Most work environments offer some sort of performance review. The employee is typically given valuable input to help them grow, whether it’s through a 360 or one-on-one. But freelancers and independent contractors are left out of the loop. They want to continue to improve, but there is no established mechanism to seek constructive criticism. Here are some suggestions for how freelancers can get feedback from their clients.
A performance management culture helps everyone at the organization pull in the same direction while working to their utmost potential. When team members are told what they’re doing well and might work on, they enjoy transparency and feel more respected by their employer. They’re more likely to feel seen and heard, which helps with employee engagement.
Then, along come the freelancers. In a previous article we’ve discussed the need to keep independent contractors engaged, too. We also offered suggestions on how to do so. But if you’re a freelancer working with a client who hasn’t read our advice to offer feedback, you could be wondering how to go ahead and solicit that feedback for yourself. This article shares tips for having constructive conversations focused on your development.
Set yourself up for positive feedback
It’s a lot easier to ask for feedback – and get someone to respond – when you are doing good work. So, begin every engagement with clear agreement on expectations. Make sure you know the deliverable and deadlines. Ask about the client’s goals and make sure to find out how that client wants you to communicate if issues do come up.
Ask for a final meeting
Many projects begin with a kick-off call. Yet when the job is done, everyone goes their separate ways. Instead, ask for a final check-in where you can ensure that all the project requirements are met and ask if there were any concerns about your process or the deliverables. In setting up this session, give the client a heads up that you’ll be looking for honest input into the work you did and how you did it.
Don’t love this idea? You might also think of this meeting as an opportunity to suggest any follow-ups that could lead to more business.
If meeting directly still isn’t for you, though it is highly recommended, you might also try:
- Email with direct questions
- Feedback boxes on your website or LinkedIn
Don’t rely only on clients
Your customers may not want to give you honest feedback. As noted in the Harvard Business Review, “It’s sometimes easier to give false praise and/or no feedback at all, and simply not hire someone again, than it is to give negative feedback.” So, you might instead foster mentoring relationships to get insights you can trust.
Look to build a network of other freelancers, people who hire freelancers, and trusted professional advisors who can provide objective insights into the work done. As they aren’t as invested as the client, they could share fresh perspectives you might not get from the customer.
Seek multiple points of view
When you hear just one person’s perspective you may be more inclined to discount any negative feedback. Or, if they give you a positive comment, you could become falsely confident that you’re awesome in that area.
Getting feedback from multiple sources helps validate the input. When you hear the same thing from many people, you can assume they are observing something you do consistently. That could be a good thing or mean that you need to address that concern. The weight of multiple points of view telling you the same thing may be what you need to motivate to actually make a sustainable change.
Don’t undervalue informal feedback
Throughout an engagement, you have the opportunity to ask for informal feedback. When you hand in a draft of a document, ask “What do you think of the voice in this?” Or, when, you send in a design brochure, ask “Do you have any concerns?” After they’ve read your evaluation of their plans, ask “Are there other areas you would have liked to see addressed?”
These casual check-ins, best done with open-ended questions, open the door for informal feedback. Really hear what is said. Try not to get defensive or anticipate how you will respond. Instead, actively listen to what the client tells you about your work.
Thank those who give you feedback
Acknowledge it when someone does provide feedback. They will be more likely to give you further feedback (and you’ll help them recognize other freelancers might appreciate it, too).
If someone sits down to have a call or in-person feedback session with you, send an email thanking them for taking the time. It can help show how much you value that client or mentor relationship by also indicating how you plan to take action to improve in any areas they found you lacking.
If the feedback is positive, you might ask if you can use it in a testimonial on your business website or quote it on social.
Feedback for freelancers
Getting negative input into how you do your job can sting, but that’s how you grow. Now that you know how to get feedback as a freelancer, start soliciting that input to improve professionally and develop your business.
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