• Advice

Spring cleaning: 3 things to avoid as you ramp up your business

I love the springtime. There is something about watching nature shift from being dormant to being in full bloom that warms my heart. It also serves as a reminder that it’s time to start cleaning, but not just my yard and my home. Yes, proverbial spring cleaning can also apply to your freelancing business.

Making a fresh start

Spring is an excellent time to reflect, plan, purge, and forge ahead. As you evaluate your wheelhouse, you may discover that you want to change a few things or you may want to ramp up your freelancing services. This is an excellent opportunity to think about your marketing plan, to take some online classes and/or attend a few workshops, and it is also a great time to follow up with potential clients who may have previously inquired about your services.

Just as this is an opportunity for you to plant metaphorical flowers, it is equally as important that you don’t create a breeding ground for weeds. In other words, you don’t want to do something this spring that will have a negative ripple effect throughout the rest of the year.

Here are three things to avoid this spring and throughout the rest of your planning and planting season:

Speaking negatively about the competition

This may seem odd as the first item on my list, but I am seeing quite a bit of this, so I wanted to get it out of the way. This is the kind of weed that can kill even the strongest strains of grass. Putting someone else’s work down does not automatically mean that someone will see your work as being better. Instead, it can come across as unprofessional, brash, and even toxic. Most clients want great service, not drama.

Even in an attempt to be helpful by pointing out someone else’s flaws, making disparaging comments about your competition, especially fellow freelancers, reflects poorly on you. Instead of highlighting or identifying what someone else is not good at, focus, instead, on what you can do and how your services are a good fit for a client.

Pricing your services too low or too high

“You charge too much.” “You don’t charge enough.” This may feel like a game of tug-of-war without a winner. It is highly probable that you have quoted two different clients the same price for the same service and their reactions were diametrically opposed. What’s a freelancer to do?

When our prices are too high, someone may think that we are overpriced in order to create an outrageous profit margin. Conversely, if our prices are too low, a client may think that we are inexperienced or amateurs. The solution? Become familiar with your industry’s pricing standards.

There are unions and professional organizations that will often openly share information about median wages or price points for services that are similar to the ones that you offer. Before you spike up your prices this spring, become familiar with wage guides and use them as starting points; obviously, allow some flexibility as geography often is a determining factor in what people are willing to pay for certain services.

If you charge $100.00 an hour, but the going rate in your area for the same service is $50.00, just understand that you may be outpricing your services. No matter how good you are, you have to understand your market.

Overselling and underpeforming

I saved the best for last. If we are honest, freelancing can be highly competitive, especially in certain markets. As such, many of us are looking for something that makes us stand out or that gives us a slight advantage over our peers.

Perhaps you have thought about offering a client an ancillary service for free, or you plan to guarantee that a product will be ready for a client in four days when it normally takes seven. Maybe you plan to create a price-matching program where you will honor or beat a quoted rate. These things all look great on paper.

But, here’s the problem: Can you deliver? Do you have the capacity, resources, stamina, time, and availability to make good on the deliverables that you have promised? If the answer is no, then it’s best that you don’t overcommit or oversell.

Trust is one of the most important components of building a freelancing business. Your clients depend upon you and trust you. Once a client no longer trusts you, it is incredibly difficult, if possible, to rebuild that trust.

Instead, allow the natural progression or process to unfold and be transparent with your clients. That extra three days you were going to knock off are probably not that big of a deal, especially if the quality of work is compromised.

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about things to avoid while spring cleaning as a freelancer.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.