This new Q&A slot will offer weekly advice for common questions freelancers have. If you have a question you’d like answered, please leave a comment here or email me.
Should I take low paying gigs to boost my reputation in the early days of my career?
This is a great question that a lot of new freelancers struggle with.
We tend to think about freelancing like we do full-time work, whereby we have to work our way up and “earn” a pay-rise. Which means, at the start, we need to do the groundwork (a.k.a. work for pennies).
The difference with freelancing is that you’re an expert and you’re offering a service, not simply doing a job and learning the ropes.
Sure, you might not have many sample pieces in your portfolio, but you’re selling a skill that you’re good at. That skill is in demand; otherwise clients wouldn’t be out seeking it.
That being said, in the world of freelancing, you need to justify that your service solves a key problem the client faces. And you kinda need proof to do that.
But how do you get that proof?
Well, a lot of freelancers will work for free or seek out low paying gigs in order to get that experience and proof under their belt. But then they struggle to break through that low price-point because they start to believe that that’s all their work is worth.
Yes, you can take one or two low paying gigs as a way to boost your portfolio, but I would stop after that. When you’ve got a few samples to show, you have the proof you need to charge what you’re worth.
The Issue With Low-Paying Work
Not only is low-paying work not effective for your time or resources, but it also attracts lowly clients.
I’ve found throughout the course of my career that the clients who don’t want to pay me more than pennies are the most difficult to work with.
Because they don’t see the value in your work. They don’t believe they should be paying you more than $X because they don’t believe that you’re actively helping them.
This is a key thing to remember if you’re thinking about dropping those prices. Think about the kind of clients you want to work with and whether they value your skill and time (of course they do, otherwise you’re some kind of masochist!).
In short: no, you shouldn’t lower your prices just to get some work under your belt in the early days, because:
- It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle of charging low prices
- You’ll attract the wrong kinds of client
Alternative Ways to Boost Your Reputation
So, without any proof, how the heck do you boost that all-important reputation in the early days?
- Get some top-notch samples in your portfolio
Clients want proof of your skill. That doesn’t have to be in the form of paying gigs, it can simply be a bespoke piece you wrote for a fictional brand if you’re a writer or a bespoke logo you whipped up in your spare time if you’re a designer.
Once you can prove you have the skill, clients will hire you and the ball will start rolling from there.
Boosting your reputation isn’t just trying to land as many gigs as possible. Your reputation rests on how you interact with your clients and the experience they get working with you.
The best way to do that in the early days is to over-deliver and provide a sterling customer experience for them. In turn, they’ll be more likely to refer you onto other brands they know, and they’ll give you a glowing testimonial to boot.
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