For a freelance writer, the abilities to communicate clearly and manage clients’ expectations are indispensable. A failure in either area can quickly lead to hand-holding disappointed buyers and spending time on rewrites instead of generating new revenue. This is the dark road and it leads straight to a shrinking bank account and an inescapable day job. Fortunately, the savvy freelancer can often avoid this dreadful path by simply reading client briefs carefully and asking some important questions about each new assignment before ever typing a word. To get started, consider these inquiries:
What Do You Want This Project to Accomplish for Your Business? – Clients do not commission writing because they appreciate fine prose. Generally, they have a business objective in mind and they believe your words can do the heavy lifting necessary to reach their goal. Successful freelancers seek to understand exactly what a client really needs from a piece of writing and then do whatever it takes to deliver. Do this consistently and you will find your services constantly in demand.
Is this Job Part of a Larger, Coordinated Campaign? – Occasionally, a client will commission work that is meant to be a piece of a larger picture. For example, a client may be getting ready to launch a website full of new content and realize at the last minute that their marketing campaign is incomplete without a few well-written press releases. In these cases, it is always helpful for freelancers if they can look at the other project materials to ensure that their work will convey the same tone, message and style. When a client understands that you want to ensure the work you deliver enhances the work for which the she has already paid, trust begins to build and solid relationships form.
Is There Anything You Don’t Want Me to Write About? – This question might make hardcore journalists cringe, but for commercial freelance writing, it is entirely appropriate. When a client commissions a job, she has the right to expect the results to advance her interests. If that means not touching on a sensitive subject, so be it. Unfortunately, freelancers cannot tread lightly around problems they do not know exist. Asking if there are topics to avoid when completing a job is a great way to head off problems and demonstrate a desire for clients to succeed.
What is the Real Deadline? – When working with sites like WriterAccess, freelance writers have the advantage of seeing a deadline clearly spelled out within each client brief. Generally, the deadline takes to form of “X hours” after the writer accepts the job. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily reflect the client’s real needs. Double-checking that the deadline in the brief and the real deadline are the same is a great way to show clients that you care.
Is There Anything Else I Can Do For You? – Do not think of this question as hustling for work. Asking if what you have already done fully meets a client’s current needs is simply superior customer service. When the client does have more work available, you will be the writer she contacts.
Matthew R is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.