A chill runs down your spine. Your palms are getting sweaty. You've laid it all on the line. You've put yourself "out there." You want them - bad. You share the same goals and ideals. You know you'd be a compatible match. But will they say yes? Or will they reject you?
No, we're not talking about that elusive "perfect man" (or woman). Then again, we might as well be. We're talking about clients - freelance writing clients. Waiting on a response to what you felt was a great pitch can be as nerve-wracking as waiting to hear back from your first grade school crush - "Do you like me? Check yes or no." While (I hope) you don't get this worked up over every pitch or proposal, you're bound to feel this way at least once in a while - like when that dream gig surfaces that you just have to land.
If you find yourself struggling to attract the "right" kind of clients as a freelance writer, you never seem to be able to land that great gig, or you feel like you're constantly being taken advantage of, all you really need to do is take a few lessons from the dating scene:
Lesson 1: Don't Act Desperate
No matter how desperate you might actually feel (whether that's overall or being desperate for a particular gig), never act that way. No one likes it. If you do get the gig, it will be a pity gig, and you don't want those - they don't lead to long-term relationships with mutual respect. You want your prospective clients to respect you.
Don't beg for a writing gig - ever. Never tell a client that you have no other clients and that you desperately need the work. For starters, it looks pathetic and incredibly unprofessional. More importantly though, by doing those things you set yourself up to be taken advantage of. If a client feels like you need that gig badly enough, many have no problem walking all over you - trying to talk you into lower pay, adding onto the project without paying more, etc.
Lesson 2: Be Unavailable
If you're constantly available at your client's every whim, you will be taken for granted. While I can't explain this (in both the dating world and the freelance writing world), when you're in demand with several people or clients, you're suddenly infinitely more attractive to others. That may even mean saying "no" once in a while (and even to regulars).
Always keep a line of "options" open. If you don't have a regular demand for your services yet, get out there and network, market, and build your reputation. The busier your schedule is, the busier it's likely to stay.
Lesson 3: Put Yourself "Out There"
Just as you won't find your Mr. (or Ms.) "Right" if you live like a hermit, you won't find your ideal clients if you dont' get yourself out there and build some exposure.
Network to build connections and relationships. Market your services. Position yourself as an authority source in your niche or the industry you specialize in. You have to be visible if you want to catch the perfect client's eye.
Lesson 4: Honesty Goes a Long Way
Client relationships, like romantic relationships, take work. They need a certain level of honesty and mutual respect to be "healthy."
You probably won't be satisfied (for long at least) with freelance writing jobs where you're expected to simply serve as a "yes man." You probably also won't be satisfied with writing gigs where you feel like your client looks down on you or thinks you're easily replaceable (if you actually are easily replaceable though, you need to work on your marketing and positioning, because you're doing something wrong).
Guess what though, in many cases, your client won't really be happy in these situations either. While they may like hearing that they're right all the time, if it turns out they're not, and their business suffers, they're going to wonder why the professional they hired didn't steer them in the right direction (you've just lost yourself a few trust points, and possibly future gigs or referrals). And while clients might like knowing they can find someone to replace you if you leave, they often like it much more when they feel like you're invested in their business and not likely to want to go anywhere - especially if you get the job done well every time around.
You need to put some effort into understanding your clients (fortunately it's often easier than trying to understand the opposite sex). What are their needs? What are their desires? And what can you do to help them achieve those things? Don't talk down to clients, assuming they couldn't possibly understand what you do, but at the same time, don't be afraid to educate them - I find that the more clients understand what I'm doing for them, the more they appreciate it and keep coming back (because frankly, once they know what's involved, they have no interest in doing it themselves).
Lesson 5: There are Plenty of Fish in the Sea
This is a big one. We've all had our hearts broken. We've all wanted to shoot anyone that dares to tell us we'll "get over it." Yet it always seems to be true, doesn't it? The same is true in the freelance writing world.
You will get rejections. You will have clients to tell you they don't want to work with you anymore or that they want to cancel a project. You will have clients who occasionally just vanish into thin air, even when things seemed to be going great.
You need to avoid getting broken up every time this happens. The truth is that it often isn't about your ability as a writer - maybe the client went away and just forgot to tell you, maybe they vanished because they had to leave unexpectedly to take care of a sick relative, maybe the person you worked with directly left or the company appointed a new person to oversee the particular project and your details were never passed along, maybe they just no longer have the budget for their formerly regular projects with you, maybe there were communication issues or they decided they wanted to work with someone local or in their own time zone, or maybe they decided to hire a full-time staff member to take on future projects.
You won't be the best fit for everything that comes along, no matter how much you may want the gig. Even when there is a problem with your work, you can't take it too personally - remember, negative feedback is as much a part of being in business as positive feedback is. There are other clients. Keep reminding yourself of that - there are other clients. One thing I've noticed is that when I don't land one gig I would have liked, an even better one usually turns up that I do get shortly after. To find those better opportunities though, you have to keep your eyes peeled and be open to the possibility. Don't wallow in disappointment - cast that line again and pull in an even bigger one.
What else can you learn about freelance writing from the dating scene? I'd love to hear some of your own "lessons."