Probably the hardest thing about striking out on your own is finding work. Luckily, I started out with clients. But finding more is a challenge. Especially without much of a portfolio.
Is it worth it to work for cheap to build your portfolio? Some would argue yes. And I agree with them to a point. My strategy here is to proceed with caution.
I recently had an encounter with a potential client that really got me thinking about what my time is worth and how to sell my value as a relatively inexperienced editor.
The client had been burned on a job by a previous freelancer. The freelancer had delivered content that was well below the client’s expectations and the client was now in the position of paying someone new to fix it.
What the client told me was something along the lines of “I’m not trying to be cheap, I’ve just already spent so much on this job and I haven’t really gotten what I want out of it yet.”
I took a look at the links the client sent me and explained what I thought needed to be done and quoted an estimate on time and expense.
And then the client stopped messaging me. Damn.
I took a second look at our message history and analyzed what it is was the client was telling me they needed. And I followed up. This client had been burned by a bad experience and was looking for a solution.
I offered a courtesy proof and a fixed rate for the job. I offered the client the ability to exercise quality control over the content before it went live so that they could feel confident in the end product. Benefits over features.
A more experienced editor would have focused on this from the beginning. I’m still learning — I got so excited about the prospect of a new client that I didn’t pay close enough attention to their needs.
While I’ll make many more mistakes, this won’t be one I’ll be repeating any time soon.
Some people will argue that working for a reduced rate devalues your brand. I feel that. But sometimes getting a foot in the door is more important. And you can always renegotiate once you’ve proven your value.
If you have a similar story, tell me about it in the comments. Sharing our failures helps us grow!