5 Things Your Freelance Writing Clients Wish You Knew

I spent almost a decade working as a freelance writer: first as a journalist, then as a copywrite...

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I spent almost a decade working as a freelance writer: first as a journalist, then as a copywriter. I’ve had plenty of great clients, and a few not-so-great clients. But I’ve never managed my own team of freelance writers until this past year.

Nothing has taught me more about freelance writing than sitting on the other side of the client-freelancer relationship. It’s completely transformed my perspective. And while I no longer have the time to freelance, I’ll be keeping these five tips in mind should I ever return.

1. Follow directions.

This will set you above two-thirds of your competition. Two-thirds! Just for following directions! It sounds silly, but it’s true. If a prospective client asks you to email you a PDF copy of your resume, don’t send it to her via Facebook attachment. Don’t send it in a Word doc. Email a PDF. Getting these little details right reveals that you can follow more important directions when the actual assignment arrives.

2. Be responsive.

Dirty secret: As a freelance writer, I used to wait a day or two before replying to prospective clients. Why? I thought it would make me seem busy, and therefore important. Then I became a client, and I realized how invaluable it is to have a writer who responds within hours, not days. It shows that she’s prompt, engaged in the project, and may even have availability for last-minute assignments. Which ultimately translates to more work, and more money in her pocket.

3. Follow up.

As a freelance writer, I assumed clients clients would call me if they wanted to work with me again. I rarely followed up, because I worried it would bother them. Then I became a client, and found myself handing out more assignments to the writers who’d called to check in.

This strategy can backfire if you follow up too often. But a quick phone call to check the status of a project, or an email reaffirming your availability, may net you more work.

4. Be human.

Remember the names of your client’s kids. Ask how his vacation went. If you found the direction he provided helpful, tell him. I rarely did any of this as a freelance writer, because I saw my clients as the top of the food chain. I assumed they wouldn’t care what I thought. But now, I love it when freelance writers take the time to strike up a personal conversation.
Like following up, this can backfire if done too often, or without tact. But a little friendliness can go along way.

5. Set boundaries.

This was always hard for me as a freelance writer, because I never knew the line between “reliable service provider” and “doormat.” (See tip two for more proof of this.) Now I know that it’s the writer’s job to set boundaries.

In funneling work to my team, I rely on them to tell me how many hours they can handle per week, how fast they can turn projects around, and when they’re available. If someone tells me they can work nights and weekends, great! I’ll keep her in mind for fast-turnaround assignments. If someone tells me he’s only available during business hours, that works for me too — and I appreciate not having to guess if he can handle an evening request. The clearer and more upfront writers are about their boundaries, the easier time I have scheduling work and keeping everyone happy.

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