This blog post is the sixth in a series of eight adapted from a talk given at TOS-Con 2021. Learn more about TOS-Con here.
Employ the 70/30 Principle
There are many rules and principles that use numbers and ratios. By “the 70/30” principle, I mean that you don’t need to have 100 percent mastery in every aspect of a project to do it well. If a client says, “Can you do X?,” you can readily say yes if you know how to do at least 70 percent of what they’re asking for. Unless that 30 percent is far beyond your grasp or your field is one in which there is little tolerance for even minor mistakes, it’s OK to start working on the 70 percent you know and figure out the other 30 percent as you go (assuming, of course, that the project is otherwise a good fit for your interests, schedule, etc.).
If you accept only clients or projects that completely align with your existing skills and interests, you won’t get many clients—and you won’t challenge yourself to grow.
Under Promise and Over Deliver
Anyone can make a lofty promise. Clients hear such promises all day, every day. They either tune them out or are actively annoyed by them. This is because a lot of freelancers and contractors don’t consistently keep their promises or follow through on their commitments. I routinely work with clients who are absolutely flabbergasted when I turn in a highly polished project on time or early. Clients constantly tell me that they’re so used to freelancers being late, lazy, or both that they’ve all but given up on finding someone reliable.
This is good news for you. If you simply do what you say you’ll do, on time, every time, you’re already crushing a huge portion of the competition. If you say you’ll submit a proposal by 5 p.m. Thursday, do that. If you say “I’ll get back to you with an answer on Monday,” do that. Take your promises seriously and deliver on them every time, even the little ones. Set reminders as needed to return calls or do whatever else you said you would do. Your clients will be blown away, and they’ll quickly come to depend on you.
You can take this a step further by setting modest or slightly above-average expectations for your client and then crushing those goals. If you know you can do a job in three days, tell the client you need five. When you deliver the work early, you’ll wow your client even more—and you’ll give yourself a comfortable cushion of extra time if you run into a problem. It’s always better to give yourself more time up front than to ask for an extension. (But it’s also better to ask for an extension than to miss a deadline without giving the client a heads-up.)
In the next installment of this series, I’ll cover social media and daily progress.