Congrats! You landed a new client.
You finish fine-tuning your first draft and send it to her by email.
The next day, she writes you back:
“Thanks, we will issue payment.”
And you never hear from her again. You spent money on a paid job board to find that client and invested many hours drafting a proposal for her.
You were hoping all that effort would result in a future retainer contract. But she disappeared and now you’ve got to go back to hustling.
Wondering what went wrong? The bad news is that it probably wasn’t her, it was you.
Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re as charming as Glinda the good witch.
But I’ve seen too many freelancers make crucial mistakes when servicing their clients, which results in getting ghosted.
The good news is that you can put an end to client break-ups by being just a little more attentive to your clients’ needs.
Here are 3 things that you might have done to cause a break-up with a client, and how to avoid them in the future…
1. You’re not available
Here’s another real-life scenario. You closed a content writing deal with a new client and you agreed to deliver your first article by the end of the day.
Just as you were about to churn out that article, you get a call from a relative who’s in town for a surprise visit. She asks you to meet for lunch. You think ‘No problem. I’m a freelancer. I can work on it this evening’.
As you sit in the café, sipping an iced coffee and catching up with your relative, you miss a phone call from your client.
She also sends you a Whatsapp: “Hey, how’s it going with the draft? Just wanted to confirm that I will get it by the end of the day?”
It’s almost 2:00 pm. You still need to pay for lunch, drive home and do dinner and bedtime with the kids. You ignore your client’s message and make a promise to yourself that you’ll buckle down and get the article done as fast as you possibly can.
The clock strikes 6:00 pm, which is end of the day for your client. You get another Whatsapp:
“Hey, haven’t heard from you. Can you please let me know what is going on with the article?”
This time, you answer: “Hi, sorry for not replying sooner. I will send you the article tonight.”
You email the draft to your client at 11:58 pm. Your client doesn’t see it until they arrive to work at 9:00 am the next morning, and they are disappointed.
Working on a schedule that suits your lifestyle is great. It’s the upside to freelance writing, and it’s what you’re supposed to do. Just don’t take the flexibility too far. In most cases, your clients work a regular job, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and they expect you to service them during business hours.
If a client reaches out to check the status of a draft and you don’t reply for many hours, they will think you are unreliable and not committed to the work. Part of servicing clients is about making them feel like they are being taken care of. They didn’t just hire you to put down words on a page. They hired you to take a responsibility off their shoulders and they are counting on you to deliver. By disappearing, you make them nervous and worried that the work isn’t getting done. This looks especially bad if they have paid you 50% up front.
You can enjoy your flexibility, just make sure that you are always doing a few things in parallel to keep your clients happy:
- Answer client emails and messages within 1 hour. You can still be on the beach, at a café or waiting for the dentist. Simply write something back like “Hey [Name], seeing this now but I’m away from my desk. Will respond a bit later with the updates you asked about.”
If they call and you can’t talk, send a Whatsapp or an SMS saying you will get back to them within the hour. You don’t have to supply answers right away, just make contact so that they know you are accessible and that you are committed to servicing them.
- Set due dates that suit your schedule. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve worked with freelance writers who don’t deliver on time. When I ask where the draft is, they say “I was going to make some final edits on it tonight and then send it over by 10:00 pm”.
Don’t do that. If you can’t make a 6:00 pm deadline because you prefer to work at night, set due dates for the next morning. Your client will smile when they open their inbox at 9:00 am and see your draft, polished and on time.
2. You don’t want to meet in person
I really, really get this one. Meeting a client in person can be a huge drag, especially if their offices are far away from where you live. Getting all dressed up and putting on makeup for one meeting seems like such a waste of time when you can just Skype. But I can assure you that it’s not.
Again, your clients are most likely company employees and they are used to having face-to-face meetings with their colleagues. They want to know that there’s a real person taking care of their writing, someone they can have a personal connection with and trust with their work.
Shying away from meeting in person could make your clients weary of trusting you. They may think that you have something to hide. And people don’t want to work with other sketchy people. So, if your client wants to meet in person, agree to it and try to book a time that’s easier for you. Mid-morning when there is less traffic or at 5 pm where your spouse can be at home with the kids are good options.
3. You don’t ask questions
Most clients don’t know how to brief their writers properly. They will send you briefs with missing information, not enough sources to base your research on, unclear messaging and instructions. A lot of writers will try to guess what their client wants. They will write without the sources that they need to do a good job, because they think asking the client for clarification will make them look like an amateur. Unless you are a mind reader, your draft will not meet your client’s expectations. You could get feedback like “You didn’t understand what I wanted.” Or “This is not good.”
When you get stuck or you feel like you’re missing information, don’t try to figure it out on your own. You’re a freelance writer, not a detective. Call the client, ask them questions and your writing will be much better for it. It shows your clients that you care and that you take their projects seriously.
Now it’s your turn…
Think of the way that you service your clients. Have you done anything I mentioned above? Implement one of my tips, starting today, to improve your service and see if you notice a change. For example, start responding to client messages faster or set a due date for your next project that is more realistic for your lifestyle. As always, I want to hear how it goes, so contact me to tell me your experience!