When it comes to freelancing, your first impression might be the only impression you ever get.
Often, that first impression is made over online messaging, and there can be a variety of outcomes. Some are good: you get in touch, get the job, and get paid. Some are frustrating: you get in touch, get no response, and you are left thinking “what did I do wrong?”
This comprehensive list of best practices is meant to help the ambitious freelancer avoid making mistakes that could mean one less job. These simple steps center around speed, intelligence, and content, so if you get sweaty palms before sending that first message, take a breath and remember these three tips.
1. The need for speed
There are two things you should know about potential on-demand employers:
- They want the job done fast and
- They don’t want to spend too much time hashing out the details.
Therefore, speed and responsiveness are essential.
When you first see that job alert or online post, you want to be the first person to talk to the job owner and make your availability known. Avoid overemphasizing your eagerness — temper your excitement and take a moment to read through the job. Understand the details of the job, the skills required, and the time frame. This way, you can be informed and concise when you speak to the job owner.
To cut out even more talk time and ensure it’s easy for the job owner to hire you on-demand, you should have an online profile or website. Moonlighting is a versatile, on-demand hiring app that provides users with a space to post skills and services, show reviews, and make payments. With an online medium, your potential employer doesn’t have to ask you 20 questions before deciding if you are a good fit.
After you send that initial email or chat to start a conversation, make sure you keep up with your potential client. If they respond to you, reply in a timely manner, otherwise they could move on and start a conversation with someone else.
In an on-demand economy, timeliness and responsiveness are two sides of the same coin, a coin that could very well end up in your proverbial pocket.
2. The game of telephone
Once you are speaking to someone and responding quickly, the next step is saying the right thing. You want to put your best foot forward, so don’t forget to triple-check your words to make sure your message is understandable and reads well.
Be polite, try to anticipate what they are going to ask you, and clearly communicate. Be sure to tackle the following important questions so that everyone has a clear understanding of expectations:
- Talk about payment. What are they expecting and what are you expecting?
- Consider time-frame. When are they expecting the job to be finished and does it fit with your current schedule or workload?
- Is the job local or remote? Do you need to meet in person at any point and if so, when would that be?
Remembering to discuss these few topics will benefit both parties and will demonstrate your professionalism.
Always remember that your employer likely wants the job completed as soon as possible, so the less work they have to do to hire you, the better. Messaging efficiently and intelligently will go a long way to improve your chances of getting hired.
3. Content is key
Not everyone is a writer, so some of these tips might seem daunting. But, don’t worry. Here are a few ideas of what exactly to say. Use these as a rough guide, but also be sure to let your unique personality and talents shine through when you’re talking with someone. Loosen up if you can.
- Hesitate to use a template. If you usually send out a single template inquiring about a job, make sure it is relevant and without errors, but also take a moment to add a personal touch.
- Introduce yourself. Ask how they are doing, and at the end, thank them for taking the time to read your message.
- Make those sentences count. You want them to be short and to the point. Be sure your first message is limited to two short paragraphs of 2-3 lines each.
The key here is to reach out to a potential client so they don’t have to work to reach out to you. For example, if you’re applying for a painting job, explain that you have been painting home interiors for seven years and you estimate that their job for painting a guest room will take you one and a half days at $40/hr. Request a follow-up meeting, letting them know when you are available to talk through the additional details you need to provide a more accurate and personalized estimate. The faster you can get the ball rolling, the closer you’ll be to helping them get something done and putting money in your pocket.
Best practice takeaways
The initial introduction may be your only opportunity to claim the gig as your own. Be professional and to the point, and provide them with as much information as you can to land you at the top of their short list of potential hires. In the end, it’s up to you to make yourself stand out; be personable, be confident, and be responsive. And remember, speed, intelligence, and communication are the keys!
This article was originally featured in the USA Today.