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Lost confidence after second project freelance

(13 Posts)
Polygon Tue 13-Nov-12 13:42:43

I have just started working freelance in an area closely-related to what I did before I had the children. I have just finished my second piece of work for one client and I felt it was a complete disaster. I spent about 5 times longer doing the work than I actually billed for because I spent five times as long as everyone else for a comparable project. I was really struggling to compile good documents using Word etc. and building it up from scratch because in my previous life we always used custom software. What was the worst was that it seems I misunderstood one element in a document I was supposed to analyse. I could give the references to back up my interpretation, but the client said that I had understood it incorrectly - so that is that.
I felt completely awful having messed up so badly and whenever I think about it, I cringe - my self-confidence has had a bad knock, but I suppose I earned it.
Now, another freelancer who works for this client has said that there is work still to be done there. He says one person I was working to seems happy with my work and I should call him, ask for feedback from my last project and ask if they have any work for me. I cannot imagine doing this as I know the feedback can only be bad. The guy I spoke to about my last project seemed really not happy with what I´d done and I went to pieces while talking to him, acting really unconfident because I was so thrown by having understood this thing wrongly.
Should I bite the bullet and ask for feedback (although I know it will be so bad) or should I just hide in a cave. I have a discussion next week with a different potential client to see if I could do some work for them...

Tee2072 Tue 13-Nov-12 13:48:51

Ask for feedback. You don't know it will be all bad. And you need to face up to what you did wrong and figure out what to do so it doesn't happen again.

OatyBeatie Tue 13-Nov-12 13:54:06

I know it is a cliche, but it is also really true that nothing inspires confidence in a colleague more than their willingness to say: "Yes, I got that wrong. Sorry. How can I do it better next time?"

I am a freelancer, too, and I'm always horrified at the thought of making mistakes (working alone, without water-cooler chat, it is hard to talk through these sorts of fears and make them dissipate). But when other people make mistakes that affect me, I feel completely forgiving. And if they are frank about those mistakes it gives me a very strong impression of their self-confidence (which in turn makes me think that they really are very good at their jobs).

So I try to remind myself that others are likely to be as forgiving of my mistakes as I am of theirs.

Tee2072 Tue 13-Nov-12 13:55:25

Well said Oaty!

dotty2 Tue 13-Nov-12 14:09:15

Completely agree re. mistakes - good points above. And the other thing is that clients often have a fear of the unknown and may favour someone who has worked for them once and made a mistake, even quite a significant mistake over someone who is a complete unknown quantity - especially if what you did was sound in other respects (and you were personable, turned work in on time etc).

Do be careful about the time, though - jobs do sometimes take longer than you budget for and that's just life. But spending 5x longer obviously isn't sustainable in the longer term. Sometimes you have to be a bit hard nosed and say 'Here's my report. I could add x, y and z, which I think would make it stronger, but it's not possible in the time you've allowed'.

It is hard without someone to moan to, and bounce ideas off, though. Hang on in there.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 13-Nov-12 14:15:43

Firstly, don't be so hard on yourself. Being good at x, is different to being good at doing x as a freelancer. You (as we have all done/are still doing) need to learn all the other stuff that comes with being a freelancer. My estimates can still be out, two years along and I work with other freelancers who say similar. I want to do a good job, so sometimes it means I over deliver.

I personally would contact the person who commissioned you (rather than another at the business, that could back fire I think) and:

1) apologise (if you didn't when you spoke)
2) offer to put it right (again if you didn't already/if it isn't too late)
3) ask for feedback once the updated document is with them

At best you want to walk away with a reference, at worst at least you know you will have tried your best to rectify the issue. You don't want this denting your confidence going forward.

Try to think of practical things you could differently next time, eg:

- Purchase the software you mention - if that possible
- Write notes from the meeting when you are commissioned and feedback that back in a proposal to help clarify what you are being asked to do

And maybe try to limit who you talk to about this within your world. Bad experiences and gossip can travel. Not sure if you'd mentioned what had happened to the other freelancer etc, can you trust them etc?

I would also say, that some clients aren't the easiest to work with and perhaps this inital company isn't for you in the long term. It sounds like it was you that made the mistake, but it could easily have been two sided. Was your contact really clear etc? Maybe not....

It is a strange idea that you don't want all that work that is out there, but early on I had a bad experience with somebody and the wise people on this board said 'dump and move on'. It was a revelation!

Re the meeting next week. If they want to know how the project for this first client went you could say it is still on-going. But focus on your job related experience and what you have prepared to talk about for the meeting. They are obviously vaguely interested if they are taking the time to meet with you, I am sure you recall from working days I rarely met somebody I had no interest in. Try to put this behind you, you have a chance here, with a different client to do a good job, get a reference and get going after the first "blip".


Polygon Tue 13-Nov-12 18:34:48

Thank you so much all of you. I feel so much out of my depth freelancing at all and it´s so good to get some advice from experienced people. There are so many important points in your posts. Thank you!

TalkinPeace2 Tue 13-Nov-12 21:04:07

Try to turn even the most venomous comments into constructive criticism.

I'm currently doing a project where the different parties within the client are not on speaking terms.
Technically mediation is not under my remit, but unless they communicate, my job will be harder so I'm trying to make them each pick the teeny grain of positive out of each situation and build back up from there ....

Polygon Tue 13-Nov-12 22:08:03

Wow, that sounds awful! I must say, with my client there seems to be some disagreement as to what exactly they wanted as my end product. I clarified it verbally with the person commissioning me, to find out at the end that someone else was receiving my report. What MrsLeadbetter says about putting together a written proposal feeding back my notes from the initial commission is obviously the way forward!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 14-Nov-12 08:34:38

If that that is the case I don't think you can take this on as all your fault Polygon. It really does sound like they weren't clear enough on what they wanted, letalone what they then asked you to do!

I have found that lots of clients don't really know what they want, or are struggling to find the time/headspace to commission the project properly (which is why they need a freelancer) and so helping them work out what they want is part of the freelance role.

It can be difficult being assertive with potential/new clients, as you are SO aware that they are your client and paying you, but sometimes you need to be.

So with your example (as I am sure you have thought about this) I guess next time you could suggest that the person you are actually delivering for is involved in the commissioning meeting or reviews the proposal before you start work. And even ask the question "Who will be reading this report" if they don't volunteer the info will give you a clearer idea of the context.

For what it is worth, in my proposals I basically cover what they said to me in the meeting inc:
- an overview of their business/situ
- why they are commissioning me (a couple of objectives)
- what they are expecting to be delivered (here I try to be specific, so a "word document which outlines the current business situation, the research findings and then recommendations)
- the time & budget

Good luck with the meeting next week.

OatyBeatie Wed 14-Nov-12 14:00:56

That all sounds like brilliantly helpful advice, Margo.

Polygon, I hope you are starting to feel less thrown by this work project. Margo is right that you can't take all the blame for whatever went wrong. And also, in your first few commissions you are bound to be feeling your way into the whole process of freelancing: as you progress you will be able to protect yourself more from any initial unclarity in the commission because you will develop routines for ensuring you and all your colleagues share the same picture of the work involved.

I'm sure the clients will be pleased and positive if they receive from you a relaxed and confident-sounding proposal that includes revisiting any problems and some feedback to make sure future commissions go smoothly. (unless they are difficult people whom you'd want to avoid in any case!)

Remember it is always the conscientious workers who suffer the worst from angst, and it is likely that your work is really really good in ways that you don't give yourself credit for. I decided to revolutionise my attitude to my own work recently when I was involved in a project that involved putting right some terribly lax and hopeless work from other freelancers. I realised I'd been stressing myself to pieces trying to achieve a standard of work way higher than was routinely being submitted -- to the extent that i was spending so long on projects that my hourly rate was ridiculously low.

Polygon Wed 14-Nov-12 20:10:42

Thanks both so much. As you rightly say, I am really feeling my way into freelancing - and after working with one organisation almost all my working life up to now, I´m feeling my way into the world outside my original organisation!
I realised from the beginning that I had to be clear as to what they wanted from me - but I had no idea as to HOW CLEAR! smile Your guidance on this is so helpful Margo! I suppose I am learning by making mistakes. I heard recently that someone else has stopped working with this client because she found the communication so lacking/difficult. I really like the guy who commissioned me, he´s full of enthusiasm and ideas but I think I need to pin him down much more if I ever get the chance again. Gulp. Maybe I´ll be more lucky with the hopefully potential client I´m meeting with next week!

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 20:33:29

interestingly, like Margo, I think in bullet points rather than whole sentences
makes it MUCH easier to drag people back to the point :-)

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