Imagine for a moment that you’ve decided to redo your kitchen.
You’ve set aside the funds for this project. You’re excited about it, even though the prospect of spending all that money is also more than a little terrifying. Thoughts of your lovely island and all that amazing storage space carry you through.
You meet with the contractor who tells you that he’s got this. It’s all under control. No worries. Everything will be perfect — and he’ll be there with his crew on Monday to get started. The whole thing will be done in three weeks. Yes, for sure.
Monday comes… but the contractor doesn’t.
You call his cell, and it goes to voicemail. You’re pretty sure he said Monday. I mean, it’s there on the calendar in BIG LETTERS.
Tuesday, the contractor shows up and demolishes half your kitchen. He doesn’t really give any explanation for not showing up on Monday — actually, he kind of makes you feel like you got it wrong.
It’s a least a week before you see him again.
Should I keep going with this story? You get it. You hate the contractor. He makes you hate your life. It’s not fun.
Would you be surprised to hear that this is exactly how many clients feel about working with freelance writers?
In this post, you’ll learn four ridiculously common mistakes freelancers make, and what you can do differently.
Freelancing Mistakes: Failing to Set Expectations
So often, freelancers sabotage projects before they even start by not setting appropriate expectations.
Let’s say that you close a deal with a client on Friday. You might know in your brain that you’re going to be working on the project on Thursday and you’ll be able to knock out the whole thing in an afternoon. But from the client’s standpoint, she heard nothing from you on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and all of Thursday morning.
Basically, you took her money on Friday and disappeared.
By the time you reach out on Thursday afternoon, your client is frustrated — at best.
Maybe you’ve just added a new content marketing client. You know that you need to have a set amount of work done by the end of the month, and you manage your time on your own.
But if you don’t bother to tell you client, “Hey, here’s the process,” the client has no clue what’s happening.
When you don’t set expectations appropriately, your client will believe the worst of you.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. For the purposes of this exercise, those shoes can be spike heels or bunny slippers — whatever works for you.
Your client really doesn’t care that your kid has an ear infection, your husband is away for work, and your bathroom flooded. Sure, she might express sympathy, but she’s running a business. That doesn’t make her heartless or cold. That makes her a businesswoman.
You are also running a business, so you need to have backups in place for the inevitable — and they are inevitable — ear infections and flooded bathrooms.
You’ll be able to set expectations with clients if you’re clear on your process.
Freelancing Mistakes: Lack of Communication
Communication is closely linked with setting expectations.
No, you don’t have to answer email immediately or take phone calls around the clock. But you do need to let your clients know how to communicate with you and when they can expect to hear back.
Ever sent an email to someone with a quick question only to be ignored for three days? Ever spent a whole morning irritated because you’re waiting for a response that doesn’t come?
If you make a point of telling your client, “Hey, the BEST way to reach me is via email, and I always respond by 5pm on business days,” then your client will not send you a Facebook message on a Saturday.
She’ll email you on Monday, and she’ll know that you’ll get back to her by 5. She’ll be able to move forward, and she won’t be stuck in limbo.
On the other hand, if you don’t give your client guidelines, she’ll do what’s convenient for her and send that Facebook message. When you don’t answer, she’ll escalate to texting. She’ll call. She’ll email. And with every unanswered message, she’ll be even more unhappy.
Freelancing Mistakes: Not Thinking Ahead
Let’s say that a client has hired you to write monthly blog posts along with content upgrades so that she can grow her list.
You do your thing. You write the post. You draft the content upgrade. You mention on a call that the content upgrade still needs to be designed and prepped — that’s outside of your scope of work, and you’re not a designer.
The client gives you some feedback on the blog post, and you make the necessary changes and notice that the content upgrade document hasn’t been opened.
You have a few choices here.
You could decide that the content upgrade isn’t your problem. You wrote it and delivered it on time. If your client didn’t act, that’s her issue.
Or… you could anticipate the client’s needs. Like you, she’s busy running a business, and this is a new process for her, and it clearly hasn’t been perfected yet.
You could go above and beyond and tell the client, “Hey, I noticed that you haven’t reviewed the content upgrade. You need to take a look at that, and you’ll have to get it over to someone who can make it beautiful. I can introduce you to someone I’ve used before if you’re interested.”
Which way do you think improves your relationship with the client? Which way lets you perhaps refer work to a friend (who will definitely look for ways to return the favor!)? Which way is a more premium client experience?
Yes. Go above and beyond — especially when it takes so little effort on your part.
Freelancing Mistakes: Missing Deadlines
Think back to the last time someone promised to deliver something to you and then didn’t do it as promised.
The online order that arrived a day late. The friend who kept you waiting 30 minutes for coffee. The contractor who took apart your kitchen and left you eating takeout for six weeks longer than planned.
You could have the best excuses in the world for missing a deadline, and they’d still be just excuses.
If you don’t treat your freelance writing business as a real business, you can hardly expect clients to treat you with respect.
On the other hand, you can give your clients an amazing customer experience — and truly delight them — with very little effort on your part.
In fact, it basically boils down to this: Do what you say you’re going to do.
If you say you’re going to give daily updates, give daily updates. If you say you’ll deliver by Thursday at 3, deliver by Thursday at 3.
You can keep your clients absolutely thrilled if you simply stick to your word — because so many people don’t bother.
Seriously, most people are absolutely amazing at coming up with excuses, and far less amazing at simply doing what they’ve promised.
Oh, my computer crashed and I lost the file.
Oh, my kid got sick.
Oh, I had a family emergency.
It’s 2018. Use Dropbox or Google Drive.
Did you have kids when you agreed to deliver by today? Figure out childcare.
Are you a professional — or not?
Look, I get it. Emergencies do happen. But you shouldn’t be leaving your work for the last minute, so those emergencies shouldn’t prevent you from delivering.
If you’re a professional and you want to have a successful business, you figure out a way to get your work done and delivered on time.
Most clients won’t give you a second chance. If you lose their trust, you may never be able to get it back.
Stop Making these Freelancing Mistakes
If you want to earn more money as a freelance writer, you need to stop making these freelancing mistakes and start creating a premium client experience.
Think about it.
Let’s consider two freelancers.
Hapless Harriet was hired to write an article for a client. The client gives Harriet an email address to get in touch with Bob, who will give her all the technical information she needs to write the article.
Harriet doesn’t know how long the project will take and doesn’t give the client any guidelines on what to expect.
When she emails Bob, she gets his out-of-office responder, but she doesn’t read it closely and figures he’ll get back to her soon.
A week later, she reads his out-of-office responder and realizes that he’s on medical leave for the next two months. She figures that her client knows this, so she doesn’t bother to take any action.
Three weeks later, the client emails asking for the article and is not happy to hear that Harriet isn’t done yet.
Harriet skipped setting expectations — she didn’t tell the client anything about her process or what to expect from her.
She was careless in her communication — she took her time emailing Bob and then didn’t read his out of office reply.
She avoided an opportunity to excel. She could have emailed Bob sooner, or at least told her client that Bob was unavailable and asked for an alternate contact.
And Harriet missed her deadline completely.
In an alternate universe, Delightful Debbie is hired by the same client to write the same article. She also gets Bob’s email address.
Debbie tells the client she’ll reach out to Bob, and as long as she has answers from him by the end of the week, she’ll deliver the completed article by next Thursday at noon.
Debbie emails Bob and gets his out-of-office responder. She immediately emails her client, explains that Bob is unavailable, and asks for an alternate contact.
The client responds and apologizes, and says it’ll take her another day or two to find someone else.
Debbie follows up with the client two days later. The client thanks her profusely for the reminder, and an hour later, she emails Debbie with an alternate contact, Elaine. Debbie reaches out, schedules a call, and then updates the client with a revised timeline — she’s speaking to Elaine on Monday, so she’ll be able to deliver by next Friday.
Debbie has her call with Elaine, gets the information she needs, and writes the article. On Friday, after reviewing the piece one final time, she sends it over to the client.
Debbie set appropriate expectations with her client. She told them what she would do and when she would do it.
With timely communication, she was able to alert the client to an issue and anticipate the client’s needs. Being organized and on top of the project, she was able to rock out the deliverables.
Which freelancer do you think clients prefer?
(That’s a rhetorical question.)
What ONE THING can you do to be more like Debbie?
(That’s a real question that only you can answer.)