I currently have four steady freelance clients that send me work on a daily or weekly basis. I also have 2 others that will typically ask me to do some work for them once a month. Since I work just 4-5 hours a day on freelance writing, this is ideal for me. More clients would require me to work longer hours and I simply don’t want to do that right now because of my personal projects.
The best part about all these clients is that they are all excellent freelance clients. I never have a problem getting paid on time, they rarely ask for rewrites or revisions, they are very clear in their expectations, and probably most importantly they all allow me to work for them on a pretty set schedule. This allows me to schedule my time appropriately and budget according to my expected income. I have very few significant ups and downs in my income thanks to these great clients.
How did I get these great clients? I followed some simple rules when I initially went looking for work. Incidentally, most of these clients have been with me since the first month I went full time as a freelance writer. Also, I haven’t actively had to seek out work since that first month either. Was I lucky? Perhaps. I like to think that I was discriminating in the beginning though and it was this careful choosing of clients that has led me to have such a wonderful group of freelance clients.
What did I do to put together this great group of clients? Read on…
Be Discriminating – If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I picked up most of my clients from freelance writing marketplaces. While these job boards are well known for the low pay rates offered, there are some gems to be found. When searching the job listings I immediately discarded any employers not located in the U.S., U.K. or Australia. Why? Because these three places are where you will find the highest paying clients. Clients in India, Eastern Europe and other low income places are not going to be willing to pay your rates.
I also avoided any job postings where the client didn’t already have a history of paying. Sure I might have missed out on some winners, but I also passed up on all the scammers who troll job boards simply looking to grab as many samples as possible and then disappearing forever.
Finally, I only applied to postings that were professionally written with clear expectations.
Needless to say, this shortened the list of potential clients significantly, but since I was in this for the long haul I wasn’t worried. During this time I spent the majority of my time writing for content mills to keep a steady flow of cash. Twice a day I would spend 15-20 minutes browsing through the new job postings. Some days I applied to 2-3 postings and some days I applied to zero. Even at this slow rate it only took 1 month to fully book my 25 hours a week.
Work from a Position of Strength – Before I ever started applying for jobs I made certain to update my resume and to also create a freelance writing website. I wrote brand new articles on a variety of subjects to populate the new site. Of course I also had Money Infant already, which was a help since I was targeting the finance niche. All this was designed so that I could present myself as a professional, not just an occasional dabbler.
When applying to jobs I was clear in what I could and could not do. I asked questions about the potential job. I clearly stated my rates, even if the posting was ambiguous regarding payment. I was also rock solid in sticking to those rates. Because of that I lost some jobs, but I didn’t want to work for peanuts so that was all expected. I also have two clients who initially rejected my rates and came back at a later date. It seems they weren’t able to find quality writers who were reliable.
Overall, I emphasized my professional outlook, my reliability, and my ability to help the client. Sure I expected a lot, but I made it clear that my objective was to work with the client to improve their business.
Create a Good Reputation
This follows along the lines of professionalism and a mindset that lets the client know you are doing all you can to help their business. I have one client who has followed me from one position to another – twice. Of course I still maintain contact with his prior companies and occasionally receive work from them. I have another client I am currently in negotiations with who heard of me through one of my previous clients as well.
The bottom line is that I always strive to under promise and over deliver. This has created a sense of value in my clients which I feel is critically important. They know they can rely on me to do what is required at a minimum, but they also know that I often go above and beyond to provide them with what they need to improve their business. I think my clients are quite loyal to me because of this and the proof is in the fact that I have been able to increase rates at two of my initial clients twice since I began writing for them just 6 months ago.
Never Settle for Less Than You’re Worth
Of course this is quite subjective, but before you begin your freelance writing career you should have a goal in mind for how much you want to make. This sets the stage for your rates. If you are looking to make a full time income freelance writing you need to make a minimum of $40 an hour. To be honest I started out aiming for less than that, but as soon as my schedule was full I immediately began raising my rates to hit that goal.
Keep in mind too that some of your time will be taken up with tasks other than writing. Frequent meetings, rewrites, accounting, and other tasks can eat up your valuable writing time so you should strive to keep them at a minimum. Because all of my clients are long term, it is rarely necessary for me to do anything other than write for them and send invoices.
Signs of a Great Client
If you have been freelancing for some time you likely already know what makes a great client. If you are just getting started I can tell you that the following things are all signs that you have a client that is a keeper:
- There are very few (if any) meetings after the initial interview and job scope are laid out.
- Email communications are short, sweet, and to the point.
- Payments are made in a timely fashion. You should clearly define payments terms PRIOR to starting any job.
- The client is a professional and doesn’t waste your time with nitpicking or unclear tasks.
- The client requires daily or weekly content from you, preferably in the same format or subject area.
As you can see, client/freelancer relationships do not need to be fractious and difficult. And much of the responsibility for building a good client base is in your hands. Be clear in your expectations, don’t take jobs that appear to be ambiguous or low paying, work with your client’s needs in mind, and most importantly always satisfy your client. If this becomes too difficult on a regular basis because of unreasonable expectations (not because you have become unreliable or unprofessional) I recommend you dump the client and replace them with another client who better fits your needs. Remember, there are literally tens of thousands of individuals and businesses looking for content writers at any given time. Learn how to take care of your client AND yourself and you will have the pick of the litter.