Your freelance writing business involves more than research, writing, and editing. There's the whole "business" side of the equation too. And an important part of running the business behind your freelance writing is managing client relationships.
Let's explore a few things you should keep in mind as a freelance writer when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with clients and prospects.
The Client Isn't Always Right
And that's okay. Neither are you, right? It's important that you know it's okay to say "no" to a client or potential client. You can turn down a gig, even if you want to keep working with the client on other things. You can say no to requests to work for lower pay, and it doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose the client in the process. And you can fight for things in your finished work that you feel strongly about before blindly accepting every edit request a client makes.
Remember that the best clients aren't looking for "yes men." They're looking for professionals who can help them make the best decisions about their projects. You can be firm with them. They should understand it's business. Just stay polite about it.
Sometimes You Have to Initiate Contact
Maybe you haven't heard from one of your favorite clients in a while. That must mean they were unhappy with your work, right? Otherwise they'd have contacted you about another gig by now. Wrong.
Don't assume that clients have to be the ones to reach out all the time. They get busy. They probably have to manage multiple projects and multiple employees or contractors. Reach out and reconnect once in a while. Even if they don't have any work for you at that time, you'll stay fresh in their mind. It's important to keep in touch.
Also, pitching a project won't make you look desperate. It tells them you understand their business and have their interests at heart as much as your own (like reminding them of the success a holiday email campaign had last year and seeing if they're interested in repeating it as that holiday approaches again).
It's Okay to Ask for Referrals
When a client is happy with your work, they'll often be happy to refer you to others. In an ideal situation they'll spread the word among their own network without you having to ask. But in many cases they simply don't think to do it. Maybe no one directly asked them for referrals, so offering one didn't cross their mind.
If you know a client is happy with your writing, it's perfectly okay to ask them to refer you to others. Some freelancers even offer them a discount on a future project if their referrals lead to a new contract. I'd even recommend that for newer freelancers who are still trying to build their client base and demand. Don't be nervous about it. The worst that will happen is that they won't know anyone to refer you to. And in that case you can (and should) ask them for a testimonial that you can share on your professional website.
These are three elements of client relationship management that I've known some freelancers to struggle with. But of course there are other keys to maintaining good relationships with your clients. For example:
- You shouldn't talk about clients publicly when you want to vent (although there are some exceptions like larger companies that make a habit of exploiting you and your colleagues, where it makes sense to warn your network).
- You should keep a client's internal business information confidential.
- You should always be polite when dealing with a client or their employees, even if you're dealing with a touchy subject.
- You shouldn't be afraid to ask questions, especially at the start of a project. Everyone benefits when terms and details are clear.
What other tips would you give newer freelance writers on building and managing their client relationships? Have you struggled with any of these in the past? Tell us about it in the comments.