Hacks for Freelance Developers: build lasting client relationships

By Faith Benson

We’ve written extensively about the remote economy, the doors it opens, and problems it solves for companies and contributors alike. Our advocacy of remote work is no secret; in fact, we believe in it so much, we built our business around its promise.

But when the rubber hits the road, finding success as a freelance developer takes more than just engineering chops and a solid WiFi connection.

Clients who work with Gun.io have a unique opportunity to try our service for 20 hours, no strings attached, before launching longer-term engagements. We call this period our Ignite package, and as a Professional Freelancer, it does two things for you:

1. Allows us to bring more opportunities to you, faster
2. Gives you a clear window of time to add value to the team in a meaningful way

Building confidence is hard, and we get it - it takes more than 20 hours. Especially on a project at peak velocity. But we also know that nearly all of our clients have opted to continue with Gun.io after their Ignite package wrapped.

So, what’s the secret to securing a long-term engagement with a high-paying client? We chatted with one of our top Professional Freelancers, Bruno, for his take.

  1. Gives you a clear window of time to add value to the team in a meaningful wIt also means that there is significant work to be done in the first 20 hours to transition the trial into a full engageBuilding confidence is hard, and we get it - it takes more than 20 hours. Especially on a project at peak velocity. But we also know that nearly all of our clients have opted to continue with Gun.io after their Ignite package wrapped.So, what’s the secret to securing a long-term engagement with a high-paying client? We chatted with one of our top Professional Freelancers, Bruno, for his take. 

 

1. Decide that your time is valuable - and use it as such

BRUNO: You sell your work. Your time is what is being bought. If you don't value it, do you think your client will?

When I sell my time, I'm selling one concentrated and productive hour to my client. It's my responsibility to make my hour live up to that promise - not my client's. I need to be a much better manager of my work and time than my client.

I make sure to understand what the client wants to be done and to communicate to them what I did and will do to that end. Regardless of whether they asked me for a daily meeting, I do a daily report of my progress.

To make these reports meaningful, I like to:

  • break a large task into smaller ones to show partial progress
  • share a daily explanation of what I did, what I will do, main decisions and blocking points
  • raise a flag if I feel something is going to take longer then first planned

Finally, value your client’s time as much as you value your own. If you ask something, take notes so you don’t need to ask it again. Do a bit of research on your own before asking your client to spend time answering it. Of course, there is an equilibrium here: spending a huge amount of time researching without being productive is a waste of your valuable time, as well.

 

2. Make a roadmap for quick, meaningful wins

“Quick wins” has become somewhat of a buzzword, but in the context of remote, freelance engagements, their importance can’t be over-emphasized. Take the time to craft an intentional, realistic map of when and how you’ll accomplish those wins.

In addition to hitting those initial, small goals that tie into the overall objective, successful freelancers are also pros at identifying work that is tangential to the original need. This insight and effort can provide immense and unexpected value to your client.

BRUNO: You do that by identifying the bottlenecks in the development process and acting proactively to remove them. There might be something in the build that is taking too long, or some code organization, or automation of a repetitive task, or a simple refactoring no one wants to touch.

 

3. Reverse-engineer your list of “need to knows” from your Quick Win roadmap

A common hesitation among our new clients is the fear that onboarding and becoming familiar with the codebase will take up the entirety of the Ignite package. Every engagement is different, but Bruno’s advice is to pump the breaks on learning everything about your client’s operation in the first 20 hours.

BRUNO: Your understanding of the new project also has to do with optimizing your time. In the first days you might be tempted to ask everything about the new system to your client, or to read all the codebase and all their procedures and available information. But, that might be risky. Especially if you charge the client for those hours.

Instead, Bruno recommends taking a census of everything you’re setting out to do in those first 20 hours. Based on that roadmap, where are your knowledge gaps or blind spots? What specific business intel do you need to gather in order to effectively execute those tasks? The rest of the information will come as your engagement grows.

And, if you use these hacks - it will.

 

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