How developers can add value to each phase of a project they take up as a freelancer and over time can demand better hourly rates.
The number one reason I see why freelance developers don’t get paid better hourly rate is they don’t demand better it?
As a developer, working for clients for a decade now, there is one thing I can say for sure:
You can demand better hourly rates if you focus on being a problem-solver for the clients and deliver excellent quality services that add values to the client’s business.
And then I see many developers focus on being yet another developer.
So, here are ways developers can add value to every phase of the project they take up as a freelancer and, over time, can demand better rates.
Phase I: Before the commencement of the project
A developer who preserves the quality in crunch times and avoids patches can surely demand much better hourly rates.
1. Understand Requirements
There are very few freelance developers who take the time to read the complete requirements of clients. If you make a habit of reading the full requirements of clients, you will be better than 90% of the developers who are freelancing.
Take a step beyond reading and try to understand what the client needs?
The process is not easy, but you have to find your freelancing niche and work towards it.
Even when I reject an invite from a potential client, I make sure I have read and understood what is needed and make sure rejection notes are helpful. When I am refusing, the work aim is not to work for the client, but that should not stop me from being useful to a client who took the time to invite me.
2. Be Flexible
Take your client’s requirements and provide them not only a solution but offer them suggestions that can help them grow their business.
You will be paid better rates in the long run if clients’ business flourishes from your suggestions.
I often see that developers who are not open to taking suggestions or are not ready to experiment with new technology don’t offer advice to clients either.
As an example, I knew a WordPress developer who is doing okay as a freelancer. When I asked him if he is willing to take my work in new technology, his obvious answer was NO. The reason was he could handle anything in WordPress, but something new if he is stuck, it takes more time.
As a developer, he failed to understand the more time needed is the learning curve.
Be flexible and open to experimentation.
It is not always about earning better rates right at that moment. Some projects help you experiment with new technologies.
I had a few clients who helped me eradicate most Vbulletin alternatives that otherwise I had to experiment with. Once you have invested time and money on something, it becomes tough to eliminate as quickly as you can when working for clients.
It took me a long time to eradicate vBulletin and move over to xenForo, and one of the reasons being, I had invested time and money into vBulletin.
So those clients pay less, but it helps me become better at knowing what I should be avoiding.
4. Write Rock Solid Proposal
The proposal is the first, and possibly the last impression of you to clients and freelancers who cannot write rock-solid proposals can make very little progress in the freelancing world. It is as simple as that.
The proposal is the gateway to your freelancing career. So make sure you craft your proposal such that you provide the right impression about what you do, how you do, but more importantly, how you can be of asset to the client and not a liability.
Everybody likes to keep increasing the assets and trash away with liabilities as soon as possible. Try to be an asset to your clients with your expertise.
5. Set Right Expectations
If you set a very high expectation, you can have a tough time meeting them. You aren’t delivering a pizza where you only have 30 minutes to deliver.
Ask for what time you will need to deliver the project, maintaining the quality.
Don’t take up too little time to set a very high client’s expectation, nor take too much time that the client can’t provide.
As a developer, if one understands the requirement, it is easy to strike the right balance between both.
Phase II: As you start Working
Clients always have a dilemma if a freelancer has started working. What is the progress of the project?
Provide a quick turnaround time with updates as the project moves along to get valuable inputs from clients.
As a developer, it will help you more to understand the requirements better. Moreover, one can fix bugs early and build the expertise to demand better hourly rates.
6. Right communication channel
My preferred channel of communication is Skype.
However, some clients do not prefer using Skype and are used to hangouts. Some clients are used to using Trello, others prefer Asana for managing the project, and some prefer doing things on Slack.
Use the communication channel that suits the client. You are a developer and the tech guy. So it is easy for you to adapt to the new platform than asking your clients to make a move to your choice of the communication channel.
Developers like to keep codes on their server until some part of the payment is released. If you need to be playing such tricks, opt for Upwork’s escrow service instead of getting paid.
If you can’t trust the client with your deliverables, it is always good to be going a path that can build trust instead of trying to play those dirty tricks.
Freelancer is at risk of not getting paid, but if you keep a higher level of trust, you will always be okay. Instead of trying to make money from clients, build confidence and money will eventually flow in.
Some of my direct clients who don’t prefer upfront payment, I refer them through Upwork to build trust. Eventually, they pay me well in advance and, at times, even before we begin the process of understanding the requirements.
8. Under-promise and over-deliver
You know what more one can deliver. Add those extra elements to your proposal, but you don’t add everything in the proposal.
Keep certain elements that can WOW the client at the time of deliverables.
Extra features, extra options, or anything that can beat clients’ expectations.
Phase III: After Project Completion
The project is complete, and hopefully, things have gone beyond the client’s expectations, but it is not where everything stops.
Consider it as the beginning of a new ever-lasting business relationship.
9. Follow up
Once everything is done, you can follow up with a client to ask for feedback. However, if you are working on freelancing sites like Upwork, they may have already done that part for you, ask a client if you can be of help to anything that they want to be fixed or sorted.
Don’t always rely on clients asking you to get things done.
You can also offer them retainers’ options for you to keep maintaining and upgrading the software you delivered.
10. Offer related products or services
You can offer other products or services that can help clients with their business. Additional products or services can help you increase your income without raising rates for clients.
If you don’t have related products or services to offer, discuss with existing clients what other products or services they use. Apply to be an affiliate to those products and offer them to your other clients and grab a commission for referring products.
Clients hire developers because they lack technical expertise. So, if you can provide the technical knowledge they need and convert their vision into a software, you are more likely to get paid much better hourly rates than the rest.