When you first started freelancing, you may have pictured this glorious moment when you sign a contract template or agreement template your first big freelance client, you submit scope of work templates and start working on projects you love and everything is magical from that point on.
But it’s possible that months or years down the road, you still haven’t quite found those dream freelance clients you hoped for.
Have you ever paused in the middle of your hectic day as a freelancer and asked yourself:
“Why did I sign up for this?”
Between juggling the demands of your clients (such as design feedback), managing your freelance invoices, handling marketing, and wearing a zillion hats related to running a business (Bonsai can help you with that), sometimes it’s easy to forget why you ever wanted to start freelancing in the first place.
After working with thousands of freelancers on an almost-daily basis, I’ve learned there are a few critical things creatives with big freelance clients do that others who struggle simply don’t.
So today I’d like to share with you a few of the most common traits I’ve personally seen in freelancers who rake in big clients — compared to those who are stuck looking for new freelance clients every month.
First, the creatives I’ve seen who rake in big freelance clients don’t just wait for those dream clients to come to them.
This may seem obvious at first, but how many times have you heard freelancers say their primary way of finding new freelance clients is by word-of-mouth?
For me? Like a million times.
It’s a bit ridiculous. Even if it’s true and you’re finding all your new work from freelance clients you’ve had in the past, that’s the worst possible advice to pass on to a freelancer who is struggling to find work every month.
Why? Because telling them to rely on word-of-mouth marketing is just encouraging them to wait around for good freelance clients to come knocking on their door.
And 99% of the time, it doesn’t work.
Clients don’t come.
And freelancers go hungry. Or worse, they have to get a day job.
In order to rake in big clients (at least in the beginning) you have to work for it; you have to be proactive.
That means going to networking events. It means regularly searching freelance jobs sites for new opportunities and reaching out with a quality pitch when you find freelance clients you want to work with.
It means you have to constantly be marketing yourself. Selling yourself even. Which brings me to my second observation: creatives who rake in big freelance clients have learned what it takes to sell.
Creatives who routinely have big freelance clients take the time and put in the effort to learn how to sell.
When I say “sell,” you might have a visceral reaction — getting a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you think about the pest control guy that knocks on your door every summer.
But selling doesn’t have to be sleazy.
In fact, selling can be incredibly natural, fun, and rewarding.
The problem is, however, that most freelancers are not salespeople. We’re writers or designers, or developers or coaches. We make things. We’re creators. We’re builders. We’re artists.
We never classify ourselves as salespeople.
The artists, makers, creatives, and builders who find and work with the perfect freelance clients, though? They are salespeople… and they know it.
As a freelancer, you should learn to identify selling moments in your everyday life and always have your marketing pitch polished up and ready to go, and learn how to respond to an RFP if you are sent one.
To become a good salesperson will take time, practice, hard work and patience.
Of course, you can speed up your learning by taking sales courses, reading sales books, joining social communities, or even getting a part-time sales job to learn from someone who’s been selling for decades.
However you choose to do it, money and time you invest in learning how to sell and send cold emails for jobs will be some of the best time and money you can spend on your freelance business.
I can almost guarantee it’ll be the top contributing factor to finding bigger, better freelance clients.
If you want to take your game to the next level, use tools designed to help your freelance business such as Bonsai to manage everything from proposals and contracts to invoices and time tracking -- give it a try and sign up for your free trial today.
Of course, being successful as a freelancer doesn’t always mean you have to bring in gigantic freelance clients.
Some freelancers, instead, choose to focus on serving just a few clients on a recurring basis. Thus turning what might have been one small or medium project into a monthly recurring freelance contract.
For more details on how to build retainer work into your freelance business, try reading the freelancer’s guide to retainer agreements in just 7 steps.
Not only does this pay off over the long-haul (stacking up recurring freelance payments over 12 months can really add up), but it can also take a huge part of the feast/famine burden of off freelancers, giving them more breathing room to focus on all areas of their business.
For example, smart freelancers realize that there’s a science and an art to charging the perfect amount. Bringing me to my last critical finding:
You may have heard lots of fellow freelancers tell you if you want more (or better) freelance clients, you have to raise your rates.
While I’m always hesitant to encourage a freelancer to raise their rates just for the sake of raising them, there is a less-commonly understood truth here:
When you charge more, you have better freelance clients.
Of course, your ability to pitch and sell yourself using freelance proposals has to also increase and your ability to actually deliver quality results has to match what you’re offering.
But almost every successful freelancer I’ve talked to gives me the same story: things started to turn around with their freelance clients once they started charging more.
Regardless of what you’re charging now as a freelancer, you can probably increase your freelance rates. Then, you don’t have to manage as many freelance clients at one time — leaving you open to provide higher quality results and manage all the intricacies of your business too.
That’s what makes the difference.
As far as I’ve seen, that’s what makes the difference between creatives with bigger, better freelance clients and those who are struggling to make ends meet every month.
The question is: are you dedicated enough to put into practice the advice I’ve shared with you today?
If you are, you’re going to see success. And if you want to spend more time doing the work that you love, and worry less about managing your freelance clients, tools such as the all-in-one suite from Bonsai are here to help.
Check out the free trial and see for yourself.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?