“Do you want more clients? Do you want to keep good clients coming back?”
Nearly early every head in the room nodded vigorously in response to Jed Jones, co-founder and chief data scientist at MindEcology.
The key to finding and keeping good clients, Jed said, is using metrics to match your needs as a freelancer to those of your clients. Sadly, most freelancers don’t do an adequate job reporting back to their clients on how they did.
Metrics? In freelance communications?
“Metrics aren’t just the numbers. It’s reminding clients how you fulfilled your agreement.”
“All of us need to own ourselves as a small business, and there’s a data component to any business,” Jones said. “Metrics aren’t just the numbers. It’s reminding clients how you fulfilled your agreement.”
Jones, a former writer and marketer for Dell in Japan who was speaking to Freelance Austin, has been on both sides: A freelancer looking for work, and a company hiring freelancers.
Can you guess the most pressing needs of content creators (writers, photographers, editors, designers, strategists, social media users) and those of clients and prospects?
Content Creators’ Top 4 Needs
- Get more clients and projects, and keep existing work.
- Create positive buzz about our business.
- Complete projects with minimum friction and maximum efficiency.
- Minimize clients’ unhappiness and maximize their happiness.
Clients’ and Prospects’ Pressing Needs
- Make more sales/get more donations.
- Generate interest, views and submissions.
- Save money and control costs.
- Recruit more members, readers, consumers and/or customers.
- Keep their [your contact’s] job and please their boss.
“Every one of a client’s needs relates to revenue, and you’re a cost center,” Jones said. They’re hiring you so they can check things off their to-do list and get favorable feedback from their peers or bosses or clients,” Jones said. “That’s your job.”
The obvious way to make a client happy is to produce a quality product on time and within budget. But it doesn’t end there. A freelancer can use metrics (data) to show all the ways in which she’s helped the organization, reflecting her true value.
“You want to make sure they understand how good a job you did for them,” Jones said. “Tell them in six different ways, then tell them once or twice more.”
Jones’ official definition of metrics is the quantitative measure of how your project performed or is performing. His self-described “looser” definition includes qualitative information.
What to Measure
When deciding what to measure, think back to the client’s needs, who’s going to care (internally and externally) and what objective your project is tied to.
- Revenue or funds raised
- Views/reads/new visitors/purchases
- Content that’s the agreed-on length, submitted by deadline and within budget
Be sure to compare your quantitative metrics to benchmarks the client gave you with the assignment. If you didn’t receive any, asking for them will show you’re thinking about results.
- Client feedback along the way
- Lifetime value of what you did
- Number of revisions, or the ease of the revision process
- Ways you helped make the project work smoothly
Many freelancers are reticent to share this kind of information with clients because we feel we’re tooting our own horn.
“Yes! We are, and we have to be,” Jones said. “I’ve learned in my own career that being humble is no good. Telling clients what they can expect from you, updating them on your progress regularly, and showing them the many ways you helped them post-engagement is the only way to get and keep the best.”