Many freelance writers are trapped in a cycle of desperation, hoping a client might hire them at any rate, no matter how low.
Today, let’s talk about the other side of that coin. Yes, there is one!
It’s the dynamic where you get freelance writing clients who are simply dying to hire you. They become convinced their projects will not succeed without your specific skills and expertise. No other writer will do.
Obviously, this is a great position to be in, because then you have no competitors. You are the only writer they want! Which allows you to charge a lot for your writing.
Believe it can’t happen? I can tell you, it does.
When you’re in demand
Recently, I’ve had members of my Freelance Writers Den community comment that they’ve had clients wait their projects while they got over lengthy illnesses, or until they got back from long trips.
It’s happened to me as well. A couple months ago, I got a referral for a client who wanted a business-plan like project done. I responded that I had zero availability for the next three weeks. My assumption was that would send him on his way to find another writer.
Know what he did? He waited.
In three weeks, he called me up again to ask if we could get started! I was blown away.
Then, when I bid $2,500 on his job, he told me no — he wanted to pay $3,000. “I want you to be really excited and motivated to work on this!” he told me.
Curious about how you could get yourself into this sweet spot? Here are seven factors that can tranform you from a desperate, low-paid writer into a well-paid, “gotta have” writer:
1. Appear in the places they read.
The best way I’ve found to connect with clients who fall in love with your work and decide you are the only writer who can do their gig is to appear on popular websites those prospects read and respect.
For me, multiple blog posts on sites such as Copyblogger, Freelance Switch (now Microlancer), Entrepreneur, and Forbes have brought me a steady stream of well-heeled small business and startup owners.
I don’t have to sell them on my services. I don’t have to beat out hordes of competition for the gig. These prospects arrive eager to hire me and only me.
2. Build relationships.
There are two ways to approach freelance business. One is that this is a transactional activity where you find clients and do projects for them. The end. You both move on.
That’s not my approach.
My attitude is that I’m on this Earth to meet and enjoy the company of fascinating people. When I start with a new client, I get to know them, because I’m hoping to be in a relationship with them for a long time.
People are more likely to want to recommend and rehire people they know. So get to know your clients on a personal level.
You’ll be amazed at the connections you’ll find that could bond you and make your relationship more than client-freelancer. One property-management firm owner whose website I was redoing handed me his bio — and I discovered he grew up a hidden Jewish child during World War II in the very same Polish town one of my grandfathers escaped from.
Incredible! I ended up having him chat with my father.
Who do you think this business owner is going to call next time he needs writing work? And I’d be delighted to help him again.
3. Be a good listener.
It’s amazing what happens when clients feel heard. Active, careful listening is a rare commodity in our 140-character-blip online world. Take the time to learn all about their project, so you can deliver exactly what they want.
While new writers are often scared to ask questions, experienced writers ask tons of them. We also listen closely to the answers…and ask even more questions, until we have a crystal-clear idea of what will make this client happy.
Echo back what they’ve said to make sure you understand it. Send a recap letter after that meeting to make sure you got it. Your attentiveness will be noticed.
4. Speak in their voice.
When you write in a client’s voice — you take that listening skill and use it create blog posts or marketing pieces that reflect the client’s tone and their values — marketing managers and business owners soon feel they can’t live without you. You are the only writer who “gets” them!
They’ll pay nearly any rate to keep you working for them. They know it would be agony to try to find another writer who can capture their company’s style.
One thing I try to do with clients is find little ways to go above and beyond what’s been asked. When you do a stellar job, you tend to get great referrals. Offer a little social-media tip on how to use Twitter. Give them a hint about how to improve their tagline.
Remember that business-plan guy? The reason he was so hot to get me was he’d seen a plan I’d done for another client, and wanted the same caliber of storytelling applied to his plan, too. His project was an easy $3,000 I would have lost if I hadn’t committed to overachieving on the first project, which was the first one of that type I’d done.
It was clearly a great niche and I wanted to position myself to get more of this type of business, so I made a point of putting in extra hours to ask more questions and do more rewriting on the first plan I wrote.
I know many writers like to limit the number of rewrites they offer for their project fee, but I do the opposite. My policy is, “This is my bid, and it includes ‘I write until you’re ecstatic.’”
This positions me as more than a hired hand. I’m someone who is passionate about the success of this project, and won’t stop until it’s the best it can be. In reality, I rarely end up doing more than one rewrite! But the promise that I am in it until I win it reassures clients and makes them feel cared about.
6. Make money for them.
When you write persuasive copy for businesses and they see sales go up, your place is assured. You have done the single most important thing: you have grown the business. You are, by definition, invaluable.
If you’re only writing informational materials, consider learn how to write a sales page, a brochure, a direct-mail package. When your services are tied directly to increased revenue, you are golden.
7. Become indispensable.
Once you get a client’s attention in a respected place online, do one project for them where you form a relationship, listen, capture their voice, overachieve on their project, and make them more money, what do you think happens next? They will never want to let you go.
They will pay whatever you ask, within reason. They will wait for you to be available. You are in the driver’s seat of your freelance writing career, calling the shots.
How do you make yourself indispensable to clients? Leave a comment and add to my list.