Top 10 Common Mistakes Freelancers Make in an Interview They Don’t Even Realize

Top 10 Common Mistakes Freelancers Make in an Interview They Don't Even Realize
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There are a gazillion articles out there about interview mistakes, why should you read this?

Here are two reasons why: first, this is based on years of my personal experience freelancing. But unlike most other freelancers, I am also a marketing professional and a psychology enthusiast. That gives me a unique view into what’s working and what’s not.

Second, I’ve left out all repetitive advice. You know, things like “do your research”, “arrive on time” and “prepare for potential questions”. Seriously, do these “gurus” really think we don’t already know that?

All you’ll find in this post are uncommon advice. They can be controversial so not everyone would agree with everything I’m about to say.

And that’s OK. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

With that said, let’s get started on the first most common mistake freelancers make in an interview:

1. Incompetence Triggers

I’m sure you all know that we have about 7 seconds to make a great first impression. Once that impression is made, it’s difficult to change it down the road. That’s because we all make decisions based on a list of biases. For example, studies have shown that we tend to view good looking individuals as healthier, smarter and overall better people. Beauty, in the other words, is a mental trigger to positive things. It’s called a trigger because it’s spontaneous – you didn’t sit down and analyse what you concluded.

In the same way, there are certain things that you subconsciously do that suggest to prospective clients you’re incompetent. Here are 3 to avoid:

Shrugging. If a client compliments you, accept it. Do not shrug and downplay your achievements. For example, I see a number of my colleagues say things like, “Yeah, it was a team work. I only play a small role.”

Rambling. If the client asks you about A, answer with A. Keep your answers short – generally speaking, anything more than 2 minutes is way too long.

Hazy communication. This is especially with young people. Here’s an example, “A past client is like, ‘Can you do that?’ and I was like, ‘Sure, no problem.’ And he was like, ‘Are you sure?’” If you need so many “likes” to convey your message, revise it.

The other clue to hazy communication is ending your sentences with, “Does that make sense?” Newsflash: everything out of your mouth should always make sense.

2. Suiting Up

Suiting Up

There are plenty of interview “gurus” out there who say that candidates must always suit up. But in half a decade freelancing and interviewing for regular jobs, never once have I suited up – and I landed plenty of gigs.

Here’s why: people like others who are like them. Imagine interviewing to be a professional skateboarder with a Hugo Boss suit on.

My advice is: Dress The Part. Dress just one level more formal than your interviewer would. If he wears a T-shirt, jeans and shoes, you wear a shirt, jeans and shoes.

How would you know what he would wear? Look it up on the web – and you can be sure he won’t change the way he dresses to interview a freelancer.

3. Appearing Cool

How you feel about the job is much more important than how you dress.

Most people, especially creatives, don’t want to appear excited about a job. Instead, they choose to be laid back and “cool”. As if they have dozens of other options out there and that they have lots of experience interviewing. But here’s what that appears to the employer: not only are you not interested in the gig, you’re also downright boring!

Instead, try to be enthusiastic about the prospect of landing the gig. Say things like, “I can’t wait to start.” or “That sounds interesting.” Lean forward a little during the interview to show your interests.

4. Blaming Everyone Else But Yourself

Blaming Everyone Else But Yourself

It’s almost inevitable to talk about your past clients or employers when interviewing for a job. You’ll be given a chance here: to be the bigger man or to blame everyone but yourself. Choose wisely. It doesn’t matter if you really were right. It doesn’t matter if you really were the victim of some office politics.

Once you begin to badmouth your past clients, you’ll be off the list of potential candidates. Why? Two reasons:

Because it shows you can’t take responsibility for your career. A high performer would be talking about the lessons they learned instead of how others wronged them. They are going to assume you’ll do the same when you leave their company.

5. Showing No Empathy

Empathy is more than your ability to step into your client’s shoes. That’s just step 1. Step 2 is to show you’re empathizing – this is where most people fumble. If you don’t show it, your potential client won’t know you’re empathizing and therefore won’t feel understood – a factor arguably more crucial than anything else.

Here are 2 simple steps to show your empathy:

Describe what you see: “I see you’re getting very frustrated when you talk about the CMS (content management system).”

Take a guess at the origin: “It’s affecting your page load time and SEO, isn’t it?”

Being able to foretell, without the client saying it first, shows you really understand the situation. For more information about empathy and sales, check out this post on FuelYourCreativity.

6. Not Managing Client Expectations

From time to time, you’ll sell to clients who have no idea what you do. And they might demand more than you can deliver. For example, I freelance as an inbound marketer (I help build a client’s organic following). Inbound marketing takes time – at least months of consistent effort.

You need to tell them that upfront.

The same is true with designs. Will the changes you make immediately show a dramatic improvement, or would you have to tweak and refine for months to come?

7. Letting The Client Make a Mistake

Letting The Client Make a Mistake

And remember, you’re the expert in the interview. If the client insists on doing things a particular way, and you know it’s not optimal, voice your concerns – even if it is not to your benefit.

For example, I had a client who wanted to build a HTML site. Every change he wants to make in the future, he’ll have to ask my team to do it. It’s good for my business, but not his. So I told him to consider using WordPress instead.

Sure it costs a little more upfront, but he would double his ROI in a year because he won’t have to keep paying me. After that conversation, the client asked me to handle the company’s network instead of just one website – and essentially quadruple what the deal was worth originally.

For more information on how to criticize your client and be loved for it, check out this post on CreativeBoom.

8. Talk About Your Rates

Professionals rarely talk about their rates in the first meeting. If you did everything right, it will almost be an afterthought for the client. You know how you can tell bad clients when they ask for your rates in their first email? It shows they are probably concerned with paying as little as they can get away with – and causing you headaches along the way.

The same is true with contactors. Those who are concerned with their rates more than the client’s problem are probably as cheap as the client who prematurely asks for a contractor’s rates.

9. Not Closing The Client

Remember that this is not a regular interview. This is a consultation. You are a freelancer and they are your clients, not employers. So you need to do what other interviewees don’t: close the client. In my experience, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of an interview. But psychological studies have shown that you don’t “trigger” a person to do what you want to do, only a small percentage will act accordingly.

The good news is, closing the client is simple. Depending on the circumstances, all you have to do is ask, “So are you ready to sign the contract?” or “What else do you need to make the decision?” or “When will you be able to make your decision?”

Never leave a meeting without a clear next step.

10. Relying On a Portfolio or a Resume

This one is a bit of a controversy but it’s the truth: portfolios and resumes are poor selling tools. The reason they are poor selling tools is because

They show nothing but the glitz. Those you are considering hiring you want to be taken backstage. They want to know who you are – your personality and characteristics.

They tell instead of show. You can claim about how awesome hiring you will be to the employer, but who knows you’re not making it all up? Showing people what you did, on the other hand, lends your claims a much higher credibility.

So what can you use to improve your chances of getting hired?

Try case studies.

Case studies take a bit more time and resources to build, but not only will it help you achieve the two things above portfolios can’t do, it will also make you stand out from the sea of applicants. To find out more about building awesome case studies, check this post on Design Modo.

So there, 10 common mistakes freelancers make in interview. Have you made any of them? I sure have. Did I miss other common ones?

I’d be psyched to hear from you in the comments.

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Andrianes Pinantoan

Andrianes Pinantoan

Andrianes Pinantoan is a freelance web writer. He is currently part of the team behind Open Colleges, an online courses provider. When not working, he can be found on Google+.
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