7 Ways Freelance Writers Spook Clients (+How to Fix It!)

7 ways freelance writers spook clients
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If you’re more terrified of screwing up your freelance writing business than going into a real haunted house, this post is for you.

As a freelance writer, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do when it comes to landing high-paying clients.

Things like…

…Working for content mills for $5 a post ????

…Emailing multiple contacts at a company to see if they needed a freelancer ????‍♀️ 

…Negotiating way too early ????

Most pro freelancers have screwed up more times than we can count, so if you’ve made any of the big blunders, it’s not the end of the world.

We learn from it and move on, right?

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve created a list of seven ways freelance writers spook potential clients. But never fear, I’ve also included solutions to fix these messier-than-carving-a-pumpkin mistakes, too.

Hope you find these spook-tacular tips helpful as you revamp your freelance writer client-getting strategy!

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1. Pitching Everything But The Kitchen Sink 

Pitching your services is part of the freelance writing game. When you do it, it’s got to be efficient, short, and to-the-point, especially via email. When you offer no clear benefit of working with you, it’s a guarantee your pitch is going to fall flat. CEOs and marketing managers are busy folks. They don’t want to read between the lines or try to guess why they should respond back to your inquiry.

The Spook-Free Approach

Be crystal clear in your offering. If you’re sending an email pitch, this is a must. Phone pitch? Even more so. Refine your pitch until it’s clear you have one solid offering — like blogging — that you offer and the specific benefits of why the company you’re pitching NEEDS your service.

2. Sending Way Too Many Samples 

If you’ve gotten the initial go-ahead to send over samples for a marketing director to review, be picky. You don’t want to send your entire website (they won’t click through it to read your samples) and you certainly don’t want to send any broken links.

The Spook-Free Approach

At most, send three industry specific writing samples to your contact. Do not attach them to the email. You’ll want to include live hyperlinks in the body of the email that they can click on and go to right away. Pay close attention to #3 if you don’t have clips! 

3. No Portfolio To Show 

No clips? Sometimes this can be a problem for newbies or freelancers trying to break into new industries. And, honestly? It’s no big deal if you approach this one the right way. Once you start growing your portfolio, keep it in a place like Dropbox to have an organized spot for all of your clips. It makes it easy to send your clips over immediately upon request.

The Spook-Free Approach

For whatever industry you’d like to write for, create some spec samples. Aim for 3-5 samples in whatever writing style you’re hoping to land work in. These can be for a made-up company or even “modeled” for a competitor, but never say you worked for the company. Explain they are creative samples. You also may consider doing a free guest blog post or rewriting a friend’s website to have real-world samples, if you find your other spec pieces aren’t working.

4. Missing Deadlines 

Deadlines are set for a reason. As freelancer writers, we must live by these deadlines. When you turn in timely work, it showcases your professionalism and respect for the client you’re working for. When you’re hired as a freelancer, it’s expected you’ll turn in the work on the date negotiated. Don’t be a deadline pusher!

The Spook-Free Approach

If you think you may miss a deadline, let the editor, marketing manager, whoever, know about it ASAP. Ask for an extension, if necessary, and be specific about how long it may take to wrap it up. Life happens, and if that’s the case, they will likely understand. But for the other 99% of the time, don’t let yourself miss a deadline or it will ruin your reputation quickly.

5. Being Too Pushy 

Nobody loves a sleazy salesman (or woman). If you are given the opportunity to schedule time on a potential client’s busy schedule for a discovery call, use the time wisely. Pushing your agenda and demanding a signed contract by the end of the call will not get you another phone call or a contract. 

The Spook-Free Approach 

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. They have a problem that you can fix, so come into any initial discovery call with a curious mind and some questions to ask about their ideal situation. Offer value — yep, give it away for free — and be authentic in your interactions. Always end a phone call with an offer to send a proposal based on what you learned on the call. Customize it, and if you have additional questions, don’t be afraid to follow-up via email.

6. Not Showing Flexibility 

Even though you work for yourself, it’s important to bend a bit when it comes to working with clients. I’m not saying to go ahead and give up your boundaries, but a little give and take goes a long way when it comes to securing clients long term.

For example, if I work with a really great client and the content manager goes on vacation, I might offer to schedule and post content while she’s away for the week — even if it’s not something I normally do. I would only do this for a retainer client or a client I know would not push the boundaries of the initial offer. It helped her out and she was grateful for it, which showed when she vouched for me when it came time for my contract renewal.

The Spook-Free Approach

Show a bit of flexibility in working with clients. Whether this means they prefer to do a trial project before committing to a long-term contract or having you pop up on a monthly conference call, take a moment to consider it. Your clients will appreciate it and may even reward you with more work or extended contracts!

7. Undercharging For Your Services 

Yes, you will lose clients if they think you’re too cheap. They’ll consider it way too good to be true that you’re offering your services for that low, discounted rate. Don’t mark down your prices just because you really want to work with a client. The clients who see the value in what you do will pay what you’re worth.

Important note: In most freelance writer circles I’ve been in, I’ve seen that undervaluing your services is bad news 99% of the time. The clients who ask for a discount will almost always be the most difficult, demanding clients you have.

The Spook-Free Approach

Charge what you’re worth. Plain and simple. Talk with other freelancers who offer similar services to see what they charge. Check out resources like the American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) rate sheet or the Editorial Freelancers Association to get a ballpark idea of what services go for. Or, read my post 5 Highest Paid Freelancing Jobs That Get Clients Big Results

Don’t Scare Away Your Freelance Writing Clients 

If you find you’re never able to land clients or you can’t renew contracts, it may be time to re-evaluate if how you’re running your business is scaring off clients.

Look for patterns that emerge. Then sit down and reflect.

Ask yourself some hard questions like:

  • Are you getting responses on your proposals? 
  • Do you need more high-quality spec samples?
  • Are clients saying your prices are too high?
  • How well are you listening on discovery calls?  

Once you take the time to evaluate your processes, you’ll likely find some ways to tweak it to stop spooking clients. When in doubt, join a freelance writers’ group for guidance and a place to bounce ideas around. You may just find some creative solutions that lead you to your next high-paying dream client!

What mistakes have you made as a freelance writer? How did you fix it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!