Category Archives: client 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.

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.

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