It would be wonderful if your freelance writing business rolled along smoothly, wouldn’t it? (You got all the gigs you applied for, you always got paid on time, and all of your clients loved you.) It sounds great, I know. Hopefully, most of the time all of these things happen for you.
One of the most significant advantages of working as a freelancer is the ability to choose a work schedule that suits you. Working for yourself allows you more time, flexibility, and control over the projects you take on. Indeed, 53% of freelancers say they feel more secure as independents than they did in traditional employment. However, the advantages of self-employment are significantly reduced if you accept every job opportunity offered to you.
For people employed in the fields of translation and writing, a daily work schedule is generally imposed by their employers. They’re supplied with a certain amount of work they are capable of completing within their office hours and kept on track with regular meetings to determine the best course of action when tackling projects. But how do you manage an equivalent workload as a freelancer, and keep the work rolling in? [Read more…]
I’ve worked with scores of freelance writers in my editing career. Guess how many have asked me to refer them to other clients? One.
Yup, just one. Oh, I’ve provided plenty of references and the occasional testimonial, but as for anyone flat-out asking me for names of those who could benefit from their writing services? Just the one. I remember it not only because it was the sole request of its kind, but because I was happy to oblige it. But more on that later.
If you’re not asking for referrals, you’re losing a big opportunity to grow your client base and make more money. [Read more…]
As a freelance writer, you can’t ever settle. Even if you have a handful of clients keeping you busy for 60 hours each week, you can’t back down. Even if you’re working as an independent contractor, those jobs can go just as quickly as they came. If you want to be successful for a long time, you can’t just focus on client acquisition. You need to place a heavy emphasis on client retention.
How to Keep Long-Term Clients
There’s a commonly perpetuated myth among writers that once you have a client, they’re yours forever. While most freelancers won’t come out and directly say this, they essentially believe it. After all, most writers heavily invest time and resources in client acquisition and then hit cruise control once the client inks a deal.
When considering clients, you have to think of them as people, not businesses. If you treat a client like a business, you’ll eventually lose their interest. However, by treating them like the living, breathing individuals they are, you can give them exactly what they’re looking for. Keeping that in mind, here are a handful of effective client retention tips specifically designed with freelance writers in mind:
- Be smart about whom you work with. Most writers get 80 percent of their work from 20 percent of their clients. It’s your responsibility to identify and focus on this 20 percent. Don’t neglect the other clients, but spend most of your energy building healthy relationships with your highest-producing clients.
- Build offline relationships. If you work with local clients, it’s extremely helpful to develop offline relationships. You’re much less likely to be let go or passed over if you have a face-to-face relationship with the client. It may take time and creativity to transition from online to offline, but you’ll feel much more secure when you’re able to do so.
- Be responsive. One of the best things you can do is make responsiveness a priority. People want to work with people they can depend on. During the week, you should make it a point to respond to every correspondence within a matter of hours. You may not be able to fully address an issue immediately, but shooting out a quick email that reads “Got your call – will get back to you ASAP” goes a long way.
- Ask for feedback. Do you have a feedback generation strategy? If not, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to improve. If you’ve been working with a client for a while, ask them for feedback. Not only does this provide you with valuable insights, but it also shows your clients that you’re actively seeking to improve.
- Implement anticipatory service. Instead of waiting for problems to arise, your goal should be to implement anticipatory service that proactively identifies issues and alleviates the causes. One example of anticipatory service is when airlines send out texts to customers to notify them that there’s been a delay. You should be looking at common problems and identifying ways to stop them before they start.
Never Let Up
When you think about client retention, it may be helpful to consider the analogy of a race car driver. All racers are focused on two things: going fast and winning. In order to win, they have to press the gas pedal down and kick the car into full throttle. In doing so, the driver may build a significant lead over the course of the race. However, if they decide they’re going to let up on the gas on the final lap, the rest of the pack will certainly catch up and pass them.
Just because things are going well, doesn’t mean you can let up on the gas. No matter how long you’ve been in the lead – or had a client – a single decision to get comfortable may come back to bite you. Don’t worry; use these tips and you’ll be just fine.
Finding freelance writing jobs is not the easiest of activities. You’ll probably attest to that. This is why we have those periods when we can barely make ends meet in spite of scouring websites for jobs.
Whether you check our daily listings of freelance writing jobs, look for jobs on this website or do Google searches using the keyword “freelance writing jobs” and all its variations, there are times when you won’t have as much work as you need.
Then there are those times when you bite off more than you can chew. It happens to the best of us – whether it’s because you take on more clients or existing clients give you more work (which you feel you can’t say no to). The result is the same: work overflow.
This can lead to stress – both physically and mentally, which can then lead to subpar work or missing deadlines.
What to do when you have work overflow, and you want to deliver quality work on time? Here are some practical tips.
Work longer hours.
This one’s a no brainer. You simply have to work longer hours. You will also have to pass up on extra-curricular activities that you normally engage in – at least until you get all the work done. These could be going out for coffee with friends, going shopping, or watching a movie. After all, it’s a small sacrifice you have to make. You’ll be meeting your deadlines, making your clients happy, and getting paid for it.
Focus, focus, focus!
What do the terms “rigid structure” and “more focused” mean exactly?
If you don’t use a calendar to plan out your day, then this is the time to do so. Estimate the time you will need to write one article and indicate that in your calendar. Do this for all your tasks so that you know just how long it will take you to finish everything. Here’s the crucial part: follow whatever is written down in your calendar. Use a timer if you have to.
That being said, don’t forget to set aside time to eat! Working longer doesn’t mean depriving yourself of basic necessities.
Be a lean, mean writing machine. Whatever it is that gets you in your writing zone, do it. It’s been said so many times, but close all windows that are distractions – Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Turn off sounds and notifications. Focus on one thing alone: the article you are working on.
Do this one article at a time, and you’ll get done faster.
If you really can’t cope with the work overflow, there is always the option of outsourcing your work.
Pro: Your load gets lighter.
Cons: You don’t earn as much as you have to pay the other writer. Also, you need to ensure that writer you outsource to meets your standards, which may not always be easy.
Tell your client/s.
If worse comes to worst, and you really cannot handle your workload, it’s time to face the music. You have to tell your client/s your situation. You can then ask if an extension is possible and offer other options. The important thing is to be honest about everything AND to offer a solution to your problem. That way, your client/s will get the impression that, while you are unable to meet the terms you initially agreed upon, you are still in control of the situation professionally.
Have you had to deal with this situation? What did you do to fix it?
Christmas is only a couple of weeks away, and you may have gotten everyone in your circle of family and friends presents by now. But have you thought about sending Christmas greeting cards to your clients?
In the spirit of the Halloween season, talking about some of the horrific experiences of freelance writers – in other words, our horror stories. Difficult clients, scope creeps, non-paying clients, scammers, and technical issues are just some of them.
Jodee recently wrote about scope creeps and how to deal with them. She explains that when you “start working on a project that you think is going to encompass one set of parameters and then what is expected of you starts growing beyond your original understanding”, you’re probably working with a scope creep.
We actually got feedback from one of you, which is a rather horrific experience. Deborah Boerema shares her horror story:
…a gig for China Education Publishing House Group Limited (CEPHG) that involved rewriting some classic children’s fairy tales and developing practice exercises to go with them. The finished project was intended to help Chinese children prepare for the Cambridge English Young Learners exam.
After writing and revising several rounds of samples for CEPHG, I was offered a contract in mid-February. The payment of $700 per fairy tale sounded better than many other freelance gigs. My contract was for three fairy tales, so I was pleased that I would be earning over $2000.
Like many writing projects, this turned into a lot more work and required much more time than originally expected. Each fairy tale had to be expanded into nine chapters, and each chapter had to have six accompanying practice exercises. Specific vocabulary had to be included in the stories, and specific grammar skills had to be covered in the exercises. The language barrier made it challenging to always understand what CEPHG wanted. However, I finally completed and submitted all the stories and exercises to them. I estimate I ended up earning under $3 per hour by the time I was finished.
I received payment for 70% of the amount due to me in mid-July. I have been told I will not receive the remaining 30% of the amount due to me until after their illustrators complete their work. Apparently, I will be asked to proofread the books after they are illustrated. I found out this morning that other projects have postponed the illustrations until the end of this month.
She ends with some advice for other freelance writers:
I thought some of the other freelance writers who use your site might benefit from my experience when considering whether to work with a foreign contractor. You might also want to consider my experience before accepting gig posts from foreign contractors.
What’s a difficult client, exactly?
The description probably varies, but in my opinion, a difficult client can be a scope creep (although not in the degree that Deborah experienced). This client will keep on asking for revisions, many of them unnecessary.
A difficult client can also be one who gives specific feedback, even specific sentences/paragraphs, to use in the article. However, when you send the revised version, the client complains and wants changes – even those he himself provided! This is not only frustrating, but can turn out to be a huge loss due to the time you spend revising.
Yes. Been there. Done that. Definitely one of the horrific experiences a freelance writer will encounter at some point.
A client can also be difficult if he keeps bugging you via email or chat, even at odd hours, expecting immediate replies. Here are a few of things you can do to avoid this:
- Set expectations from the get go. Inform your client about your work hours, what time/s you can be on chat, and your email response time.
- Avoid giving your phone number. Imagine receiving an “urgent” call from a client during dinner!
- Use a different email/chat account for clients. This way, you can implement the first suggestion more easily.
Long ago, when I first started freelance writing, I had this one client who sent work in batches. The arrangement was she would pay at the end of every month when I sent the invoice. No problem, right? This is what the arrangements are in most cases anyway.
The problem is that after a couple of months of paying on time, she started paying late. At first, I was okay with it, thinking that perhaps she was waiting for money to come in as well. The next month, however, she just disappeared off the face of the planet. I sent follow up emails and hit her up on chat (I could see she was online) several times, to no avail. At the end of the day, I didn’t get paid.
So what could I have done? Here are some resources to help you:
Which of these horrific experiences have you encountered? What other experiences do you have that you can share with the community so we can all learn from them? Feel free to share your story in the comments!
As a freelancer, I always feel like I’m the one being interviewed. I present proposals, provide estimates or bids, and generally answer every question a client has with honesty, integrity, and the hope of landing the job. Over the years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: I’m not the only one who should be evaluated for appropriateness for a job; I need to evaluate the client.
Early on in my career, I accepted a job writing stories. I was pretty naïve and didn’t really ask much. I mean, the client told me how many words and gave me specific guidelines for content and asked me to be creative. The stories were to be about women who wore high heels despite bunion discomfort. I didn’t ask any questions. I honestly thought it was for a podiatry office or a new product for making shoes more comfortable. I submitted the first story about a woman at a conference, on her feet, preoccupied with bunion pain. She returned to her hotel room, soaked her feet and put them up. That was it. And then the client admitted he was a foot fetishist and needed these stories to… you know. After I washed my hands and sterilized my keyboard, I tried to cut him loose. He kept asking for more stories and pictures of my feet. Obviously, I have blocked him from communicating further.
How could I have prevented this uncomfortable situation? I should have asked questions. There are writers out there who would have gladly written his shoe stories, but I wasn’t one of them. If I had only asked the audience for the stories, perhaps I would have come to the realization that this wasn’t the client for me.
I have avoided requests for erotica or content that I wouldn’t want on my professional resume. If that’s your niche, then go for it. For me, I was interested in a more broad range of other professional topics.
That’s when I was asked to write a book about relationships.
The specific job was to write a book aimed at men who want to rekindle a relationship that has gone stale over time. I started out with a discussion of the psychology of a long term relationship and worked my way into what is necessary for “upkeep”. I submitted this chapter and was told that I needed to get to the nitty-gritty physical side of things. I questioned my client and said, “I don’t write porn”, and was assured that he only wanted to explore the physical part of improving a relationship. Okay, I can do physical. With the aid of photos from Gray’s Anatomy, I explained the female genitalia. I pointed out that foreplay is a good thing as is setting the mood.
You can probably guess how this was received by my client. He wanted me to “be more graphic”. I tried to explain sexting and gave examples and just as I was about to move on to more about creating excitement and anticipation, he sent me the proposed title. It contained the words “wet” and “begging”. I refunded the money he had paid for the first chapters, told him not to use my content, and told him that I had clearly stated that I would not write porn. He tried several times to get me to reconsider and offered to change the title, but what he wanted me to write wasn’t what I signed up for. It hurt to refund his money because I had earned it, but I was working through a bidding site and didn’t want my reputation to take a hit, so I did it.
And then there was Mary (not her real name). I met her in a Linkedin group for Professional Women. She wanted a collaborator for a white paper. At least that’s what she said. We spoke on the telephone and we clearly discussed what she wanted and agreed that I would provide portions of content for her review and we could discuss any changes.
I posted on Linkedin that I was taking on new clients and to contact me via message or my website. Mary got very upset. Apparently she thought I could only work one job at a time. Then she was angry with the content I presented to her, though it was exactly what we had discussed. I was working from her notes. She sent me terrible notes, calling me names. Apparently, all she really wanted was a proofreader for her own version of her white paper, but this was NOT what she had said. And I didn’t have it in writing. She refused to pay me for the work and research that I had already done. I was shocked. Such unprofessional behavior from someone who appeared to be professional from her profile was definitely unexpected. And her white paper? It wasn’t a white paper at all. It was just a sales article.
These are my biggest mistakes. I’ve made others, for sure, but these offered the most learning. Save yourself some aggravation and learn from my mistakes:
- Ask questions. Find out exactly who your client is and what they want. If the job is unusual, don’t be afraid to ask what it is for or who the intended audience will be.
- If the scope of a project changes, don’t be afraid to discuss this with your client and try to come to a compromise. If the project is something that goes against your morals or is not what you signed up for, quitting is not a bad thing. Having to work on something that really bothers you IS a bad thing.
- Get everything in writing. Use a contract. Make sure there is a clause stating that the client owes you for any work done, even if the job is cancelled partway through. You need this to protect yourself from people who don’t know what they want and will try to get free work or simply stiff you for your fee. I also use a recorder for Skype conversations and send follow up emails with notes from the conversations.
Yes, as a freelancer I’m used to being interviewed to make sure I’m a good fit for a job. Now I know that as a freelancer I have to interview the client to make sure they are a good fit for me.