As a Freelancer, You’re At A Disadvantage

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

As a freelancer, you are likely to be in a disadvantaged position as far as personal development and feedback goes. Why? Well permanent employees, as a rule, are nurtured by their employers. You don’t receive the benefit of the development opportunities presented to permies, unless you create them yourself, and out of your own pocket. Worse still, you often don’t know that you’re not meeting the expectation of your clients until your contract renewal, well, isn’t.

It is typical for employees at most levels of an organization to undergo Personal Performance Management, where they are set personal development objectives (generally on an annual basis) and each objective is reviewed regularly (often quarterly). Objectives, ideally, are S.M.A.R.T. – an acronym that stands for

1. Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve.
2. Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
3. Achievable – Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?
4. Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?
5. Time – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

For example, a manager may set an employee an objective of reducing the turnaround time of all support calls in their function by 25% within 6 months.

At each review interval, an employee’s manager, or a performance manager, reviews the progress on the set objectives and provides feedback to the employee. The feedback is structured in a way so that the employee can learn from it and make adjustments during the next review period. It is also common for managers to request that employees undergo 360 degree feedback , which gathers the opinions from the employees subordinates (should they have any), peers and superiors (other managers). This process should result in more rounded and usable feedback for the employee.

But, I guess, you don’t experience this as a freelancer, do you? How do you know if you’re achieving the objectives your clients set you? OK, objectives are often what you’ve agreed in your contract or in the specification of the role you’re filling, but other objectives are not always specifically given, but they are expected. The kind of objectives I am talking about are the softer, less tangible ones like your behavior – the way you act and engage with your client and their organization. This is how it is.

So as I said, you’re at a disadvantage because there are no formal mechanisms for knowing whether your behaviors fit with your client. You might be winding them up, or acting eccentrically in their eyes, but how do you know? The time you find out is when they’ve had enough and you receive your marching orders! So your feedback is the refusal to renew your contract. Great – what a way to find out.

But it really doesn’t need to be that way. You can avoid this situation, and achieve a lot more – by using 360 degree feedback yourself with your clients.

But wait, it’s not just about preventing contract termination! It’s also about your personal development and growth . If you can learn something about how others perceive you so you can provide a better service, you’d want that, right? Better still, by continually improving your service to meet your client’s needs, you’re much more likely to enjoy referred business to you, from clients. This is the best kind of business to land, as it costs you nothing to market your services.

There are other benefits to using 360 degree feedback with your clients:

  • It is an excellent way of demonstrating your professionalism as a freelancer
  • It’s likely your competitors don’t do this, so it becomes a Unique Selling Point (USP)
  • You show you care about your relationships with your customers
  • You will flush out many of the pent-up issues that would normally go by without discussion
  • By adjusting your services to add more value to your clients, you will be creating options to increase your rate

We’ve discovered the benefits of 360 degree feedback as a freelancer. Independent IT professionals can use it to gain the power and the tools to learn about their customer’s satisfaction.

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4 thoughts on “As a Freelancer, You’re At A Disadvantage”

  1. I agree. I’ve discovered pretty early on that it’s very important to get customer feedback. Not just because I get to know what the customer really thinks, but because it shows them that I care. A very simple “Are you happy with the work I’ve done?” can and has made a world of difference. I can tell they don’t expect that kind of a question. (Although for the love of god if they’re not happy with something, fix it or assure them it won’t happen again)

  2. @Jason – nice story Jason. Can you share with us what difference it made, i.e. happier client, repeat business, referral?

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