Finding and retaining clients can be frustrating and a constant struggle for freelance writers. But it does not have to be.
While having different clients offers variety in writing output, there are benefits to long-term relationships such as:
- having a constant revenue stream
- spending less resources on marketing
- the familiarity that accompanies a long-term client
- not constantly learning about a new client/product/area.
Constant engagement of new writers is also tiresome for clients. Clients would love to retain a freelance writer who they can depend on to deliver quality content on time.
But how can you increase the likelihood that a client will re-engage you? One of the best ways of accomplishing this is by turning clients into fans of your work.
And how do you do this?
Here are some tips from my personal experience that can help to tilt the scale in your favour and turn clients into lifetime fans.
1. Be reliable – do not make promises that you cannot keep
This is essential. I know it is exciting to land that contract and you may be tempted to promise the client the world to ensure you get the job. However, one of the worst things you could do to your freelance career is to make promises that you cannot deliver on.
I have told clients “no” to timeline requests that I knew I could not meet, and they always accept my revised timeline.
Failing to deliver on promises can destroy your credibility/reputation and your career. Reputation is essential to a freelance writer getting hired, maintain it.
2. Be reachable
Answer the phone calls, respond to the emails, join the online meetings (and be on time). Always get back to a (potential) client on time.
Even a quick email acknowledging receipt of their email and stating that you will respond in detail shortly will be appreciated. If a client cannot reach you, they will not be encouraged to keep engaging you as they do have options.
3. Always deliver on time (and tell your clients if you can’t)
Deliver when you say you will, and even ahead of the deadline. Yes, life happens, and the client understands this, but if some unforeseen circumstance is going to cause you to miss a deadline, let the client know this and do so before the deadline! Personally, I aim to deliver ahead of time.
4. Maintain quality
This is a no-brainer but its importance bears reinforcing. Make quality content a trademark of your work. Accurate, credible, error-free, are some of the words that should describe your work. Aim to produce content to a level where the client can feel confident to publish your work without reading it.
5. Know what is required of you (ask questions!)
Just as you would not try to build a car without knowing what to do, you should not start a writing job before knowing what is required of you!
Do your requirements gathering. Regardless of how familiar you are with the topic, still gather as much information as you can before writing that first sentence. Develop a detailed brief of all possible questions to ask, especially to new clients, and get your answers prior to starting the job.
Do not be afraid to ask questions, you’ll be glad you did!
6. Be knowledgeable
Do not write about what you do not know. If a client contacts you with a project and you know nothing about the topic, it is OK (and usually best) to say no. You do not want to produce content that shows your unfamiliarity with the topic. The audience can usually sense your lack of confidence and you can lose both your credibility and the client.
I have turned down a long-standing client’s request to take on email marketing work as that is not my strength. They respected my decision and remained my client.
If you can research and learn about the topic and produce quality content on time, then go for it. It is usually advisable, however, to stick to your area of expertise.
7. Exceed expectations
A client hires you with certain expectations – quality, engaging content, timeliness, etc. To turn clients into lifetime fans and keep them coming back, you need to exceed those expectations.
How can you do this?
- Go that extra mile – read the brief in full, more than once, so that you know what is being asked and what is required of you
- Do some additional research – so you can add a bit more oomph to the finished product (I always do additional research even when I receive a reference list from my clients)
- Learn all you can about the client – so that you can anticipate their needs
- Suggest things a client may not realize they need – or solve a problem a client did not know they had
- Suggest a new topic to blog about – add a new dimension to a given topic, or provide feedback on how they can increase website traffic (I once suggested changing the name of a document I was contracted to edit because I did not think the name truly reflected the contents of the document, and the client gratefully accepted my suggestion)
- Be helpful, even if you’re not taking on the job –if you have to say no to a client for reasons such as the topic being outside your expertise, or you do not have the time to commit to the job, try and re-direct the client to someone who you know can do an awesome job.
Freelance writing need not be synonymous with constantly searching for new clients.
Having long-term clients can be beneficial. If you want to keep clients coming back, practice the tips above to help you turn clients into lifetime fans, and become their go-to freelance writer.