Assertiveness and freelancing

Having a good relationship with clients is essential for freelancers, but even more important is being the right person for the right customer. For this reason we must not be afraid to explain well who we are and especially who we are NOT.

The story

Not long ago a potential client asked me to send him my portfolio. I don’t have a real portfolio so, when I get a request like this, I just send a list of projects that I’ve worked on and that I’m particularly proud of.

But does it really make sense to do so?

The answer is no.

When clients ask you for your portfolio they probably want to see nice websites, perhaps with fancy animations and great effects. Some of them even think that I can design a site like this on my own. But this is not true.

Most of the work I usually do isn’t visible in a portfolio: ensure maintainability of legacy code, long-term analysis and design, improve performance, code review, team management, planning..

If the site is nice and usable, it’s not because of me. If the project was delivered on time it is.

So I replied to the client that I don’t have a portfolio, he looked for someone else more suitable for him and we are both happy.

The first conversation with the customer is the most important

When customers talk to you for the first time their goal is to understand if you are the right person for their needs, and you must help them to avoid finding yourself in an unpleasant situation.

The main tools to obtain this result are:

  • Listening and attention
  • Direct and honest communication
  • Self-confidence

These are the qualities you need to understand precisely what the customer wants, even what he doesn’t explicitly say, and to communicate clearly and confidently what you can do for him and what you cannot do.

Having this attitude is not always easy. Sometimes the desire to acquire the customer or the fear of not being adequate prevails.

In these cases, or if you are not a person with a ready response, it may be a good strategy to take time with the customer. Saying “thank you, I’ll think about it for a few days, and I’ll be back soon” is your privilege as a professional and as a person.

devil.jpg “The Devil’s Advocate” Taylor Hackford, 1997

Irene Iaccio

Freelance web developer

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