Thursday, September 18, 2008

Freelance Writing Basics: Are You Covered?

Lately I have been hearing a lot from clients about their nightmarish experiences working with previous freelance writers. I'm hearing about language barriers and issues with receiving quality content from one client who tried cutting financial corners by hiring writers overseas, problems with writers being unable to meet deadlines consistently and issues with receiving content riddled with careless errors due to lack of proofreading and editing.

In my humble opinion, these are the basics any freelance writer hoping to make a living should have down pat. Laziness in these key areas could prevent you from getting certain projects, and cause you to loose clients.

I know exactly what they are talking about; I had a huge project back in February that I needed help with, so I hired a couple of freelance workers to help out so I could still meet my deadline. I got a firsthand peek at what many of these clients are dealing with regularly. I posted the job at a certain forum requesting samples and work experience and was overwhelmed with responses.

One writer in particular practically begged me for the job. After a day or so of emailing back and forth, I send her the project. I never heard from her again. After spending time looking over countless online portfolios, I found three writers. One was great – she delivered exactly what I expected before deadline. The second writer was also pretty good. The third writer sent the completed work back by the deadline, but it appeared she had rushed through the project. She didn't even bother to run a spell and grammar check. I had to practically rewrite everything.

When I market for freelance writing or blogging clients, my goal is to build ongoing relationships. This will keep me busy, and lessen my marketing efforts – one time projects are okay here and there, but I need more. It's important to give your clients exactly what they expect when they expect it. This gives them confidence in your ability and a real sense of well being. If you can make your clients believe that they are lucky to have you on their team, that's half the battle won. This is why I believe that as freelance writers we shouldn't worry too much about competition over jobs. You would be surprised how many writers out there are not consistently covering the basics. These include but aren't limited to:

Always do what you say

This is largely an issue of integrity. When you give your word in business, it's considered a verbal contract. Don't promise clients the sun and moon. Be realistic about what you can deliver so that you always keep your word. This is such an easy way to gain a client's trust and respect.

Meet your established deadlines – no excuses

Hey, sometimes life happens. I know; I've got four kids, and kids have an uncanny way of getting sick or having other issues when you need to meet an important deadline. Clients know that things can come up. The problem is that many have dealt with flaky freelancers in the past that always have some kind of drama going on preventing them from completing work on time. I was surprised to hear this – this is a basic basic in freelance writing! Again, be realistic about the time you need to complete a project and just do it.

Still, things cannot be avoided. When this happens let your client know as soon as possible that you are having trouble meeting your deadline because XYZ. They may not like it, but you may be able to renegotiate the deadline. Having another writer you can turn to in an emergency is a big help as well.

Proofread your copy carefully before submitting

Now I'll admit this was a shortcoming I had to overcome. As writers, we should strive for perfection when presenting a final product. It should be grammatically correct; spell checked and proofed for errors a couple of times. This goes for emails and any other written correspondence as well. Your words represent who you are.

It's a really good idea to have a second set of eyes to look things over before submitting. But if you can't, Lori Widmer recently reminded me of something I learned to do back in the day – read your copy out loud. You'd be surprised at many pesky mistakes you can catch that way.

These are by no means all there is to becoming a successful freelance writer, but it's a start. Master the basics, and your clients will love you for it.

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