Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to Hang On to Your Best Clients

I just saw this article on "clients from hell". There's something cathartic for me about reading other freelancers' experiences with problem clients. It's fun, it gives me a laugh, it tells me that it's okay--everyone has these experiences from time to time.

I can see I'm not the only one who feels this way. Clients do get kicked around a bit on the blogosphere. But one of the things I like most about reading others' horror stories is that it reminds me of how lucky I am. Because, yes, I've had some horror stories of my own--but I've also been blessed to work with a lot of terrific people. So this post is for them: How to hang on to your favorite clients.

The super-informative client. This guy knows exactly what he wants and how to communicate it. He shows you samples from other sites, reviews his own previous copy and discusses what's good and bad about it, knows his audience very well, and answers all your info-gathering questions in detail.

This client puts the time in on the front end so that you'll get it just right on the back end. Keep him happy by listening more than you talk. He's not looking for a freelancer who takes an idea and runs with it. He's already got the idea, and he knows what works for his audience. You just have to put it in motion. Deliver what he asks for without drama, and he'll come back to you time and again.

The really-great-with-money client. You know you're a freelancer when you get excited that someone pays you right away. This client is fantastic with the money. You need a deposit? It's in your PayPal account within the hour. You've just delivered the final draft? The remainder is in the mail before you send the invoice out. In a world where payment can be weeks or months late and your cash flow can slow down to a trickle while you wait, these clients keep you floating.

These clients are conscientious, and they know what's important to you. To make them happy, give them the same treatment. Respond quickly to their emails. Get your copy in before deadline, if you can.

The no-fuss-no-muss-no-bother client. This client is easy to please. She always loves the first draft on sight. She never has a problem with your terms or contract. Everything goes smoothly when you work with her.

I'm lucky in that I have a nice collection of no-fuss repeat clients. Even if they don't start out that way, a client can become no-fuss over time as you get used to each other. To keep these guys happy, try to be a no-fuss freelancer. If they hire you regularly, think about charging them monthly instead of billing them for each project.

The regular client. Here's the client who pays your rent every month. He gets in touch at the beginning of each month, regular as clockwork, with a nice, easy, lucrative job. He knows your style and always sends projects your way that draw on your strengths. Collect a few of these and you may be tempted to kick back and let your marketing slide--that's the only down-side.

You never know who's going to turn into a regular client. Do your best for each one every day, even if the job you've picked up is a tiny, last-minute project you could do in your sleep. My favorite regular client's first order from me was four quick 600-word articles, and I had no idea he would become such a big part of my business.

The fun-and-unpredictable client. This one always has something interesting and creative for you to do. Whether it's writing poems to describe the products on their kid's pottery party site, song lyrics for their wedding, or a rant on printers to make into a viral video--they've always got something new and fun up their sleeve. You love seeing an email from her, because you never know what's coming next.

To keep this client happy, be willing to stretch outside your comfort zone a bit. Video scripts may not be your usual, but the client has faith that you can do it--and you may just find you love it. But you also need to know your limits. If she wants something you know you can't deliver, refer her to a good specialist.

The super-complimentary client. This client always makes you feel like Super Copywriter. She loves what you've done. You're brilliant. You're amazing. The best writer they've ever worked with. After a project with this one, you feel like you can conquer the world.

This client obviously loves you already--so keep doing what you're doing!


Anonymous said...

This was such an original and creative post! I love it. I know I've had quite a few of these categories.

Jennifer Williamson said...

Thanks, Courtney!