A country song by mother-and-daughter duet Naomi and Wynona Judd, “Why Not Me?“, features a woman wanting to know why the man she loves prefers another woman. In other words, what’s wrong with her that makes her unworthy of his attention and affection?
Freelancers can relate.
Going against the false mantra that one must provide a unique service or product to succeed, many freelancers provide the same type of service (career coaching, fitness counseling, retail shops, funeral homes, etc.) to pretty much the same kinds of clients. Some are geographically restricted (e.g., landscaping companies) and others are not (e.g., marketing). There are a lot of businesses out there trying to distinguish themselves from their local and global competition as the best option for the multitudes of potential customers.
Let’s be candid: not every vendor suits every customer for that product or service. Customer service concepts don’t align with every customer’s expectations. If you’ve seen the unreasonable examples of buyer requests for writing and editing gigs, then you know what I mean. Some customers don’t match some vendors.
The match between customer and vendor depends in large part on personality. I’ve taken on projects that seemed great, but which turned into regrets. When one hires a service, there’s an expectation of respect: respect of the client for the vendor hired to do the work and respect of the vendor for what the client wants. Without that mutual respect, the project crumbles, giving rise to resentment and animosity.
The vendor-client relationship also depends upon the management of expectations. The bad advice to under-promise and over-deliver leads to what architects used to call scope creep. Basically, that means the client begins to expect more and more for the same or lower prices, which leads to the vendor losing time and money. I find that the best way to manage expectations is to delivery precisely what I promised. If I deliver “added value” (meaning: free service) then it’s a gift to a favored client and I make sure that client knows it. This is a one-time deal.
To avoid scope creep, I have learned to put limits and/or boundaries in my contractual terms of service. For instance, a fee of 10¢ per word for fiction writing includes a maximum of three rounds of revision. If the client is satisfied with only one round of revision (after that round), then so much the better for me. If the client is not happy with the content after a third round of revision, then there’s a problem, a big problem. Either the client doesn’t know what he wants or has miscommunicated what he wants or I have entirely misunderstood what the client wants. Fortunately, that rarely happens.
The multitude of choices always means that someone loses. Hiring manager who post job vacancies receive myriad applications in response for a single open position. Many apply, several are viable candidates, only one is hired. Each person is different and unique, but as a group they can be classified into categories. Hiring managers will discard those whose qualifications do not match the must-have competencies and/or experience the company needs.
Of course, therein lies a Catch-22 (thanks, Joseph Heller). You can’t get the job without experience, but you can’t get experience without the job. In freelancing, this results in vendors taking on work that pays paltry wages in order to acquire the needed experience. For those learning on the job, so to speak, the service or product delivered is substandard. That leads to another Catch-22: the poor quality of the service or product justifies the client’s low expectations and low fee as well as his disrespect for the service provided.
A successful freelancer is one who manages to connect with a client and deliver what the clients wants to the client’s satisfaction. A lot of freelancers may be matched to the same client who is not obligated to select any of them. Or the client may want to work with a particular freelancers, but not be able to afford that vendor’s service. This is not the freelancer’s fault, but it may result in lost business if the freelancer cannot exercise sufficient flexibility to convince the client that he’s truly a good choice. The factors influencing that decision may boil down to gut feeling or intuition: Can I trust this person?
I’ve yet to see someone who could write an algorithm for trust or intuition. So, why not me? It could be a client doesn’t want to pay me the price I charge for my service. Perhaps there’s a mismatch of expectations: I won’t give a free writing or editing sample of 2,000 words to help the potential client make a decision as to whether to hire me. I won’t promise unlimited revisions. I won’t do some things that I consider untenable risks or costs of doing business. Perhaps I don’t have the exact experience or knowledge the client wants. That’s understandable. Or maybe our personalities clash. There’s no need to be rude, but when civility is a strain, the working relationship will be rough and unpleasant. Why burden oneself with that?
Why not me? Myriad reasons answer that question, and just as many answer the question of “Why me?” I truly want the best and do my best for my clients and that requires shared respect and civility.