How to Mine Past Freelance Clients for Precious New Work Leads

Beautiful gems By Francesca StaAna

Do you keep in touch with former freelance writing customers?

Do you have a client that “got away?” Do you ever think about them or wonder what they’re doing?

I’ll stop now, before I start sounding like a relationship guru…but the point is if you answered “no” to the above-mentioned questions, then I urge to consider this thought: Maybe you should.

Keep tabs on past clients

Just because you’re not working with them anymore doesn’t mean you can’t check in to see how past customers are doing. Following your previous clients’ activities can re-open communication lines and pave the way for more writing gigs.

Did they get quoted in the press? Send them a quick email congratulating them on the media attention.

Did a former client start a new company? Reach out to say good luck and send a friendly reminder that you’ll be there in case they need a writer.

These little acts of thoughtfulness increase your chances of getting re-hired. They keep you top of mind, so whenever the need for content arises, you’ll be the first person they contact.

Use online tools

Keeping tabs on past customers doesn’t have to be a cumbersome task. You don’t have to visit their blog every day, nor do you have to read through countless news articles to catch a press mention.

You can effectively “stalk” your clients and be the most thoughtful writer they’ve ever encountered with the clever use of a few online tools.

1. Google Alerts

Google has a great service called Google Alerts that lets you monitor the web for specific search queries. For example, if you create a Google Alert for the search term “Make a Living Writing,” Google will send you an email every time it indexes a page containing that particular phrase.

Google Alerts are a convenient way to monitor a developing news story or to track mentions of your name or brand online. It can also allow you to keep tabs on former clients so that you can get back in touch whenever a story or mention comes up. (Hat tip to Peter Shankman for giving me the inspiration to do this.)

This worked out beautifully for me a few months ago when I got an Alert that a celebrity just tweeted about an iPhone app created by one of my former clients.

I wrote a quick congratulatory email and sent it to my former client along with the Twitter link. They already knew about it of course, but they appreciated the fact that I took the time to email them.

Then they said that they’re planning to release a new version of their app and would hire me again once it’s completed.

And when it was ready, they did.

2. LinkedIin

Here’s how to track your former clients on LinkedIn:

On your homepage, click “All Updates,” then select “Profiles.”

This will display recent updates from your contacts, and will tell you whenever someone adds a new job, skill, or recommendation on their profile.

Skim the updates and keep an eye out for new ventures, projects, or companies. If you see that a former client is on a new path, do a little research on whatever it is that they’re working on then touch base with them to send your regards.

Doing this scored me a new set of projects with another former client. I found out they launched a new startup, so I reached out to say congrats.

They were pleasantly surprised and were very happy to hear from me. Within a few weeks, they hired me to work on their blog posts and press releases.

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of time to stay on top of past-client news — and it can pay off big.

What’s your relationship to your former clients? Share how you stay in touch in the comments.

Francesca StaAna is the founder of Credible Copywriting and specializes in writing blog posts and web content for startups and mobile app developers. She’s currently developing a course for aspiring freelancers called Copywriting 2.0.

 

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29 comments on “How to Mine Past Freelance Clients for Precious New Work Leads
  1. Hcg Drops says:

    Well written. Thank you for writing that. I will definitely return back to read more and tell my friends about your writing.

  2. That Google Alerts tip is brilliant! Thanks Francesca!

  3. Ally says:

    Six months after every project, clients receive an email from us to touch base, see how things are going, and just generally remind them that my team is here to help. I send quarterly emails to say hello and remind previous clients that we love referrals. I’ve been bad about it lately, but I used to periodically skim through my list of clients and reach out with a quick informal email to anyone I haven’t heard from in a while. I work with a lot of authors so I really do love to hear about their journeys–if they are submitting, still revising, self-publishing, working on something new, etc. If I hear or read about something relevant to a client, I definitely send it along, and I agree with others that this always gets a warm reception. For repeat clients or bigger corporate clients, I send gifts for New Year’s (I do this rather than the December holidays because I feel it helps avoid getting lost in the shuffle of other gifts and vacations). It’s so important to nurture your network! I love the LinkedIn tip this article provides. I’ve used Google Alerts for things in the past but I hate clogging up my inbox–I’d rather visit LinkedIn and scroll through updates once a week, say, to see what’s going on. Thanks for the great article!
    Ally recently posted…5 Ways Poetic Forms Can Improve Your Online MarketingMy Profile

  4. Willi Morris says:

    I am all about getting as involved as possible and developing a relationship with clients. So my strategies are much more overt. Two of them I’ve actually considered as friends now. So I do a number of things:

    1) Periodically send them an email, IM, Tweet or FB message asking how they are doing?
    2) I subscribe to their newsletters and follow/comment in their blog posts that interest me
    3) Always engage with them on FB with likes and comments
    4) Use their services!

    These serve me wisely!
    Willi Morris recently posted…5 Resolutions For When You’ve Really Screwed UpMy Profile

  5. Erica says:

    I needed this reminder. I still have that bad habit of not keeping in touch after a project — my follow up needs serious work. One thing that does work for me when I need to rekindle a connection though is to ask them for a book recommendation. People love to offer help, it’s a great way to start a conversation and you can always follow up by letting them know that you found the book useful.

    And an email that says, “You were always really good at _____. Could you recommend a book on that subject?” sounds better than “Sorry we haven’t spoken in a while, but can you throw me some work?”
    Erica recently posted…How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 2My Profile

  6. This post is personally very timely. And if it’s timely for me, it’s timely for other writers. I appreciate your “techy” advice to keep track of what’s important. Streamlined maneuvers, like you mentioned, free up writers’ precious time.

  7. Cathie says:

    This is definitely an important part of maintaining relationships. I reach out with interesting news articles, links, as someone else suggested.

    I got a new computer a few weeks ago and as part of the cumbersome switch over process, it reloaded thousands of emails I didn’t need. I deleted them in huge swaths, but every now and then, as I was scrolling around, I saw the name of someone I hadn’t touched base with in a long time. It prompted me to reach out and send a pleasant “Hope you are well; I enjoyed our past project” type email to a few and update them on a few things I’d been doing. Nothing has resulted but I had a couple assure me I was on their list for future projects.

  8. Great idea – and definitely something I need to be better about! I’ll admit, I’m totally guilty of dropping the ball relationship-wise once the project is over. Thanks for the reminder to check in more frequently and make regular follow-up a part of my business routine 🙂
    Sarah Russell recently posted…The 3-Step DIY Business Plan for Freelance WritersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I really used to be terrible at this as well. I didn’t track leads or follow up with them much, unless I was REALLY hot to get hired.

      I had one franchise-marketing company that I thought was so perfect for me, and I used to send them articles about franchising when I had a new one out, and discuss it with them. Didn’t end up paying off, but at least I kept my name in there.

      • Sandy Aptecker says:

        What cash? What flow? I have not succeeded in getting any assignments, although I follow up on all leads. I am SO discouraged, but I won’t give up. I followed your advice and stopped writing for Textbroker for $4-5 per article, so now I really have nothing. This is really so hard.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Sandy — sometimes we have to hit bottom — give up the tiny-pay gigs that make us FEEL productive but really don’t pay the bills — to start moving forward.

          If your marketing is getting zero results, it’s probably time to analyze what you’re doing and make some changes.

          In Freelance Writers Den, we do a lot of reviews of writer websites and query letters and letters of introduction…and I rarely see one that’s ready to go. Getting feedback can make a big difference. See if you have a mentor or someone you could bounce what you’re doing off of — maybe they have some suggestions for you.

          • Ally says:

            You know, I constantly see folks impressing upon freelance writers how important it is to market correctly, and when they don’t get results, the advice is inevitably to examine said marketing. Why doesn’t anyone suggest that when a writer doesn’t get the results he or she hopes for, the problem may be the writing itself, or your platform (or rather, lack thereof)? Good marketing can only get you so far if your clips aren’t up to snuff or if you’re pitching something that an editor isn’t convinced you’re the right writer for. I work with a lot of would-be authors who spend inordinate amounts of time and money figuring out how to market their self-published books or pitch agents, for example, when the real problem is their manuscript, and sometimes even the concept itself! Not all ideas are destined to be winners.

            Please don’t take this as directed at you personally, Sandy, as of course I don’t know anything about you or your writing!

            It’s a tough business and boosting confidence is critical, but I think it’s equally important that writers who wish to be successful learn to honestly evaluate their writing abilities AND analyze their marketing approaches, especially in the early days of your career. And if you don’t feel capable of being objective (or just aren’t sure how to evaluate your own work), it’s important to seek out an objective professional, whether that means hiring a mentor, an editor, taking a workshop, etc. Carol, maybe you’d consider writing a post with tips on how freelance writers can judge what, exactly, might be their biggest obstacle when they aren’t getting results. A checklist of some kind perhaps, to gauge what we’re doing right vs. where we might be lacking?

            • Carol Tice says:

              Interesting idea, Ally!

              I do get a lot of emails from writers that are riddled with grammar errors…where it’s no mystery why they’re not getting anywhere.

              It’s a tough thing to say, but there ARE writers for whom content mill writing is probably the best they can do writing for US markets, because they don’t have strong command of the English language.

              I tend to go on the assumption that everyone writes well in most of my advice on here. I find that most people who are aggressively pursuing this do write well enough to do this for a living.

              But I so agree with you that if you’re a new writer, you need a mentor! You need to be running your article drafts and query letters by someone before you send them off.

              I remember the first big feature I did — it was 3,000 words, to be the cover story for an alternative paper. I had a screenwriter friend look at it, and the suggestions she made changed my writing and my life. I still remember her crossing out all my passive verbs and recasting them to active ones! Never made that mistake again.

              I’d be nowhere without two editors who were willing to spend a lot of time explaining why they changed what they did in my stories.

              It’d be hard to do a checklist because everyone’s marketing is so different. I know one writer, for instance, who gets all his gigs shmoozing editors on the phone!

              The best I’ve been able to come up with is the forums in Freelance Writers Den, where we do have an article & short story critique forum where members read your work…and I do query and LOI reviews with Linda Formichelli. We rarely get one that’s ready to go out. Writers do underestimate how much work needs to be put into marketing pieces…because THEY ARE A WRITING AUDITION.

    • I wasn’t always consistent with following-up with former clients, but when I saw the results of doing it regularly, I have to say it’s definitely worth it!
      Francesca StaAna recently posted…So this is what I get for being *nice*…My Profile

  9. Francesca has a great point, and I love the tips for staying in touch like using Google Alerts and LinkedIn.

    I always like to start off every conversation with new clients with a few pleasantries. I ask how they are doing, how their family is, and how is business. This gives me a lot of information without my having to be nosy. Every once in a while I’ll make a phone call or shoot off an email asking how things are going. I keep it casual so that I stay on my client’s brain without hounding him/her about work.

    One of my long standing clients loves when I check in and ask about his kids. We have a great professional relationship, and when his wife started her business, I was brought on board immediately.
    Tiffany Barry recently posted…Jump Start Your Creative Writing JuicesMy Profile

  10. One of my favourite ways to stay in touch with a former client is to send them a link to a blog post, news article, online tool or something, which may be relevant, useful or interesting to them.

    Not only does this help to keep you on the radar, but it also reminds the client just how helpful and useful you are.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…Blog vs news? The 3-point checklist to help you chooseMy Profile

    • Agreed! And this where Google Alerts can come in handy as well. Tracking topics related to your prospects and touching base with them whenever something interesting comes up really is a good way to stay on their radar.
      Francesca StaAna recently posted…So this is what I get for being *nice*…My Profile

      • One thing I forgot to mention in my comment, Francesca, was how I recently got in contact with a former client and associate who happens to be writing an eBook.

        I sent him a link to Carol’s video with Guy Kawasaki on how to get your eBook published. Not only did he watch the video and find it highly informative, not only has it helped to develop our business relationship BUT ALSO he’s now started following this blog!
        Kevin Carlton recently posted…Blog vs news? The 3-point checklist to help you chooseMy Profile

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  1. […] I’ve applied his tips time and time again, and they have enabled me to connect with people and be more memorable. They even helped me land a bunch of writing gigs. […]