You’ve been hired for a freelance writing job. Hooray! If you’re like a lot of us, your journey to get that gig went something like this:
But if you want to build a freelance writing business, don’t stop there.
You’ve got another opportunity right at your doorstep — the opportunity to turn that one-time gig into an ongoing one with steady work and regular pay. You can embrace that opportunity by taking a few simple steps.
Think about it. What if you didn’t have to beat the bushes, again and again, each week to get more gigs? You could plan your days around writing rather than pitching.
When you get hired over and over by the same client, you can know that each month you’ll write 4 blog posts for her. Or you’ll put together a newsletter for her. Or you complete one grant application for her and immediately start on another.
“An entrepreneur’s holy grail.” That is what Forbes magazine calls an anchor client — the repeat customer that uses your services long term. An anchor client provides steady, predictable work. Regular assignments mean stability to a freelancer. When you accumulate a handful of anchor clients, you have plenty of work … and plenty of paychecks.
Try these tips when you get one freelance writing job that you’d like to turn into an ongoing gig.
You’ve got an assignment in hand. Look at it as an audition. Your first assignment is an opportunity to deliver your best performance.
A professional orchestra conducts auditions to fill an open position, much like a law firm conducts a series of interviews with potential candidates. During my decades as a musician, I underwent the audition process numerous times. In an audition’s first round, the candidates perform for a short span — typically 5–10 minutes. The hiring committee can determine quickly whether or not they would like to hear the candidate again in the second round. Clearly, as a candidate, I strove to perform at my peak during the audition so I could advance to the next round.
Your first assignment with a client is like an audition, except you get paid. And while you always want to produce your best work, an audition/first assignment is a unique situation. This is not the time to be sloppy, careless, apathetic, shy, or afraid.
Instead, you want to knock this project out of the park. And you want to be easy to work with. The client hired you to write. He doesn’t want to hold your hand while you’re typing. To do that, make sure you …
If you agree to deliver your project by Friday at noon, make sure it’s in your client’s inbox well before 11:59 AM.
Better yet — send it on Thursday afternoon so it’s there on Friday morning when she checks her email. You’ll set yourself apart by being punctual and reliable.
If you’re writing an article, offer a sidebar. If you’re writing an email campaign, offer three or four subject lines, rather than just one. If you’re writing web content, include internal links to pages that are already on the client’s website.
Bottom line: overdeliver.
In fact, it’s better to under-promise at the front end to give yourself some wiggle room. “When something needs to be switched out last minute or they want something specific in there that wasn’t included in the assignment details, my response is always ‘I’m on it, I’ve got it,’” says Long Island writer and editor Janene Mascarella. “A lot of times … that trumps everything else.”
You’ve submitted your project and your client is pleased/happy/delighted with your work. Now what?
Ask him this question: “What else can I help you with?” You can even add, “I notice you haven’t updated your website (or posted on your blog) in a while. Is that something you’d like help with?”
Notice you’re not to ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” That’s a simple Yes-No question. And it’s really easy for the client to answer, “No.”
But when you ask, “What else can I help you with?” you invite the client to think down the road. What other projects does he foresee? And now that you’ve worked with him, you have the chance to make suggestions. What kinds of content are missing from his arsenal?
Think about it from the client’s perspective. He has just worked with a freelance writer that has produced a quality piece of content on time. Maybe now he can move forward with some other projects and not have to hold someone’s hand while doing so. That someone could be you … if you ask.
Let’s say you finish up your freelance writing job that’s first class. You deliver the content ahead of schedule and turn around the edits in 24 hours. The client is thrilled and says so. You’ve asked, “What else can I help you with?” But right now, she doesn’t need writing help with anything else.
Notice the qualifier: “right now.”
But what about in a month? Or six months? You want to stay in touch with people you’ve worked with. One project can lead to many more down the road.
For instance, a development director for a small nonprofit found me on a web search. Typically, he wrote the agency’s content. But he needed an email campaign series and didn’t have time to write it himself. It was a simple one-and-done project. I was able to deliver solid content before the deadline.
“Thanks,” he said. “This was great.” I gave my usual spiel — “What else can I help you with?” But he was covered. I added him to my email list so that he could get regular writing tips from me and so that my name stayed in front of him.
To be honest, I didn’t think I’d hear from him again. But several months later, he emailed me with a need for a blog post. Soon, I was writing his monthly newsletter.
Moral of the story: don’t burn your bridges. Build them instead.
Deliver quality work, on time, that exceeds expectations. Offer your help for other projects and offer to stay in touch. Do that — and you’ll turn one freelance writing job into regular work from anchor clients who ask for your services over and over.
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