After the Interview
You have just been interviewing for freelance positions. You are back home. Phew! You’re out of that interview suit. Right now, before you do anything else, sit down at your computer and write a quick note thanking your interviewer(s).
This is vital if you want the job, and a nice gesture even if you aren’t all that excited about it. (After all, the next freelance job from that person may be just what you wanted.)
Use the opportunity to express your appreciation, but also to ask for the job and to reiterate your top selling points.
In most cases, e-mail thank-you letters are fine. The exceptions are if you interviewed with a particularly traditional or formal institution, or if the freelance job involves designing great letters on paper.
Be sure your letterhead or e-mail signature includes your phone number, e-mail address, and the URL of your Web site.
Interviews That Aren’t Interviews
How can you get a job without an interview? It’s easy, if you have a solid network and a good reputation.
Most people prefer to work with freelancers they already know. If you’ve built a strong network of people who know you and like your work, you may find that they call you or refer others to you when it’s time to hire a freelancer.
Develop a sense of professionalism in your clothes, how you present yourself, and your conversation. It may help to work up a 30-second “elevator speech” that describes what you do and hits your top selling points. Any encounter — even a chance meeting at a pub — can be the interview that’s not an interview, putting you in touch with the person who’s going to bring you the next great job.
It’s hard to sell a product you don’t know. In a freelance job interview, you’re selling your skills and energy. The better you know yourself, the better your interview will go.
Know your skills. Don’t tell an interviewer you know Freehand when you don’t, or when you haven’t used it in five years.
Know your limits, and don’t overdo the caffeine or sugar on the day of the interview.
Know your career goals, and be prepared to answer questions about where you want to take your business.
Know your worth. How much money do you need to make this job worth your while? What are the factors that could change that number up or down? What information do you need before you answer the “What do you charge?” question?
Present Yourself Professionally
When you’re doing freelance work in your home office, you can wear anything you please. On an interview, though, you need to look sharp, up-to-date, and professional. As a freelancer you may spend less on work clothes than you would as a full-timer, but you may find you need to buy new interview outfits more frequently. That means a suit and tie for a man, a skirt and jacket or pantsuit for a woman. Keep jewelry classic and understated, use little or no perfume or aftershave, and trim your fingernails. A professional look extends to shoes, briefcases, purses and watches. Even the pen you pull out of your pocket is a chance to create an impression.
In most business settings, tattoos and non-ear piercings are still not consistent with a professional appearance. While your body art may not hurt your chances at a job, particularly at a progressive, design-oriented shop, it probably won’t help either. Minimize or hide the decorations.
Beyond your personal appearance, your professional look should be reflected in your business cards, resume, portfolio, and website. Use the opportunity to prove you can make a business (your own) look great.
Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
After discussing your qualifications, your interviewer will usually ask if there are any questions you have. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
• What are the objectives for this job?
• How does this job fit into your organization’s goals?
• What is the top priority for this job?
• What is the deadline for this project? What intermediate deadlines exist along the way?
• Who will I report to? What other people will be part of the team working on this project?
• What is the next step in the hiring process?
• Is there any more information I can give you that will help you in your decision?
At an interview for a full-time job, candidates are usually encouraged to pretend they want the job for the sheer joy of working for such a fantastic organization in such a compelling field. In a freelance interview, you can usually be a little more up-front about money issues.
Often you’ll find the client has budgeted a specific amount for your services — an amount which may be less than you’re prepared to accept. Resist the temptation to undercut your own rates. Instead, reiterate the specific virtues of your experience and talent, and name the figure you consider appropriate for the whole project. If the budget is firm, you can work with the client on reducing the scope of the job.
Remember that you’re not asking questions just to look good or prolong the interview agony. You’re gathering information so that you can end the interview with a solid statement that you want the job. If it turns out you don’t want the job, convey that politely — “I’m very sorry, but it looks like the gap between your budget and my rates is just too big. Please call me if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
Research the Client
You will do better in any interview when you know more about the client and the job being offered. Before the interview, do the following research:
Check out the client’s Web site and learn all you can about their structure, goals, current projects, and product line.
Ask people in your network if they know anything about this client. If you run across someone who’s worked there in the past, you can ask about personalities and office culture.
Get as many specifics as you can about the job being offered, and tailor your resume and portfolio to match their needs as closely as possible. If you’re a little rusty on some of the necessary skills, now is the time for a quick refresher!
Do a dry run of the trip to the client’s office so you know how much time it will take and you won’t have to add to your interview nerves by getting tense about being lost.
Winning Jobs Without an Interview
You’ve got a sharp suit, a fabulous business card, and a lovely gold pen — all of which are doing you no good at all when applying for freelance jobs at online job-brokering sites. These kinds of job boards require a different strategy for selling yourself.
Your key selling tool is the online profile you create at the job-brokering site. This may include a link to your website with your portfolio, but should also include well-written text emphasizing your freelance experience, software you use, any special areas of expertise, and details of the benefits you can offer a client.
If words aren’t your strong point, you may want to hire or barter with a writer friend to craft this profile, employing keywords to help make you more “findable” and emphasizing your top selling points.
While the bidding nature of many freelance sites creates an impression of work going to the person who quotes the lowest rate, this may not necessarily be the case. If your profile and bid can sell the client on the value of your work, you may get the job without having to underbid anyone else.
Watch out for scam “clients,” and seek out those who are willing to put all or part of the fee in escrow with the site proprietors to be sure you actually get paid. Also pay attention to whether or not other freelancers have left feedback for this client.
Finally, read up on the bidding site’s fee structure before you put in a bid. Some charge per bid; others ask for a monthly fee or a percentage of your revenue.