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The best way to make sure your freelance clients love your writing is to write top-notch copy. That much is true. As a professional writer, your skills are your main concern.
But there is more to great copy when it comes to getting clients to love what you’ve done for them. You need to perfect the entire client process so that the experience of hiring you is as excellent as the work you produce. A bad experience can muddy up great final copy. So how do you get your freelance clients to love your work?
Asking the right questions up front is the only way both you and the client will be clear on what’s needed, what’s possible, and what will happen.
Desperation for work often causes us to not want to rock the boat with too many questions, and so we eagerly say yes to put on a facade of confidence and grab the job.
And that’s where the trouble starts. You either don’t have enough information to do the job right, or you have to keep going back to the client to get that information you should have gotten in the first place. That isn’t going to paint a professional image of who you are and how you work. Even if your final product is amazing, you’ve colored the experience for your client.
Questions at the beginning are best. Even if you have a lot.
Find out the specifics, such as how many words the client expects, and when they want the completed project. Find out the background on the project. Perhaps you didn’t know this client prefers interviews as part of the research process. And, dig deep to find the less obvious things the client may not think to tell you. They might assume you already know. Research the client’s publication or blog to find out what kind of writing has been used in the past, and make notes of tone, style, and content.
Know exactly what the client wants; they will appreciate your concern and professionalism as you ask pertinent questions. And they will love the result all the more.
You’ll be more enthusiastic if you write about topics you are knowledgeable, comfortable, and enjoy. Clearly, you can’t always get projects that fit this definition, but make an effort to pursue and retain those that do.
When you write about the things you love, you have already done the research. You are knowledgable not because you had to find information to finish a project, but because you found information over the years to satisfy your own curiosity.
When you write about the things you love, you are writing from experience. You become your own reference, and you don’t have to search the internet high and low to find the thoughts and quotes of others. You are an expert in your own right, and can freely talk.
When you write about the things you love, your enthusiasm shows. You’ll have a fresh take and toss the formulas aside and it will show in your writing.
When you write about the things you love, your client will love what you’ve written for them.
So, when you have a client who is asking you to write on something you don’t love, that’s fine. That’s the job. But if that same client starts to make life miserable for you, pushing boundaries and getting testy about what you charge for freelance writing, consider if you really want to fight that battle.
Remember, you’re not writing for yourself.
In fact, for some writing projects, your name might not even be attached. You can’t approach every writing project as if you are building a public reputation for yourself. Instead, you need to be aware of the voice your client needs, and be that voice for them, because you’re actually building their public reputation with your words.
Clients have chosen you because of your style and that they like your work, but maybe your blunt blog posts that they say they loved aren’t the correct tone for their corporate handbook. It all goes back to asking the right questions, one of which should be to ascertain what tone they are looking for. You may want to speak to their marketing department so that you are on message.
Doesn’t sound like fun, but you can have fun with your own voice on your own blog. When writing for clients, you must become the voice they need.
Self-promotion comes easily for some, but not all. For those of us who struggle with self-promotion, talking about yourself feels icky; talking about your work and selling it feels even worse.
But you have to.
You could present your client with the same finished product without much fanfare, or you could present it to them with both an attitude of confidence and essentially sell it back to them, and they’d prefer the latter. Why would you sell it back to them when they already paid for it? They’ve hired you, haven’t they? That ought to be enough.
Your client wants you to give them confidence about your work. They want you to reassure them that they didn’t make a mistake in paying you money to write for them. Maybe you don’t have to do it after you’ve been in a working relationship for quite a while, but at the beginning, especially, you need to help your client love your work by showing them that you love your work, too. It’s a way of showing them you’re giving them your best, and that you’re not haphazard about their project.
Show your client respect. Again, your client’s take on your work often has less to do with how great you writing is, but how their experience working with you was. If you respect your client, their experience will be a good one.
Time is money. You know that, as a freelancer. The same applies to your client. They have a deadline for a reason; it fits their time schedule. When you turn a project it past a deadline or barely under the wire, you can cost them money. Clients love your work. They’ll love it even more if you get it to them on time.
Understanding the importance of meetings is part of the first step, in a way. You will want to clarify the meeting schedule at the beginning. Make sure the client is aware of who will be communicating with them (you? a virtual assistant?), and how often that communication will happen. Both of you should have an understanding of how the meetings will work; they may have a system they prefer to use with their freelance writers. To make sure that you and your client are on the same page with meetings, you might want to create a worksheet or outline of the process and make sure both you and the client have a copy.
No client wants to feel as if they were forgotten, or be forced to touch base with you just to make certain that you were still working on their important project. Let them know that things are going well.
These five steps aren’t all that unusual; most professionals who have had a bit of experience and learned from early freelance client work are already doing them. The second step is tough, because it is an ideal that we can’t always make happen overnight. It is, however, a goal to keep in mind as we choose and reject clients. The fourth step is tough for many based on personal principles. You might have become a freelancer to avoid dealing with people at work, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. You have to sell your work, even when they have already paid.
And, of course, a good experience (or a bad one) will trump the work itself. Be mindful of the experience your client is receiving.
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