Newbie freelance writers and established professionals have a woeful habit: they fail to communicate.
Ironic, because communication is what writers do.
Why don’t we speak up more?
Perhaps it’s because:
- We’re often introverts. We hesitate to “bother” people — even if we’re getting in touch to help;
- We lack business savvy. We shy away from anything which could be interpreted as self-promotion;
- We tend to over-think everything.
As a group, freelance writers earn less than they could. They hesitate to communicate their value. Once they get a gig, they avoid negotiation.
As I reported in this article for new freelancers:
I’ve been coaching writers for a couple of decades. In all those years, I’ve never found a writer who over-charged. Mostly, they under-charged. Some under-charged so grossly that they were going broke.
Big tip: if you want to get paid to write, you have to ask. When you avoid asking, you make a mistake which will cripple your career, or kill it dead.
Want to get paid to write? Ask! (If you don’t ask, you don’t get)
Here’s what I tell my students about asking: nag.
Here’s why. Clients forget you. A single introduction to you and your services isn’t enough. Even if you’ve been hired by a company, within a month they’ve forgotten you exist.
If you want to get hired more often by great companies and publications, put some effort into getting them to know and remember you.
The killer mistake: thinking that asking once is enough
Asking once isn’t enough.
Put yourself in your client’s position. (This applies to past, current and prospective clients.) Your client is busy, above all. He may or may not see your message. If he sees it, he thinks: “I’ll get in touch later.”
Then you’re forgotten.
Create a follow-up workflow for clients and colleagues and act on it. (There’s a sample workflow below.)
You need a workflow to help you to follow up
I keep my follow-up strategies in Trello, so I can see what I need to do at a glance.
You follow up with:
- Prospective clients. Create a creative strategy to win new clients. One email message or a direct message on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn isn’t enough. Create a follow-up process which ensures that you follow up at least six times over three months.
- Current and past clients. I nag my freelance writing students to follow up creatively — never send out blanket mailings. Customize all your communications.
Here’s an example of customizing. Let’s say you’re writing web content for a company which sells an app. The app’s doing well, but it has few reviews.
Hmmm… what if you wrote a review package for the company? You could write four reviews which the company could offer to its affiliates. Would the affiliates use those done-for-you reviews? It’s money for jam, so they probably would. You decide to ASK — and you’re hired to write the reviews.
You also need to follow up with colleagues: public relations people and customer service reps, graphic designers, and web developers.
Again, customize your communications and follow up at least six times.
A sample workflow to help you to follow up: customize it to suit your needs
Here’s a sample workflow to use with prospective clients.
You’ve been introduced to these folk, or you’ve introduced yourself.
In response, you’ve sent an information packet on what you do, with a proposal.
- Make contact a week after your introduction with a short email message: “Hi (prospect’s name). I’m resending the info and proposal in case you didn’t receive it.”
Who knows, maybe he didn’t. So send the material again.
- It’s two weeks later. You’ve received nothing from your prospect yet. It’s time to forget the first proposal you sent — obviously it didn’t inspire them. Create a fresh proposal: make it something you’re sure they need. Here’s why you develop TWO proposals: to show enthusiasm — that you sincerely want to work with these folk. You’re committed to it. People respond to enthusiasm. They’ll remember you. You’ll stand out in the vast crowd of freelancers — 95% of freelancers would never bother to do this.
- Your new proposal is ready. Three weeks have passed since your introduction. Send something like: “Hi (prospect’s name), I recently worked with X (a company in the same industry, or a publication.) I can see that you are (whatever they’re doing. Maybe they’re opening a new facility, or are launching a new product) If you’d like some help with that, I’m available immediately. Contact me at (phone number.)”
- No response? Zero, zilch? That’s fine. Wait another month. Then get in touch again. Say whatever you like; remind the marketing manager (or whoever you’re communicating with) that you’ve been in touch and have sent them two proposals. You’d love to work with them: is there any way you can help them?
Are you concerned you’re “bothering” them? Nope. This is normal business practice. Some clients will hire you after the third followup, some will hire you after the tenth.
Keep following up. I’ve had prospects hire me five years after I approached them and followed up several times.
Your follow-up process ensures that clients remember you — and hire you. Many of my students report that when they commit to following up, their income rises.
Try it: a follow-up process will make all the difference to your freelance career.
Veteran author, copywriter, and blogger Angela Booth loves helping fellow writers. Visit Angela’s site for tips and strategies for writers.