As a freelancer, you need to be an expert in whatever service(s) you’re offering to your clients. That goes without saying. But too many freelancers aren’t freelance experts. They’re freelance executors.
In some ways, it makes sense: no one is taught how to freelance. And far too many freelancers start freelancing with the mindset that they can just figure it out as they go or wing it. (It’s why we created an entire course on freelancing.)
But for long-term, sustainable freelance success, you need to ensure you’re falling in the freelance expert camp.
What is a Freelance Executor?
As freelancers, it’s somewhat inevitable that we have to deliver on whatever service it is we’re offering.
However, freelance executors are those that only execute…and don’t adjust their process to include anything before executing that would make them a freelance expert.
A freelance executor is a freelancer who waits for clients to assign them projects and work. Once they receive the assignment they do it and deliver it.
If you’re thinking, “wait, why is that a problem?” read on.
How is a Freelance Expert Different?
A freelance expert partners with their clients to help move their businesses forward.
Freelance experts aren’t simply waiting or hoping for projects to fall in their laps. They’re actively providing value to the companies they work with by continually suggesting new ideas.
But even during and after your initial project with a client, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your value.
5 Marks of a Freelance Expert
There are certain steps that freelance experts take that freelance executors don’t. Some may seem insignificant, but can make or break entire client relationships. (And, if you’re already doing them and thinking “duh,” good for you! You’re one step ahead.)
1. Asks questions.
Freelance experts know that more often than not, you can’t be tossed a project and just go. Maybe if you’ve worked with a client on an ongoing basis, it’s a simple project, and it’s very clear what is needed, you can get away with it.
But most other projects require freelancers to ask the right questions, the questions clients don’t even know or think to ask. Freelancing experts know their clients hire them for the expertise they have, and asking strategic questions ensures that the service or work delivered is exactly what the clients need.
2. Communicates effectively.
Communication is an art and even those of us who think we’ve perfected it always have room for improvement! Freelance experts have a clear process that they communicate to their clients.
They also know that clients get busy. And, yes, as freelancers we’re busy, too! But it’s part of their job to update the client throughout a project, and even gently nudge the client when we need something to move forward. Even the best processes need flexibility baked into them.
3. Values substance over style.
If you have spent hours perfecting your invoice template and making it on brand, great! It’s always nice for things to look professional. But freelance experts know that what really matters is the work that is going to impact their client’s business.
The most beautiful invoice template in the world isn’t going to impact any client’s business (especially not when they forward it to Jim in accounting to fulfill). Freelancing experts focus their time on the work that matters.
4. Knows how to have difficult conversations.
It’s so easy to get into execution mode and forget to pick your head above water (the term “churn and burn” was coined for a reason). Freelance experts know when to pause a project if it’s getting out of scope, how to increase their prices in a way that makes saying “yes” for their clients a no-brainer, and they know how to fire a client (if it comes to that) in a way that doesn’t burn bridges.
5. Values their own expertise … and prices it appropriately.
Freelance experts don’t accept whatever rate their client is willing to pay. No way! These pros know that if a client isn’t willing to pay their price (and the freelancer isn’t willing to budge their price as much as a client wants), there are plenty of other clients to work with. The race-to-the-bottom game is not one freelancing experts play.
This is mutually beneficial for the business and you as the freelancer. If their business benefits from working with you as a freelancer, then they’re going to continue to find ways to give you work and you can keep finding ways to add value, which keeps the cycle going.
Freelance experts make it easy for clients to work with them. They take work off their client’s plates versus adding to them. This isn’t to say freelance experts are perfect (they’re human like anyone else), but they do know how to apologize or own up to any blunders (file that under “communicate effectively”).
So, make the shift from freelance executor to freelance expert by making the five shifts above. Your clients (and your freelance business) will thank you for it!
In this video Nicki is digs into why you need to make the switch from freelance producer to partner if you want to land repeat work. Plus, she’s offering more tips and tactics for how to do it.
Your Turn! What other tips do you have for being a freelance leader vs. executor? Share your advice in the comments below!
Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Kate Sitarz