Over the years, I’ve worked with, hired, and referred a lot of business to marketing freelancers, agencies, and consultants.
In that time, I’ve noticed two things that are critical to their success long-term.
Combined, these two things are extremely to find. And that’s what makes them so valuable.
The first one is competence.
Being very competent at your work is difficult and takes a long time.
You have to go through a long phase of making rookie mistakes and turning out work that later embarrasses you. When you finally become competent, you’ll know it.
Competency is rare, but there’s another characteristic that is even more subtle and rare.
This second characteristic is dependability.
Dependability is subjective, but you always know it when you see it. When you’re dependable, people can rely on you to follow through on your commitments.
You respond to people in a reasonable timeframe. You don’t over-book yourself so you always have some room to provide great service and account for the unforeseen. You do great work on time, on budget, and with full integrity.
To me, the only way you can be both competent and dependable is to do less than you want to do. Specifically, you do fewer kinds of work and take on a smaller number of clients at one time.
To be competent and reliable, you need margin in your business.
That means charging a premium for your services so you can keep wiggle room for unforeseen wrinkles and go above and beyond for your clients.
You can’t be competent and reliable if you’re always operating at full throttle and saying yes to any work that comes along.
If you want to be around a long time, try doing fewer kinds of work for fewer people at a time so you can be highly competent and reliable at the same time.
Do this and you’ll write your own future.