Updated: Nov 21, 2021
First time freelancing with clients in the US? Check out some tips below on how to get hired and set yourself up for success.
A Guide to Freelancing with U.S. Businesses
1. Before you are hired by a client:
● Create or update your portfolio - Consider consolidating your work on a digital resume, LinkedIn or on a personal website.
● Become an expert in your field - You can impress your client by staying up to date with the latest technologies, tools and theories in your domain!
● Practice your interviewing skills - Most of our interviews are conducted via video conferencing so practice your tone, eye contact and demeanor in the mirror, on your computer camera or anywhere you feel comfortable. Also, make sure you know your answers fluently so you can keep the conversation flowing!
2. After you are hired, but before you start work
● Establish expectations - This is very important, as it can often lead to the success or failure of the project. Prior to starting a new project, make sure to ask the client to clarify the project goals, architecture, timeline, and what are the benchmarks for success
● Create a communication plan - One of the biggest learning curves for people new to freelancing is learning how, when, and how much to communicate. Different clients have different styles and expectations. That’s why it is important to create a communication plan together that works for you and for your client. Work with them to establish the frequency of communication (once a day or once a week), which channels they prefer (tools like Trello, email, or direct messaging on slack), and protocol (is there a better way to reach out to them if something is critical). We recommend documenting the communication plan and sharing it with the client so both of you are on the same page.
● Test out video-conferencing technology and WiFi strength before meetings - It’s important that your audio/video tech is high quality and that your WiFi does not lag! New video conferencing tool? Test it out ahead of time. Loadshedding? Consider investing in or requesting a back-up internet connection.
3. Starting the new project:
● Use time difference to delight your client - In Pakistan, the workday starts at 9AM, which is 12PM EST or 9PM PST in the US. This time difference means you can get all of your work done before your client wakes up to start their work day! This is a huge advantage for both you and the client to keep the momentum of the project alive at all times. Just remember to double check the time difference before sending an invite!
● Leverage project management tools - You cannot always talk to clients or message them when they are on a 9 hour time difference so we recommend using a collaborative tool like Asana or Slack that allows you to interact with your client in the context of your project.
● Communicate frequently and proactively - It probably goes without saying, but think about how often you think you should update your client normally and then multiply that by 3. If you are working full time for a client, a good rule of thumb is to send them an email outlining all of your accomplishments from the week. We also recommend a 12 hour or less response rate when a client asks a question. This rule of thumb helps reduce friction or tension that may arise from not being in the same physical location.
Producing High Quality Work:
● Request frequent and honest feedback - This may seem obvious but it’s easy to let it slip when there are so many activities and projects going on. We recommend scheduling time for structured feedback once or twice a month.
● Manage your time effectively - We recommend time-activating your goals. You can do this by writing your tasks and overarching goals for the week and then carving out time in your calendar for them. This will help you clarify if you have overbooked yourself and manage your and your client’s expectations!
● Start with a project kick-off call - It is critical to make sure that you have the necessary resources and information you need in order to start the project. If this is not done, then a project can stall prior to beginning. To prevent this from happening, we recommend starting with a project kick-off call. Some things you might want to discuss in a kickoff meeting include: scope, timeline, project requirements, important tools and expectations regarding communication. See below for a Suggested Kickoff Call Agenda
Sample Kickoff Call Agenda
Introductions: Take this opportunity to tell the client a little about yourself, and then transition into talking about your preferences for working hours, tools, and communication.
Review scope: Review the project scope at a high level. Make sure you clarify expectations regarding deliverables and benchmarks for success. This is a good opportunity to present a plan to the client for how you will achieve those goals, broken down into tasks and weekly action items.
Discuss the timeline: Now's the time to make sure everyone's on the same page about the final delivery date. Discuss reviews and approvals. Make potential dependencies clear, and talk about how you'll handle potential delays.
Discuss project requirements: Have project requirements been documented? If so, review them, and make sure you completely understand what’s expected of the project. If not, start the conversation, and talk about how you’ll come to agreement on what’s needed.
Discuss project communications: This is critical. Everyone needs to know what communication tools will be used and how you communicate best (phone calls, emails, Slack, online project hubs, etc.). Determine the avenues and frequency of communication upfront, and make sure everyone agrees.
Next steps: Finally, recap expectations and assignments. Close out the meeting by specifying next steps and make sure to follow up immediately after the call by summarizing what has been discussed.