Are you doing *everything* you can to make sure clients come back for more? My guess is… no. 😉
The key to a successful freelance writing career is a steady stream of work. The mystery many of us face, however, is how to ensure that work keeps coming down the pipe. The secret? You have to figure out how to get repeat work from writing clients instead of letting the relationship fizzle after the invoice is paid.
The truth is, the most successful freelance writers don’t wake up each morning and scramble for new collaborations. They nurture existing relationships so they continue to receive work.
A happy client will naturally be inclined to work with you more than once. And even if a client doesn’t rehire you immediately, they’ll have you top of mind when they need a writer again! It’s a win-win.
While many freelancers focus on being in hustle mode they overlook this important long-term strategy for repeat work. Don’t make that same mistake!
Here are our top 7 tips for getting that reliable repeat work from clients.
1. Ask the client questions
At the start of a new project, you’ll likely have questions for the client. Clarifying the project scope, deadline, rates, and revisions policy are essential (and should be in a contract) before you begin.
However, even with a contract in place, it’s normal for some additional questions to pop up as you’re digging into the work.
Do not hold those questions back.
Ask as many questions as you need to in order to fully grasp what you’re working on. This may include questions about the target customer, the brand ethos, tone, and other discrepancies.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking questions make you look less authoritative as a writer. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Experienced freelancers ask as many questions as they can so they’re equipped with the right info from the beginning of the project.
It took me a while to get the hang of this because I’d previously conditioned myself into thinking asking questions somehow signifies inadequacy. Wrong!
As my career has progressed, I’ve realized that the smartest people in the room are the ones who are asking the most questions. They speak up to get the information they need.
Clients appreciate the chance to share information with you, because it equips you to do your best. At the same time, your questions will instill more confidence in them. They’ll see you as a writer who takes her work seriously and wants to meet the client’s standards.
Be sure to ask questions before and during a project as needed, so you don’t get stuck before the deadline with missing information.
2. Communicate clearly—and often
This tip sort of builds on the one above. Communication encompasses the entire project, including after you’ve been paid.
Apart from asking questions to gain clarity, be sure you don’t go radio silent between signing the contract and delivering work. Even busy clients appreciate consistent communication over the course of a project.
Check in with them to let them know you’re on track to meet their deadline. A quick email to let them know things are coming along smoothly will set their mind at ease. It’s all about creating an experience that allows your clients to trust you and enjoy the collaboration.
Also, don’t be afraid to request a phone call to walk them through copy you’ve delivered or ask questions that are just easier to ask on the phone.
Want to know who gets rehired time after time?
It’s the freelance writers who make their client’s lives easier and instill a sense of trust. Communication has a lot to do with that. If you’re the one following up on details and providing status reports, they don’t have to worry about it.
This isn’t about transforming into their personal assistant or pestering them needlessly. But when it counts, be a freelancer who knows how to communicate.
Once the project wraps, that communication should continue in the following ways:
☕️ When your final invoice has been paid, reach out to thank the client for their partnership and request a testimonial. Most clients have no problem offering a few sentences about their working experience with you so you can put it on your website.
☕️ Let the client know they can reach out to you when more copy needs arise—and then be the one who actually follows up. Depending on their business, they might need weekly or monthly blog posts, seasonal product descriptions, or bi-annual event collateral written by a freelancer. If you can anticipate what they’ll need, that makes it easier to magically pop up at the right time and solidify the next collaboration.
3. Proofread… twice
Before you deliver any work, be sure you thoroughly proofread and edit. It goes without saying, right? But sometimes, after working on something for many hours, we let errors slip through the cracks.
Honestly, it happens to everyone… but you don’t need to fall victim ridiculous errors. Sometimes the rush of finishing a project can cause you to forget that all-important final step of proofing your work.
As a right-brained creative writer, I’m not a good technical editor, so I try to run my work by an actual editor (usually Krystal—she is my typo sniper) and ensure everything looks polished.
If you don’t want to shell out money for an editor or happen to have a bestie who is really good at proofing, just step away from your desk for a while and come back to it. You’ll see it with fresh eyes and spot errors you may have missed.
It’s tempting to let tech make you lazy in this regard. Spell-checkers and browser extensions like Grammarly will skim for potential screw-ups, but even these more advanced tools can miss something.
One tip I used to preach to writers I was editing? Read your work aloud! This can help you quickly spot awkward phrases, run-on sentences, and other mistakes. It might feel silly at the time, but it has saved me from submitting some glaring errors to clients.
4. Do the unexpected… Deliver work early!
One of my favorite concepts for success by Seth Godin is sprinting at the beginning of the project, not at the end.
Imagine if you infused that same vigor of “it’s almost deadline time” into the first 48 hours after something was assigned to you?
I’ll tell you how! It would be an absolute game-changer for everyone involved.
Sliding into a deadline with a minute to spare is something I’ve personally done more times than I can count… but it’s not a good habit. Want a happy client? Deliver work early.
Sending in your work before the deadline is about more than being the teacher’s (or client’s) pet.
Something freelancers often forget to consider is that their point of contact—whether an independent business owner or the head of a marketing department—typically has someone else to answer to. When you send your work in at the last minute (or heaven forbid, late), you could be making them look bad.
Sure, they may have worked in an additional buffer of a few days to ensure they cover their own bases… but don’t assume this is the case.
Again, it’s all about making the client’s life easier. Sending work early is a delight. It’s rare to receive something before the deadline.
When you do, you solidify yourself as reliable and give the client ample time to review and request revisions.
Early delivery makes everyone look good and takes the stress out of the project.
5. Go the extra mile
Under-promise and over-deliver.
This is yet another gem of wisdom that Seth Godin drops frequently, and it’s probably the quickest way to solidify a good reputation as a writer.
Apart from delivering good work on time, which is the bare minimum in a freelance collaboration, what else can you do to thrill your client?
Can you suggest something to further improve the project?
Can you offer keyword research and SEO optimization?
Or perhaps, a project management tool to streamline your workflow?
Clients love writers who bring something extra to the table. It shows that you’re invested in their success and that you’re not just there to collect a check. Get creative and utilize your strengths.
TIP: This doesn’t mean becoming a personal assistant or letting the client walk all over you—nor does it mean offering additional services for free. Be smart and strategic so that you’re positioning yourself as valuable without stretching yourself beyond your means.
Overall, there’s nothing groundbreaking on this list. These “tactics” are pretty much common sense. But I know that it can be easy to lose sight of common sense when you’re trying to make the freelance hustle work in your favor.
You’ve probably heard the old business adage that you’ll use 10x more resources seeking out a new customer than selling to existing ones. That’s true here, too!
And hey—I’m living proof that the above tactics can result in repeat work.
I know this because I’ve lost potential work by neglecting them. I’ve also won repeat work and long-term clients by utilizing these tips. In fact, at this point, most of my work consists of ongoing work from clients I’ve known for years.
Things would have evolved differently in my career if I hadn’t taken care of those clients in the first place.
Have you tried these (or other) techniques for getting repeat work from writing clients?
This post originally appeared on Day Job Optional in July 2018. It has been edited for Freelance Writing Cafe.