Photo Credit: Joshua Fuller

Freelancers, you must make your value CONSPICUOUS.

Freelancing Fundamentals

I once had a retainer client who paid me $4,000 to $5,000 per month to oversee all things creative for his various business ventures. He watched a lot of money leave his accounts each month.

Eventually, he called a meeting and told me he wasn’t sure he was seeing the ROI. We agreed to switch from a retainer to projects, which I would quote on an as-needed basis. That conversation effectively ended our working relationship.

A year passed. My client emailed me and invited me to lunch.

“Nothing has happened since I stopped working with you,” he explained. I think he meant this as an apology.

If my team spent three hours on each monthly on ten different projects, then we billed him for thirty hours. From his high-level perspective, each project crept forward in disappointedly small increments.

Yet, those projects did move forward, and in my absence, the lack of any progress whatsoever became apparent.

I suppose that conversation did feel like being absolved of wrongdoing. He had never accused me outright of taking his money and doing nothing, but a few comments during our break-up conversation did call my professionalism and integrity into question.

So yes, his new perspective did exonerate me, but the whole experience of “losing” the client and being told later what I knew all along (“You were actually doing far more than I realized”) taught me a valuable lesson.

You must demonstrate your value.

You see, we’re often performing behind closed doors. Our clients aren’t paying that much attention as we update their websites’ WordPress plugins or reorganize all of their photo assets or optimize a new blog post.

What we consider a courtesy or small act consistent with our professional integrity they a benefit of working with you.

“Don’t all web developers try to protect their clients’ websites against being hacked?”

You might be surprised by the negligence you will find in your niche.

A competitor will ask your client if she has created a backup of the website, used Cloudflare and Sucuri, and updated the plugins and any other software monthly.

You would never not do these things for a client, yet because you take them for granted, you didn’t communicate the full extent of your conscientious care.

The client doesn’t realize that you have, in fact, dotted every i and crossed every t, so she leaves you for the other web developer.

My point isn’t to sow fear into your life but to convey the importance of conspicuous value: Tell your clients everything you do on their behalf.

What if I had sent the aforementioned client a weekly report detailing everything we had done for him the prior week?

For example, if I had to track down the source file of logo in order to create a new website, I wouldn’t necessarily list that task in the invoice. The invoice might say, “Put up landing page.”

In neglecting to provide those details, however, I gave my client a much smaller and more generic snapshot of my value.

My team was creating TONS of value. We were managing — effectively, I might add — up to a dozen projects at a time, each with its own mess of details, deadlines, deliverables, and divas.

But my client couldn’t see that because I didn’t show him.

You must demonstrate your value, and weekly reports are a good way to do that. Even if the client never reads the report, she will have peace of mind that a paper trail of your activity provides.

Reports have the added benefit of forcing you to do something. If you know you must inform your clients about your work, then you’ll be less likely to put off necessary tasks that you don’t enjoy.

I know, I know, reports are more boring than four-hour graduation ceremonies after your phone died.

You’d rather edit spreadsheets than write reports.

I hear you, and I’m saying you’ll have to get over your dislike of tedious activity tracking and reporting to demonstrate your value.

Sorry, pal.

The good news is that you’ll see lower churn once you make your value more conspicuous.

Conspicuous value may feel like showmanship, smoke and mirrors. (Again, many of these tasks and activities you do because you believe they are right.)

Conspicuous value may feel like artificially inflating your importance. “ABRACADABRA… Here is my beautiful report. Watch as my assistant cuts it in half, changes it to a rabbit, and pulls it out of a tophat!”

If the idea of showmanship bothers you, then think of conspicuous value as never giving your clients an excuse to leave.

Do you want to be one of the first to know about my Freelancing Fundamentals course?

I’m finalizing the details with my team, and we plan to launch a beta version of the course with 100 freelancers.

If you’re wanting to level up your freelance business, then this course is for you. Click on this link to share your name and email address, and I’ll be sure you get first right of refusal.

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