Tuesday, February 23, 2010

4 business tips for freelancers...from Molly Maid

I know you're thinking, "Molly Maid? Really?" But hang with me here. A few weeks ago on a lazy Sunday, I contacted two cleaning services through their respective online forms. Here's how it went down:
  1. The owner of the local Molly Maid franchise called me at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, while his competitor didn't call till later that afternoon. I know that there's a desire among freelancers to be perceived as busy and exclusive, but don't forget that there's considerable impact from being prompt and responsive, too.
  2. The Molly Maid guy was brief on the phone. The other company's rep did way too much rambling and bragging about why his company is superior before he ever asked me about my needs. In the excitement of having a prospect, beware the temptation to gush information. (You'll have plenty of time to prove how wonderful you are once you start a project.) Ask questions instead.
  3. The bid was presented as a range that would be finalized after the first cleaning. I'm a huge believer in "estimated ranges" for freelancers because they A) give the client an incentive to be easy to work with and B) give you an opportunity to reward that behavior. I was pleasantly surprised when our first cleaning came in at the low end of the range, whereas if he had just given a hard number and hit it, it wouldn't have thought anything of it.
  4. A significant portion of Molly Maid's business comes from people weary of independent agents who were inexpensive, but inconsistent about how well they cleaned, or who would switch days and times, or simply not show up at all. So too, in many, many cases, a prospect for your creative services has been burned by a previous bad experience with Freelancerius flakius. Your job, particularly while mopping up someone else's mess, is to reassure them with professional reliability.
I've resisted the temptation in the headline and body text so far, but I can't any longer: Freelancing may be a Dirty Job, but these four tips can help you clean up.


  1. On #3, what if the client just wants a number?

  2. Generally, I try to shy away from franchise operations like Molly Maids and to choose those "independent agents," but I like your tips. The importance of professionalism is hard to overstate whether you're cleaning, writing, designing, photographing or even working a cash register in a supermarket. Simply doing what you say you'll do will often win return business.

  3. @Anon. If the customer just wants a hard bid, by all means give 'em a hard bid. But aim high, since you don't have any wiggle room.

    @STW, we've always used independents and been mostly satisfied. In part, choosing a franchise this time was somewhat of a matter of principle: The Phoenix economy is hurting right now, and my wife and I wanted to support a local, tax-paying business. (Around here, most indies are in the shadows.) The guy who owns the franchise is a small businessman who W-2s his employees, pays for their healthcare, leases an office in a nearby strip mall, etc., and I feel good about supporting his business.

    In reality, it underscores my philosophy that we, as independent practitioners, need to position ourselves as real businesses, not fly-by-nights. (Just like you did recently by establishing an EIN, eh!)

    With regard to "doing what you say you'll do," amen. You don't need to underpromise and overdeliver, just promise and deliver!