Honestly Assessing Your Skills and Your Overall Value Proposition
Assuming that you do work in a field that has a good selection of jobs in the online freelancing world, the next question turns inward: do you have what it takes to succeed at net freelancing? To answer this, you need start with a good understanding of what your skills are, what employers are looking for, and how your skills can meet the needs of those employers.
Start by taking stock of your training, experience and skills, and analyzing what you can do, and how well you can do it. Be honest with yourself—brutally honest. Sure, it’s human nature for each of us to think that we’re very good at nearly anything we do, but we all know that this cannot be the case. Remember that old joke about half the population being “below average”? Well, it’s true.
You can try to fool yourself into thinking you’re an expert in a particular field, but you’ll be in for a rude surprise when you try to win projects. No matter how good you are, someone is better. And in some cases, it may be a whole lot of “someones”. The freelancing marketplace is brutally competitive, and while it may be easy to convince yourself that you’re a top-notch programmer or potential Pulitzer Prize winning author, convincing the people with money to spend is another story entirely. If you go after jobs that require expertise you don’t really have, you’ll only end up wasting your time and money. Worse, you’ll hurt your credibility.
That said, it’s important to remember that you do not have to be the very best in any field to be a successful freelancer. What you must be able to do is provide good value, so that you can convince a prospective employer that you are worth hiring.
Like all buyers, those who post freelance jobs want to get the greatest possible quality for the lowest possible price; this is called maximizing value, and is no different from what you do when you go shopping. But just as you recognize that you can’t buy prime grade steak for the price of hamburger, most reasonable buyers also know that quality and cost are a trade-off in the world of freelancing. They realize that while they can try to maximize value and minimize price, they won’t get the best quality unless they are willing to pay for it. This means that in most fields, there is a spectrum of projects and providers, ranging from those that are relatively low in cost and quality, to those that are higher in both.
Successful freelancers are able to win projects by offering an attractive value proposition to a prospective employer, which means that buyer feels that he or she is getting a high degree of value for the cost. These freelancers are able to position their value propositions to suit the particular trade-offs that employers are looking for. To win bids, you need to maximize your value proposition in your chosen field(s) and then find employers who are looking for the trade-off that you have to offer.
Remember that what constitutes “quality” is entirely dependent on the buyer and the nature of the project. It may not always be obvious what the buyer considers important, and determining this is a big part of the bidding process. Consider, for example, that a buyer who needs a software product manual will be after very different quality attributes than the one hiring a creative writer to author some poetry.
And last but not least, the quality attributes that describe how a project is completed can be just as important as those that describe the final product. Many buyers will pay a premium to get a freelancer who is immediately available, communicates well, is trustworthy, and is willing to maintain a long-term relationship. The speed with which the project is completed is also particularly important: a buyer who needs a job completed within two hours doesn’t care that you are the best in the world, if it’s going to take you four hours to get the job done.
We’ll explore the critical issue of value further when we examine the trade-offs between competing on quality and price.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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