Tag Archives: clients

When Regular Clients Become Unreliable

Have you ever had a long-term regular client who suddenly became less reliable? Maybe their business suffered due to economic circumstances. Maybe they had to deal with a personal issue and were less focused on business projects. No matter how reliable a freelance writing gig might seem, it can always disappear.

Let’s talk about some of the ways regular clients might suddenly become unreliable and what you can do about it if it happens.

Ways Regular Clients Might Become Less Reliable

Here are some things an otherwise reliable client might do to suddenly change your working relationship:

  • They might cancel projects at the last minute.
  • They might decrease their usual order size with no advance notice.
  • They might simply stop contacting you or responding to emails (or phone calls).

The worst can be when a long-time regular client tells you on a whim that they can’t order for a month or two, but then they plan to get back to a regular order schedule. On one hand, it could be a worthwhile relationship to preserve, so you might try to accommodate. But that isn’t always the right thing to do. After all, you are a business owner too, and you have to put your own business interests first. If your business isn’t surviving, you can’t do your best work for clients anyway.

How to Deal with Clients that Become Unreliable

How do you deal with these situations? Given my last example, you have a few options:

  • Tell the client it’s alright, and that you’ll be happy to take them on again when they’re ready;
  • Tell the client that you’ll pursue other regular contracts to fill that void as soon as possible, and that means you likely won’t have availability when they’re ready to come back if they give up their spot;
  • Combine the two — pursue only one-off projects in the interim with the expectation that the client will come back to their regular schedule after a month or two.

Personally, I go with the second option. I don’t leave my schedule open with some naïve hope that a client is going to come back. If their own business is struggling now and they can’t order any more (as budgets are usually the concern), there is no guarantee that’s going to change in the short-term. And it would be foolish to rest the future of my own business on those hopes. So I find someone else. If they come back before I’ve found another regular I want to stick with, that’s fine. If not, too bad. I’ll refer them to someone who can work with them moving forward. That’s not to say there’s any bitterness about it. It’s just business.

Because clients can become unreliable in different ways, there are also different ways you can handle the situations. Some examples include:

  • Letting them know you can’t reserve their time in the future if there’s a break in the contracted work;
  • Discussing their future plans with them in more depth — find out if there really is a very short-term problem at hand where it might be worth sticking it out for a month or so;
  • Offering to adjust project specs to meet their new requirements without undercutting your own earnings or losing the gig altogether;
  • Being firm, letting them know that commitments followed by last minute cancellations aren’t acceptable professionally (because once they committed, you had to turn down other prospects), and that if it happens again you won’t be able to continue working with them;
  • Moving on and not looking back — especially if a client becomes unresponsive for an extended period (that can’t be explained with a brief emergency taking them away from work).

Are these the only ways to deal with long-time clients who become unreliable? No. But they give you somewhere to start and some options to consider. It’s one thing to like our clients and want to work with them to overcome their problems. But we also have to know when to do that and when it’s best to part ways — temporarily or not.

No freelance writing job is a sure thing. From large content sites that shut down or change payment models to smaller independent clients who can’t sustain the workload, gigs come and go. And it’s a part of our job to be prepared. So be ready to handle the situations if they come up, even if hoping they don’t. And never stop marketing your services and building your visibility to attract new prospects. Then when a sudden opening does happen, you’ll already have interested prospects waiting for a call.

Jennifer Mattern

About Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer and professional blogger who writes about freelance writing, social media, indie publishing, and small business. She also publishes e-books for freelance writers and is scheduled to publish her first nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, next year.

Increase response rates by customizing your query

By Jake Poinier

Coming into the final week of gathering participants for the annual Freelance Forecast, I emailed a few creative agencies specializing in freelancers to see if they’d be willing to send the surveys to clients and/or freelancers. In all honesty, the response was underwhelming. But there was one person (from Hire-Profile in Atlanta) who responded to my query brimming with enthusiasm about sharing the survey and the results within her network.

As we spoke on the phone and traded business histories, I asked her what had made her call me back. Her answer was instructive: Basically, she gets a lot of emails from people soliciting contact names and such, but she could tell that I’d put time into reading her website and making my email personal.

It was a reminder, above all, that you can’t let expedience get in the way of tailoring your message if you have a specific objective. In my case, I wasn’t trying to solicit a freelance job from her, but rather trying to get her to take some time to spread my survey around. As you can imagine, it’s even more critical if you’re actually trying to convince someone that you’re worthy of being hired and paid to do something.

Bottom line, customizing a query isn’t just about changing the name and publication or business category. It takes an investment in understanding what the prospect values — not just what you want to tell them. There’s a place in every freelancer’s arsenal for bigger, broadcast email campaigns, but you need to know when the surgical strike is the correct approach. It requires effort to have your message stand out…and if you don’t, you might be in danger of “Garbage out, garbage in.”

Contributing blogger Jake Poinier is the owner of Boomvang Creative Group, and blogs regularly at his Dr. Freelance blog.

Your opinion wanted for Freelance Forecast

What's in *your* freelancing future?
What's in *your* freelancing future?

The Freelance Forecast 2011 surveys are uploaded & ready for your opinions on best practices, motivations and expectations. As in past years, there are two different surveys:

If you are a freelancer who also uses freelancers, you’re welcome to take both surveys.

Now, can we ask you a favor? If each freelancer encourages *one* client to participate, it would make the client-side survey even more valuable. The goal of Freelance Forecast is to publish fresh data about the state of the market and to help understand the good, bad and ugly of relationships between creative freelancers and clients. The more participants, the better it is for everyone’s business.

The results will be published in January, and once again, all participants will be put into a drawing for a $100 gift card. Thanks in advance for participating and sharing the links through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and wherever else freelancers and clients might lurk.

P.S. You can download results from 2009 and 2010 over here.

Photo by Ruxandra Moldoveanu.

Know Your Client – Become Your Client

Amanda Smyth Connorhero

It’s always exhilarating to take on a new client. I personally enjoy taking on clients who specifically want to focus on site copy. It gives me great joy to be the voice of a company. To create the tone, the style and the narrative for a website feels powerful. I feel like the company’s success is somehow riding in my hands and flowing through my pen. But the mistake many freelancers make is in not learning to write in the client’s voice.

You can’t just describe the company. You can’t just talk about the company or your client. You have to become your client. Think how they think. Speak how they speak and represent the company as though you had worked there all of your life.

Nailing down the tone, style and narrative of a company’s voice is really tough. I’ve seen companies plow through a dozen freelancers in an effort to find just one who could carry the perfect tone and style that the client demanded.

I managed one project for client “Anonymous-Huge-Nationwide-Chain” whose list of writing style guidelines was like nothing I’ve seen before. Continue reading Know Your Client – Become Your Client

Working Ahead Pays Off

airplaneby Catherine L. Tully

I hope that everyone enjoyed the time off for the holiday. Another one is around the bend, and I don’t know about you, but I intend to work ahead so that I can really spend the time relaxing with family. At least that is my plan.

Working ahead is really a form of delayed gratification. Doing my blog posts ahead of time means more on my plate now. But…it also means that I won’t have them staring me in the face right when I should be winding down to spend quality time with those I love. 

Since I’ll be traveling again soon (which means more plane time, airport time and general down time), I plan on taking advantage of those days by preparing queries to send out when I return. In the meantime, I’ll be wrapping up what I can here at home before I hit the friendly skies.

So here goes…my top five tips for working ahead this holiday season… Continue reading Working Ahead Pays Off

Holiday Guilt?

freelance writing advice 3Yo Prinzel wrote a great blog entry aimed at all of us who felt slightly guilty for taking a glorious four-day weekend off for the holidays. Adding my own two cents to this blog post, I’ll just say that one way you can offset the guilts for taking time off to stuff your face full of turkey is to pre-position some content or work for submission during your down time. If you’re running a blog or a for-pay website and have content that shows up over the holidays, you can feel confident that you’re feeding the audience while still giving yourself some much-needed down time.
Continue reading Holiday Guilt?