I’ve started working with several new clients recently, and with each one, I hope to develop long-term relationships with the promise of ongoing assignments. While I’m excited about these new developments, I’m also nervous about starting something new.
Several questions keep stirring inside my head: Will I make a strong first impression? Will they like my work? Will they hire me for more than one assignment? If the client is pleased with our work, three things may possibly happen:
* a productive, working relationship for the long term
* more assignments from the same client (repeat business)
* potential referrals to new clients
Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your standing with a new client so they will come back to you again and again. If they know they can count on you to produce quality, well-researched feature articles for their publication, they will keep inviting you to write for them.
Here are my tips and suggestions for breaking in with a new client.
1. Get details in writing about the assignment. More often than not, they will send you a writing sheet that describes the assignment in detail, including word count, due date, maybe even other articles written about the topic. The writing sheet (sometimes called writer’s guidelines) may also include sources to interview, especially if it’s a trade publication. If the client does not provide anything like this, ask them for the details in writing, even if it comes in an email. I like getting these details in writing so I know what is expected of me.
2. Follow the writer’s guidelines. The client may have specific formatting requirements, such as capitalizing subheads or spelling out acronyms at first mention. They may ask for headshots of the people you interview. Make sure you follow these instructions. Freelancers can lose a client simply because they didn’t follow instructions. The client wants to work with someone they can count on to do the work that’s asked of them.
3. Meet your deadlines. I can’t stress this enough. If you can’t meet a deadline because you can’t reach a source, for example, contact the editor and let them know. Or maybe the source had a change in their schedule and couldn’t do the interview anymore, and you need to find another source. Contact the editor and ask if they have a source you can interview and/or if they are willing to extend the deadline. Sometimes they may have some wiggle room in their production schedule.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. Just as I alluded to above, if anything goes wrong with the assignment, let the editor know immediately. They may have suggestions on how to resolve the problem. Ask the client if they need additional information, such as images for the article or if they want you to send the article to sources for their review. These are small things you can do to make your editor’s job easier.
5. Proof your work before submitting it. While errors can slip by, you want to make sure there are as few as possible before you submit your final copy. When your work is clean, it shows you are conscientious about your work and it saves the client’s editorial team from having to fix it. Anything you can do at your end that helps the client is a huge bonus in your favor.
6. Be courteous, even if you disagree about something. If, during the editing process, the editor suggests changes to your article or they have questions about something you wrote, respond promptly and politely. Don’t get angry because they didn’t like your clever phrasing. Understand that they have a job to do.
7. Be sure to thank them. Whether they’ve given you a new assignment, made revisions to your story, or sent you a new referral, be sure to show your gratitude. Don’t be shy about asking for future assignments or referrals. It’s okay to say, “Please keep me in mind for future assignments or send my name along to another editor who might need writing help.”
While it’s exciting when an editor reaches out to you for a new assignment, it’s even more flattering when they pass along your name to another editor at a different publication. By following these tips, you can put yourself in the best position possible to earn new assignments and referrals to new clients. That can make your freelancing life a whole lot easier.