Tag Archives: relationships

Earning client loyalty for life

By Jake Poinier

I often joke that January is when clients suddenly find their to-do lists all at the same time. I prepare myself mentally for it, of course — and have plenty of strong coffee at the ready.

This year has been even more of a deluge than usual. What’s more, in the past two weeks, I’ve had several emergency calls — projects that needed to be researched, interviewed, written and approved in a day or two. It’s stressful, but I have to confess that I not only enjoy it, but I love the byproduct: earning client loyalty for life.

Now, there’s an important distinction here:

  • I’m not talking about an over-the-transom prospect who found you on Google and needs something done in a hurry. (Like the old saying, “Poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.”)
  • I’m also not talking about “the client who cried wolf,” for whom EVERYTHING is an emergency.
  • I’m talking about about a good client with whom you have a solid relationship who happens to need a lifesaver.

I remember well from my magazine-editor days when a freelancer would flake out, or a story came in that was a complete piece of garbage, or an ad salesperson would sell a last-minute ad that bumped up the magazine with an additional 8-page form. I had specific writers who I knew would come through in the clutch as well as being regulars in my freelance stable.

In the words of my friend Stephanie Conner at The Active Voice, “Being an unflappable freelancer goes a long way.” If you’re willing to work that extra bit harder for a client or editor when they’re in desperate straits, they’re going to be willing to give you more assignments long after the emergency has passed.

Jake Poinier is the owner of Boomvang Creative Group and answers questions about freelancing 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.

How to use personality tests

Can knowing your "type" help freelancers gain and retain more clients?
Can knowing your "type" help freelancers gain and retain more clients?

By Jake Poinier

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you’ve probably taken DiSC or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality tests. Ironically enough, taking a Myers-Briggs at my last corporate job hastened my departure: In an “aha” moment, I realized that my type, ENTP (click the link for details on what makes me tick), was diametrically opposed to my boss’s type. I’d been plotting my escape for nearly a year, but the test confirmed what I suspected in my head about how we saw the world so differently. It also indicated that my personality would be good for entrepreneurship and therefore freelancing. I left about a month later.

Personality tests are not a crystal ball by any means, but they can help you understand a bit more about your strengths and weaknesses, and how you react under stress. For a freelancer, that can make them a powerful tool.

More important, if you do a little bit of research on the other types, you can start identifying what types your prospective freelance clients and current clients are. That, of course, enables you to modify how you treat those clients as individuals.

One of the things I learned during my two-year stint as a sales manager for a custom-magazine publishing company was how different each of the clients were that came from the different salespeople:

  • Tim’s were hard-driving, number-crunching folks who wouldn’t believe anything unless they saw it in a spreadsheet. (Conversely, if you were good at spreadsheets, you could make them believe almost anything.) You had to get right to the point, or they’d cut you off. It took a lot to win them over, but were very loyal once you did.
  • Frank’s sales were usually very personable and easygoing. They were the most pleasant to work with, but also had trouble with deadlines and weren’t very detail oriented. You had to shmooze them into compliance.
  • Bill’s sales were best described as aloof. They weren’t as driven as Tim’s, nor as friendly as Frank’s. They were not terribly loyal, because they were never very dedicated in the first place. Anytime Bill made a sale, I knew they weren’t in for the long haul.

The personality tests probably won’t tell you anything that you don’t know (or at least suspected) about yourself. But having an understanding of what motivates or irritates a client is essential to creating a lasting bond.

Have you taken one of these personality tests or something else? Do you use personality-oriented techniques in the sales process? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Contributing blogger Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group, a Phoenix-based editorial services firm. He also blogs about freelancing at DoctorFreelance.com — most recently about freelance ghostwriting rates.

Losing a loyal client

losing a clientBy Jake Poinier

One of the inevitable pass-the-Tums moments as a freelancer is losing a loyal client or editor to a new job. It’s one thing to fire a client, to do a one-off freelance assignment, or even just not being a good match. But clients and editors resign and get fired, too. What you do when that happens can make the difference between a short-term setback and a long-term drag on your income.

I received an email yesterday from a woman, let’s call her Jen, who’s been my primary contact for about 18 months at a large company that I’ve done work for since I got started in the business in ’99. She’s leaving the company at the end of the month. My heart sank.

As I reflect on the past 11 years, I’ve probably done work for a dozen different people within the company. And, over the course of the same time period, all but a few of those people have moved on to different positions or left the organization altogether. Some hired full-time writing staff, while others simply had their freelance budgets cut. I still have a few occasional users of my services, but Jen was my main source—a healthy, five-figure annual client who gave me a steady stream of assignments.

After the initial shock of losing my primary contact at the company, my optimistic side took hold. This isn’t about me, it’s about her. And I did what I always do:

  • I enthusiastically congratulated Jen on her new position, and asked what it is and what she’s going to be doing.
  • I (humorously but sincerely) expressed my personal sadness that she’s leaving her job, because I’ve enjoyed working with her.
  • I offered to write her a letter of recommendation, anytime, anywhere, for anything.
  • I asked her if she’d please facilitate a contact, at her earliest convenience, with the new person in her job.

Not surprisingly, she wrote right back, and her response made me feel considerably better. As it turns out, she’s taking a corporate communications position with another large company in town. Not only do they use freelancers, they happen to be a former client of mine from my old custom magazine editing days. And within 10 minutes after that, she’d already cc’d me on a glowing email to the new person in her department who’ll be handling her duties, so I have a warm if not hot contact. We’ll see if we click.

My next step is to contact Jen once she’s settled in at her new job and schedule to take her to lunch. But that’s another story for another day.

Jake offers blogs regularly about freelancing at DoctorFreelance.com.