. The risk of not having the same needs, way of working or ambition is very high. So it’s really important to backup yourself (even when this client is a friend of a friend).
Fact: since I started my business, I had to give up the project after this trial period twice already In one case the customer was not paying me, and in the other the working conditions were not compatible with my other clients.

Speaking of this topic, be sure that things are clear on both sides before starting. If the trial period did not turn out well (for any reason) just simply quit the project.

5- Regularly step back and judge (objectively) your work

As a freelancer “you are your own company” so it’s relatively easy to lose control. Reviewing your results compared to the objective on a regular basis is a must!
Concretely at the end of each month I have a point in my agenda to detail what works and what did not over the past few weeks.

6- “Ménager sa monture”

 I really like this French expression. It basically means that if you are not taking care of your vehicle (aka yourself) you will have some problems later.
As an independent worker you don’t have this eight to five job anymore. As a consequence, is very easy to feel overworked and overpressured. So, to avoid that, save some time for yourself and don’t feel guilty to spend some free time outside of work (yeah, I am still working on it).

Conclusion:

As you can see the life of Freelancer is all except a “Long Quiet River” ;-). However I have to say that I don’t regret anything. Being an independent worker brings a lot of constraints but also a ton of flexibility in terms of organization, project management etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, if so be sure to spread it over the Internet ;-)

 You can also follow the rest of my adventures on Twitter: @AdrienRahier