Non-Monetary Value Considerations
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Establishing a Client Relationship
Every project you complete brings with it the potential for a long-term client relationship. This has value beyond the simple monetary compensation you obtain for a specific job. You can sometimes tell from a project description if you are dealing with someone who has the potential to be a long-term customer, and this may make it worth bidding on a project that you might not consider if it were listed by someone else. A few examples:
Naturally, this is another area where caution is advised. It’s fine to make this sort of calculation, but avoid falling into the trap where you assume that because you finish one project, you will get another. Also be sure to watch out for the old gimmick where the client tries to get work done cheap on the current project with promises of future work. I have found that I’m more likely to get repeat business from clients who do not make these sorts of promises than from those who do.
I mention in several places in this Guide the importance of establishing a work history when you are an online freelancer. The more projects you’ve successfully completed, the easier it is to get additional projects in the future. This means there is an inherent value to a project that ends with a happy client—any project—above and beyond whatever you get paid for it. That value is inversely proportional to how many projects you’ve already done: the first is of the most importance, and then they decrease in value as you do more of them.
This is an argument in favor of doing projects when you are new, even if they are not the projects you’d ideally prefer to do. Of course you should try to get projects that pay well and are attractive for some of the other reasons mentioned here. But if you are having trouble landing any jobs at all, at some point you should consider taking projects just to get some work history.
The best projects for these are generally small ones, because they are faster to do and represent the least risk. They will also cost you the least if you need to do them for a lower rate than you’d like. Another reason is that clients reviewing online resumes often pay attention to the total number of projects more than the value of those projects, so getting ten jobs done at an average of $100 each can actually make you look better than doing a single $1,000 project, even if the latter one required a lot more skill and effort.
Once again, you must exercise some judgment here. You do not want to fall into an indefinite pattern of working for less than you are worth. I’d also avoid clients who advertise that they are looking for people willing to do work cheap in exchange for a review, as that represents an unacceptable risk of abuse. Finally, be aware that it is against the policy of most freelancing sites to do work for free in exchange for a positive review.
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