The 3 Big Things Freelance Clients Want Most
Editor | 38 Comments

boss giving orders to his employeesLast summer, I had zero clients.

I was sending tons of letters of introduction (LOIs) to prospects without receiving a single positive response. Now, I have a steady freelance income and a growing client base.

What changed? I shifted my approach.

Instead of focusing on why I wanted to work with my prospective freelance clients, I started focusing on how my experience could uniquely provide the three key things all clients want out of the freelance relationship.

Here are the three things I’ve discovered clients are looking for — and how I earn more by meeting these desires in my marketing and my client work:

 

Convenience

One of my early clients liked sending me information about projects by email. After I wrote the first press release, she realized emailing me the information was as much work as writing the releases herself, and I lost the job.

I had failed to make her job easier.

Since then, I strive to make things easy for my clients. I show them how I can minimize the work they need to do — eliminating fears that bringing someone else into the project will create more work than it saves. One way I do this is to tell my clients about my plans for the project in detail before I begin the work. This way they are confident we share the same vision.

For example, before beginning a project, I like to outline my approach for the client including a brief overview of the types of research or interviews I will need, demonstrating that I understand project and that I know how to gather the information on my own. This usually helps clients see that they won’t have to spend tons of time catching me up on the project.

Competence

I landed a great gig blogging for a graphic design firm. They were working for a client who wanted posts aimed at CEOs of retail chains, and they needed someone with experience.

Did it matter that I’d never been a CEO? Nope. I explained how my ground-level retail experience gave me a unique perspective on retail strategies that would be valuable to CEOs. The firm and the client loved the idea.

You don’t have to be an expert to get a job, but you should explain how your background allows you to understand the project and offer a unique perspective. Clients are willing to pay for knowledge, because they don’t have it or don’t have the time to teach it. You can make yourself even more valuable by explaining how your knowledge is unique.

Confidence

I almost missed out on an awesome, ongoing social media gig because my client didn’t know what he needed or why.

Instead of jumping right into negotiations with him, I took time to teach him about the effectiveness of various social-media strategies, and then outlined my suggested approach. He was instantly sold, because I gave him confidence that I knew what I was doing when he didn’t.

This approach can be a big time investment up front, but it can pay off big in ongoing work. After this client learned to trust my judgment on our first project, he has assigned numerous other projects — and lets me determine the direction they take.

Clients have varying levels of comfort with projects, and they need to know that you can do the work. They want to hire writers who can assure them that the project will be successful, and that they’ll walk away with better work than they could produce themselves.

Don’t just give your client clips. Explain how they’re relevant, and suggest strategies based on your expert experience that prove you understand the project’s needs.

Sell yourself as a unique solution to common client problems, and you’ll see your freelance writing business grow, too.

What do your freelance clients want most? Tell us in the comments below.

Peggy Carouthers is a freelance writer with a background in journalism. She specializes in human resources, retail, and content marketing.

38 comments on “The 3 Big Things Freelance Clients Want Most

  1. Ivy on

    HI Peggy

    Thank you for the great article. I am just breaking into freelance – I’m wondering where /how you received your education on social media marketing? I can see how this can be a tremendous added value for clients and would like to study up be able to provide those kinds of social media solutions to clients

    Thank you, Ivy

  2. Rachel on

    Thanks Peggy. It’s easy to forget that it’s not about you, and it is all about them. I need to remember this with every LOI.

  3. Miles Bowling on

    Yes very true. Clients are also looking for some one who can provide great value without over charging for it. The more a freelancer brings to the table the better.

  4. Cherese Cobb on

    Peggy,
    First of all, congrats on crafting a post for Make A Living Writing. I know this was a big dream of yours. Plus, I’m glad to see that you’re doing so well!

    I agree that you can learn anything on the web. For example, my sister learned how to crochet. I’ve used it to learn art techniques and money saving stratigies, which is my main writing niche.Although, I am going to attempt to break into animal and health magazines over the next 2 quarters.

    I have one question for you and the other writers out there. Is there such a thing as too cocky or confident when it comes to pitching?

    Cherese R. Cobb

    • Carol Tice on

      There might be, but let’s just say I don’t see it very often. I do see tons of the opposite, though, writers who’re very insecure, and it shows in their pitches.

        • Peggy Carouthers on

          Cherese,

          It’s understandable, but fake confidence until you feel it! No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first. Pitches probably won’t come across as arrogant either, since most editors and businesses will realize you’re just trying to show how you’re qualified. Good luck, and thanks for the comment!

          • Cherese Cobb on

            Peggy,
            Well said. Fake it to you make it. That’s a tool ever writer needs in his or her tool box.

  5. Chelsea on

    Confidence is so important. I once laded a gig that involved some minor video editing – something I’d never actually done before.

    I really wanted to work with that client, so I kind of glazed over that part and pointed out what a catch I was in other areas. My confidence came through in my emails and interview, and they asked me to do a sample video and blog post. It turned out that the video editing was no big deal – a few tutorials on YouTube got me there just fine, and that client is still one of my top clients today.

    I’d also add that clients love it when you suggest improvements (in a friendly way, of course) that can improve their site performance. Don’t let the fact that you’re a writer and not an internet marketer stop you from making kind suggestions – they’ll really love the initiative.

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Chelsea, that’s a great example with the video editing, and you never would have gotten the job if you let that one detail hold you back. You can learn ANYTHING online!

      I agree about suggesting improvements, especially if you can do so tactfully. Everyone loves extra marketing help!

  6. Elke Feuer on

    Great article! I love what you said about making it easier for the client. I now have two clients-yay-one of them likes to select the topic of my articles while the other prefers me to pitch ideas based on the magazine’s categories. She also loves when I pitch for magazine categories I don’t usually write. Makes her job easier.

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Elke, congrats on landing another client! Hopefully this can help you land more in the future. Even when they like to pitch, a lot of clients love when you can demonstrate your confidence with a project by giving them more ideas. Good luck!

  7. Evan Jensen on

    Love it that your past experience in retail helped you win a client. It’s a great reminder to consider any relevant experience you might have when pitching a client and use it to help you make a case for getting the assignment.

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Evan, absolutely! None of your past experience goes to waste when you’re a writer. I’ve gotten jobs from tons of past experience, and more importantly, I’ve learned to frame past experience so clients so it as relevant.

      The other cool thing is that every freelance project is more experience to draw on next time from negotiations to project completion.

      Have you found success with some of your experience?

  8. Kimberly on

    I’ve come to realize another important quality clients look for is tech savvy. I feel confident about my writing and editing abilities, but the various (and ever changing) mediums in which that writing reaches the public required serious learning.

      • Kimberly Absher on

        Goodness…Google Analytics, Hootsuite/Buffer for social media management, Mailchimp, Asana (a really cool replacement for email when carrying out group tasks). Canva is a design app that has been mentioned. It was recently recommended that I follow tech blogs, which I am going to do right away in an attempt to keep up! 🙂

        • Carol Tice on

          WordPress is the biggest one I’ve used for clients, myself. Posting right to their dash is increasingly common.

          I once made a list of all the technologies I’d had to learn just to do my own blog, and it was mind-blowingly long! I know a lot of writers who’re tech-phobic, and at this point, you’re really limiting your opportunities with that attitude. I’m very non-tech-savvy, and if I can learn it, you can, too.

  9. Elna Cain on

    Peggy great points.

    Clients always want to know how they can make more money with your content. If you can show them how you can increase their revenue, they will see the value in hiring you.

    I always found that if I offer some suggestions in my pitch, clients are much more willing to talk to me more about what I can offer.

    Thanks for this great post.

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Great point, Elna. Showing them exactly how you can make them more money is a great strategy, especially if you have data from other projects to back it up.

      Offering some strategies in your pitch is a great idea, too. It keeps clients from saying no right away and lets them know you’re serious.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Jake Mcspirit on

    Hi Peggy,

    You’ve made a great point here, your pitches should always be about what you offer your clients using your skills — rather than how good your skills alone are.

    I learnt this recently, but this is a great reminder. Thanks!

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think it’s so easy to just get stuck thinking about what you can get from clients that you forget about what the client needs. I’m glad you’ve learned something similar, and hopefully it’s helping you earn more!

  11. Linda Bryant on

    Nice blog. I love the idea of taking the time to listen to the client and then suggesting work that will make things easier for them. Of course, it’s a no-brainer in a way, something we should all strive for. But something about the way you stated it made really listen and take it to heart. Good job.

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Linda, I’m glad my pitch resonated with you. I really have seen improved results by trying to think about what the client is paying for besides just the words. I hope it helps you with your own negotiations!

  12. Timothy Torrents on

    Too true, it really helps to provide suggestions for clients when they’re not sure how to proceed. I used to just to tell clients that I can help write articles, that’s it, super bland and boring pitch, thinking back, I have no idea why people hired me!

    But now I like to make a detailed pitch that explains what I can do and how I’ll do it, a long with a quick article outline. Not only do prospects reply more often but they also are willing to pay more, win win. I’m really trying to tap into some higher paying markets, sick and tired of working for peanuts, I just realized that I my rates are actually way lower than they should be, so I bumped them up a bit.

    I still don’t charge as much as I SHOULD but if a get a few regular clients with my current rates I’ll be happy for now. Last week I increased my rates from $30 for 1,000 words to $50 for 1,000 words, we’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks for another awesome article!

    • Peggy Carouthers on

      Thanks, Timothy!

      I’m glad you’ve learned to create more unique pitches.Clients really area willing to pay more when you make better cases for your work through detailed pitches and outlining the work. I felt like I needed to take it slower, too, but I learned you can start charging professional rates as soon as you’re ready, and the right kinds of clients will agree.

      Great job increasing your rates last week, but you could probably go ahead and bump them up to a professional or semi-professional rate with new clients. Once you have some clips, you can probably get at least $50 for 500 words. Don’t undervalue your work waiting to raise your rates!

      • Timothy Torrents on

        Thanks for the response, Peggy!

        My plan is to optimize my website to attract the type of clients that can pay well. I know it’s easier said than done, and I have a lot of work to do, but that’s one of my goals. When I have a steady stream of clients from my website, I’ll be a happy camper.

        The problem right now is that I don’t have a really outstanding portfolio, and I think it’s harder to find higher paying clients when your portfolio is weak…?

        • Peggy Carouthers on

          Timothy,

          It definitely can be harder with a “weaker” portfolio, but be careful calling your portfolio weak, or you may psych yourself out of pitching great clients. You’d be surprised what some clients count as experience, so keep an open mind!

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