Now pay attention to this.
See what I just did? I instructed you to do something right at the beginning of my post.
The truth is, most of us are perhaps too scared or too shy to be using that instructional tone if we are not in a position to do so. Especially more so if we are freelancers right? No?
I used to freelance as a trainer. A public speaking trainer who got commissioned to conduct classes for young children. The thing about freelancing back then was the awareness that we are were better off listening. To instructions, orders or warnings from employers, clients or contractors. Because, they are the paying ones right? So naturally, it made more sense that the number one communication skills we were so adapt at utilizing was listening. If my client said, that I should conduct a class of 40 students at the lowest hourly rate, I should listen. Because I was a freelancer. And so I was told back then. (I hear you cringing already…)
And that is the point of my post here. Is it true? That listening is the only communication skill a freelancer should have, because God forbid, freelancers should not have the power to talk.
As I moved along in age and experience, I realized that it is totally not true. While listening will bring you so much further in a client-freelancer dynamic, there are other communication skills that will define your freelancing gig. Let me share them briefly here,
Who would have thought that the show and tell segment you were forced to do in primary school, would have come in handy when you are finding your place in the freelancing industry? Freelancing is a domain that rests on your ability to literally present yourself and your expertise. In whatever freelancing capacity. When a client engages you, one of the more default questions they will ask is, “Can you share a bit more about yourself/your works/your achievements.
Amateur freelancers will probably go into that literal mode of either giving an autobiography or compressing the answer in gibberish three sentences.
An expert freelancer understands that presenting the right information, in the right way with the right charisma, almost always edges them out.
Presenting is quite simple. Straightforward.
Presenting with presence however, is a skill set a freelancer must master.
You shake your head when a competing freelancer gets the gig.
You shake your head when a competing freelancer gets paid higher.
You shake your head when you ask, “Why am I underpricing myself?”
These scenarios are not unique. I questioned my existence back then too. The truth however is that in most cases, freelancers like ourselves fail miserably in this department of communication. We have been stigmatized and “educated” to believe that negotiation creates unnecessary tension. That negotiations will result in a win-lose outcome. That negotiations are always won by the ones with money and power ie; your prospective clients.
On the contrary, this is the truth about negotiations. And I am sharing this with my own convictions after years of experimentations.
Negotiations are healthy. It validates your value as a freelancer. It puts the value of your skills set higher. Real and valuable business transactions happen because of negotiations.
When a prospective client says, “Your quoted price is too high…”
You answer, “Fantastic. Seems like you are keen on my proposal and will like to negotiate. How shall we do this?”
Learn negotiation skills. It is like swimming. If you don’t learn it, you will drown 100%. If you learn it, your chances is now 50-50. The better you are at it, the chances of surviving increases. (Morbid example I know)
Closing the Goddamn Proposal
You know that horse thing that goes round and round, with music playing endlessly. Yes I am talking about carousels. How long can you be on it? For a while, before that vomit rushes up your throat right?
Same goes for freelancing discussions. Endless exchanges of emails and negotiation calls and meetings. And then one day you receive an email that says, “Thank you for the fruitful discussions. In view of our objectives, we have decided to engage another freelancer.”
And you go on an all “Jerry Maguire ice cream eating on couch moment”.
At the end of the day, one thing defines a freelancer.
If your skills bring in the contracts/money.
You may have a divine pupose for picking up freelancing, and that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is that you must understand that the word “free” in freelancing equates to freedom. Not the pits of bankruptcy and cup noodles.
Learn how to close a deal. Learn how to say,
“So <client>, now that we’ve gone through the details, when are we ready to firm this up with a contract?”
“In view of an upcoming project in the future, I will like to confirm this arrangement/proposal as soon as I can, so that I may work within a reasonable timeline to achieve our intended objectives.”
Seal the deal.
That is a communication skill you must have. Is it that important? Let’s just say that at this very moment, there are millions of freelancers with the same skills set as you, with proposals and presentations, all ready to negotiate. All they need to do is close. Heh.