Client Relationship Reminders for Freelance Writers

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.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

6 thoughts on “Client Relationship Reminders for Freelance Writers”

  1. Jenn, another tip I’d add is don’t respond to the client’s email too quickly, particularly if you’re unhappy. But even when I’m happy with the client and they are happy with me I’ve developed the habit of reading their email, then letting it settle a bit – an hour or so maybe – then rereading it and responding.

    Have also found it’s totally okay to ask questions even in the middle of a project… any time actually.

    • Definitely Anne (re: asking questions). There’s nothing wrong with asking questions throughout the project as long as they’re not nagging or “lazy questions” (as in you keep asking questions because you don’t pay attention up front or to what they gave you in a project brief). I’ve had that happen with some contractors I’ve hired in the past, and it’s incredibly frustrating. Clients hire freelancers at least in part to save them time. Getting things clarified up front goes a long way toward doing that and can help cut down on some of the back and forth later. Usually at least.

      Great point about email responses too Anne. It’s so easy to jump the gun with the immediacy of email.

  2. Great tips, Jenn, especially about asking for referrals. I don’t know why, but I never used to do that. It wasn’t until an unusually slow time that I had a head-slap, Duh moment when I thought – ask your clients for referrals! They were all more than happy to do that. And just today I landed a new client from a referral from an existing client. It works. 😉

    Building on your suggestion of initiating a call, stay in regular contact by sending them articles of interest or reports you think they’d like. Clients move around and you could end up with more work when they land at a new employer. I had one long-time client where I kept her former employer as a client and gained a new client from her new employer.

    I call it breeding new clients. 😉

  3. I do have an open communication with my client. I make suggestions to her that will probably help her business as well as giving feedback about the work if I notice something that should need her attention.

    • That sounds like a good plan Connor. I know over the years my happiest clients have been the ones who see that I treat their businesses like I do my own. I try to go above and beyond to help them get the most of the writing they hire me to complete, help them fix any problems I come across whether or not it’s directly related to what I’m hired to do, and offering related marketing and PR tips when applicable. When you show your clients that you’re really invested in their success, they remember that.


Leave a Comment