Spotlight Freelance photoThis blog post originally appeared in the Caffeine Creations blog, written by Sean Smith.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending FITC Spotlight: Freelance here in Toronto. I bought tickets to primarily see the first presentation Legal Basics for Freelance Designers & Developers, but this was canceled late on Friday afternoon due to the presenter being ill. While this was disappointing, and understandable, I still found the remainder of the conference to be worth going and came away with a lot of information.

The remaining sessions were:

The common theme throughout all presentations was Value Pricing. This comes down to how much value is your client gaining from the work you are doing for them. Use that to determin the price of your service, not the number of hours that it takes to complete the job. Value based pricing is also something I read recently in The Personal MBA (page 122) where it is called Value Based Selling. I like this idea and feel that this is probably best approached by quoting for projects on a project basis rather than an hourly rate.

Networking, Selling & Pitching

In this presentation Kevin airgid gave some good pointers. One that he spent some time on was communication and using active listening and eye contact. He also brought out an audience member to discuss body language and specifically mirroring. I was already familiar with this as I used to teach this in my presentation skills class when I was teaching at a university. By mirroring another person they will subconsciously find you to be more similar to themselves and consequently be more inclined to like you.

Kevin Airgid at Spotlight FreelanceOther useful points:

  • Don't try to impress with Jargon, but  show a genuine intersest in the person you are talking to.
  • Google the clients name and learn about them. Also be honest that you have done that. The client has likely googled you as well.
  • KISS proposal method. Keep your proposal simple and free of marketing speak. Be sure to highlight the clients pain point so that they will know that you have listened to what they need/want
  • Add Value to the client. By adding a value you will be more than a commodity or expense, but part of the team.
  • Become a resoure not a salesperson. Demonstrate to your client that you are a problem solver and they will come to you for solutions.
  • Recommended reading The Little Red Book of Selling (Kevin said $4 but Chapters has it for $16)

Adding Value: Creative Approaches to Pricing and Positioning

David and Ben broke down pricing into three points: Positioning, Qualification & Diagnosis, and Negotiation.

  1. Positioning -  Pricing power increases as you increase both your reputation and your specialization. Instead of saying you are an expert at building websites, focus more on a niche or particular CMS. For example specialize in bed & breakfasts building web sites with ExpressionEngine.
    • Reputation - You can never have enough. Experts write. Write about what you know, even if you are not a "writer" you should still write. Proofread your writing before publishing and engage your audience.
  2. Qualification & Diagnosis - Qualify the client. Find out if the client is a fit for your business and vice versa. By qualifying a client they will often fight to work with you. This also means being willing (and able) to walk away from a client. Use value pricing
  3. Negotiation - my notes and my memory have failed me here.

Getting Along with Clients

After listening to Kurt's presentation, everything he said felt like common sense. However common sense is not as common as we would like it to be and I definitely came away richer for having been there.
Kurt Krumme at Spotlight Freelance

  • How much time do you spend keeping current whether reading blogs, learning new tech or techniques? Now how much time do you think about refining your approach to clients? By spending more time on this you will find you have better relationships with clients and better clients
  • Problems are rooted in clarity
  • Set targets with your client
  • Learn the clients business
    • Values
    • Customers
    • Relationship with customers
    • Ask Why
  • Define goals and barriers
  • Sythesize
  • Value == helping the client to understand
  • Leverage == expertise
  • Be prepared to walk away
  • Under promise, Over Deliver
  • Ask yourself "How can I improve my clients business?" Not how much money can I get?
  • Show your rational for decisions and recommendations, i.e. educate your client on why your are doing things this way

Finance For Freelancers

Mark Macleod, CFO of Freshbooks, spoke about finances and bookkeeping for freelancers.

  • Have unique client offers - differentiate yourself from others in your field
  • Know what you are best at and how your server
  • Get Paid
    • remote clients should prepay
    • ACH - online checks with low fees
  • Incorporate
    • Legal protection
    • split income and pay less taxes
  • If you make less than $30,000 you do not need to pay sales tax.
    • recommends paying so that your clients are used to the HST being added to invoices. Even if you make less than $30,000 now, eventually you will make more
    • Pay sales taxes quarterly - its easier and less stressful.
  • Keep your personal and business bank accounts seperate. Do the same with your credit cards.

Panel: The Ins and Outs of Working with Agencies

Spotlight Freelance crowdI didn't take many notes during the Q & A panel, but the primary take aways were to show what you can do, reputataion, integrity and transparency. Also ask for Endorsements. Endorsements can be in the form of a LinkedIn recommendation or recommendations to other agencies/businesses who can use your service.