Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top Tips: Harness the horse's mouth

This is no time to hide your head. Wilting wallflowers maskerading as freelancers just won’t cut it in these days of cut-throat business. With more people jumping onto the freelance bandwagon every day you have to find ways to make your home-based business stand out from the crowd. Even in my own case as a flourishing freelancer – my business is blooming – I still need to make new clients aware of what I can do for them with my native-English editing service.

The cons of self-promotion probably aren’t an issue in up-and-at-em cultures like the ones you find Across the Pond or Down Under or to be specific, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. My situation is rather more delicate. If I blew my own horn in the somewhat stiff corporate culture of the Netherlands, I might come across as conceited (which I am not, of course) and that would only turn potential clients off.

So, how do you get round this problem? By getting other people to blow your horn for you, that’s how. And how do you do that? Well, I’m about to tell you in this part of my series on Top Tips for Freelancers. The answer is...

Top tip #3
Harness people power. People trust personal advice from the people they know, and if you can exploit the immense power of positive word of mouth, you are on to a very good thing. If someone tells me they are happy with what I’ve done for them, I ask them to spread the news.

You can do the same. Ask your happy clients to pass on the good word to their colleagues, friends and relations. People are delighted to oblige, indeed, no one has ever turned down my polite request. So don’t be afraid, just ask and you too will get new business through the personal recommendations of clients.

Bonus tip: Publicize the positive. When clients say nice things about my work I ask if I can post their comments on the Warmly recommended page of my website. Or I ask them (at the same time thanking them for taking the trouble) to add their own ‘thumbs up’ to my business ad on the Dutch site Marktplaats. And if something newsworthy happens, like three clients giving me fantastic feedback in one week, I might even mention this fact on my status line on LinkedIn. It’s all good publicity that both harnesses and accentuates the positive power of word of mouth.

Don’t just take my word for it, go right to the source and ask the Horse! He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse, or failing that, the Horse of course will sing the blues. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Top Tips: The art of saying thanks

Good things come to those who wait. Oh yeah? Maybe that’s true for itty bitty spiders sitting in wait in their webs for a foolish fly to come into range. But for freelancers like me, making a living through the world wide web, it would be utter stupidity to sit around waiting for work to drop onto our desks. The spider depends on blind luck for his meal ticket. As a freelancer, you can’t afford to follow the spider’s lead. Not if you want to eat.

Follow my lead instead. I’m a well-fed freelancer, keen to share what I know about meeting new clients and keeping old clients. It’s important for my business to make potential and current clients aware of what I can do for them with my native-English Editing Service. I serve corporate clients, but mostly academics whose mothertongue is not English, people who need to publish their research results in international journals. So, I’m a language professional, in the English-editing business for authors, working from my home office.

What about you, my fellow freelancer? Whatever your business and whatever audience you want to reach, the tips I’m sharing here – in this second part of my Top Tips series -- will surely to work for you as much as they work for me.

Top tip #2
Keep up with your clients. Show a personal interest in your client’s achievements. For example, I send my academic clients an email every once in a while, asking if that paper I edited for them has been published yet. Or I ask how are they getting on with the final draft of their new paper. And I suggest ever so subtly (not!) that they should always feel free to drop me a line if there’s anything NEEDSer can do for them. Try it!

It’s also good business sense to develop friendly relations with your contacts at agencies but be warned: only do what comes naturally. Don’t be in a hurry and try to force things with a business contact. Stay professional, be patient, avoid plunging straight into unrequested intimacy. Let the relationship grow like a friendship does in real life. Be sincere, be flexible, be attentive. Be yourself.

Bonus tip: Don’t ever overdo this chatty communication thing; stressing out busy clients is the worst.

Extra bonus tip: Don’t forget to say thanks to clients for giving you the job, and no one else.

Let me leave you now with some useful instruction in the world’s most widely spoken language – used by some 1.1 billion native speakers last time anyone counted. You never know when you might need to say xie xie to someone. Oh yes, saying xie xie reminds me of something. Just in case you’re wondering, the spider shown above is called the Silver Argiope (Argiope argentata), nicknamed the writing spider because of the prominent pattern of Xs and Zs it weaves in its web. Enjoy!