“Sounds great. What are the next steps?”
No matter how many times a client says that, I feel a spark of happiness.
“They said, yes!” I think, and I envision fireworks over the Caribbean Sea.
What’s next? Next, they sign an agreement, pay a deposit, and we schedule a kickoff call.
That’s the process for smaller companies. For larger businesses and agency clients, we usually have an agreement with the rate and deadline. They send a client brief, and away we go. I typically bill them upon delivery.
Either way, there’s a process.
There’s no one way to do this either. I’ve seen freelancers who send beautifully designed packets outlining their office hours and when they take lunch breaks, but that’s far too structured for me.
I keep it simple and let people know what I’ll do, by when, and how they can pay me. I also let them know what I need from them to do the work.
If you participated in the recent writer’s information packet challenge, you might have completed these steps.
But if you didn’t, that’s okay.
This article will help you kick off your first (or next) freelance writing client project with ease. You’ll come across as organized and professional, and you’ll have everything you need to focus on the work.
Set Expectations for a Smooth Experience
Everyone has experienced a miscommunication in their lives. Some miscommunications are quickly resolved, like a mixed-up phone call, while others can impact the success of a relationship.
The best way to have a mutually positive relationship is by setting expectations through clear communication. For example, you intend to write a 1,000-word blog post, but your client thinks it’s 2,500 words? Don’t find that out AFTER you’ve written the post.
Setting expectations is all about clarity. Let people know what to expect and have their agreement rather than expecting them to read your mind. That makes for the best client relationships.
Here’s how to set expectations for both sides, so you both feel confident.
I landed a freelance writing client! Help!
First, congrats on landing your first client! That’s an accomplishment because you’ve officially taken an essential step toward your dream of being paid to write. Yay!
Now what? Now you get to think through how you work (or how you WANT to work) and share that information with your client so they know what to expect.
Sounds simple, right? Except a lot of us overthink it.
You can just start with the basics:
- Have a client contract/agreement that outlines the scope of work and have both parties sign it. (I use DigiSigner, but there are dozens of digital signing tools available.)
- Take a deposit for most projects. For example, I charge a 50% deposit for e-books, web copy, and other larger writing projects. (I charge flat rates.)
- Identify what you need from the client to do the work. Will you interview them? Will they give you a detailed project brief? How many revisions will you offer?
- When will you bill for the balance? I learned the hard way to bill for the balance of web copy upon delivery of the first draft or tie it to a calendar date. Why? Because web projects are high-stakes collateral for a company and usually involve a committee for approval, they can take longer than you think.
- What’s your preferred communication method? Do you schedule phone/video calls, or will you take them anytime?
Your process will change over time, and you may adapt it depending on the project/client. There’s always room for improvement, but this gets you started.
Now that you’re thinking about your initial process of kicking off a project, let’s go deeper into client expectations.
What does the client expect? (The process, schedule, reviews?)
This is a common question among beginner freelancers, which makes sense because you’re new. You want to know if you’re doing it “right.”
Fortunately, there’s no secret society of “what clients expect,” and they’re going to know you’re a newbie if you do it “wrong.”
With freelance writing, you largely get to make up your own rules. For example, when and where you work is up to you. What you charge is up to you, and the types of clients you choose to work with is up to you.
What clients do expect is that you set a professional tone by having a process of working together, as I outlined above. A basic process includes an agreement of what you’ll do, by when, for how much.
But what about your schedule and reviews/revisions? This is where you also need to outline expectations. For example, let’s say you agree to a deadline that’s two weeks out. Still, you require specific information from the client, and they don’t get you the information until the day of the deadline.
What will you do? Will you tell them you can’t complete the project that day because you didn’t have the needed information? Or will you be proactive and communicate a date by which you need the information to meet the deadline? Saying something like, “I’ll need abc by x to deliver by y” is clear.
I think you’ll agree: it’s far better to anticipate such scenarios ahead of time and avoid any potential frustration.
Revisions are another chance to identify potential confusion ahead of time by a) defining the number of revisions and b) establishing a process. For example, I offer two rounds of revisions, and I request all revisions go through one person to make it efficient.
To recap, to work successfully with clients, you need a process. That’s what clients expect more than anything. Having and communicating your process establishes clear communication and puts your clients at ease. The easiest way to set up your processes is to use proven templates.
Do you have processes for your freelance writing business? Please take a moment and share below if you’ve defined business processes for your writing business.