by Brian

Why Freelancers Should Not Announce Their Availability

I’ve noticed a trend on freelancer’s websites lately where the designer presents viewers with their current “work availability” , or the months that they are “available for hire”.

This goes against every bit of sales training I have ever had. This is not good business and here’s why:

  1. Numbers game

    Everyone wants leads. Everyone wants a lot of leads. The more leads you get, the more sales you make. Sales 101. This applies to any contractor / freelancing business, and mostly every other type of business also. Why would you ever give a reason for someone NOT to become a lead for you? Sure, you’re busy and you may not be able to work with this client right away if they contact you, but isn’t it better that they do actually contact you?

  2. Relationships

    The potential client doesn’t contact you because your website says you are “Only taking on new jobs starting August 2010”. Client moves on. They don’t bookmark your site, they don’t click through any more of your pages, and they probably never think of , or find you again. No relationship. Ever.

    Now imagine you didn’t show your “availability” on your website. The client likes your work, your style, and decides to contact you about a project they have in mind. They are reaching out to start a relationship with you! It doesn’t necessarily have to turn into a monetary one right away to make it a worthwhile relationship. You might have to respond by thanking them for contacting you, ask them a few details about their project, and let them know that you would be able to start working with them by August 2010…. Showing an availability calendar is negative. It says to the user “I can’t work with you right now”, whereas the response to an initial email from a client is positive, saying that “I can work with you in 2 months”.

    You can also add a note asking if they would like you to keep in touch with them through your newsletter where you provide free helpful tips, articles etc… Now, you have another email newsletter subscriber, and you can start building a relationship with this new contact. Oh, and you also could get a new twitter or facebook follower. All streams that allow you to build a stronger relationship with this potential client.

    Then guess what happens. In a few months times, after they chose to work with someone else and the project failed, they contact YOU because they now feel like they know you from your regular newsletter, seeing you on Twitter, or enjoying your awesome comic and they know that you are extremely experienced (because you show off your work in your newsletter, right? ). Also, now it’s August 2010! Hoorah! You now have available space in your schedule to work with them and take their project on.

    All positive. That is what good sales is, and good sales is all about relationship building. Whether it leads to an immediate or future sale should not determine your investment in it.

  3. Stats, Advertising etc

    All of us invest time/energy/money into promoting our freelancing services or design firm. You hope that these efforts pay off. Whether they do or don’t, you want to know what is working and what isn’t. That’s where statistics , lead tracking and other information gathering comes in.

    You can use a service like Google Analytics to see information about your website visitors, where they are coming from , what content they look at on your site, how long they stay and much more.  You can also enhance your contact form on your website to tie in with Google Analytics using “Goals” to see when they are met, and to see specific data attached to each goal.

    Why is this important and vital to your success? Well, by generating leads from your contact form, and having “goals” set up in Google Analytics, you can determine where your visitors are coming from and what percentage of each source is likely to fill out your contact form. For example, let’s say you advertise on CNN.com with a banner ad, and also on Facebook. When you receive contact form submissions, you can see number of visits from each site, and match that to how many leads each source generates for you, and see whether your money is being spent in the right places.

    Information like this is what ensures that your advertising expenses/blogging efforts etc are working as efficiently as possible.

    However, if you have an availability  calendar on your website, you probably won’t hear from a lot of people that found your site, and wanted to work with you. Fair enough you are happy to lose that lead, but you also lost more vital information about your advertising and promotion efforts.

  4. You’re worth waiting for, aren’t you?

    You want the client to contact you. No matter what. The client is excited to possibly work with you, and why shouldn’t they be. You’re awesome at what you do, right? So, when you have to tell them you won’t be able to start their project until August 2010, you help them understand why you are worth waiting for! Often, you will be able to convince them that the best way to invest their money for this project is with you, and only you. Hey, what’s the worst that can happen? They move on and work with someone else? At least you gave it a shot. You’re not even in the game if your “availability calendar” turned them off from ever contacting you in the first place.

What are your thoughts? For or against this trend of freelancers displaying their “work availability “? Elaborate on why you think either way is best.