Sunday, April 1, 2012

7 Ways To Lose a Client: Mistakes I’ve Made

I’ve been a freelance copy writer for more than 38 years and, oh boy, have I made mistakes. In fact, I think I’ve made every mistake a freelance service provider CAN make.

She'll Be Back
Fortunately, I learned from these mistakes and applied them to my business (and personal) life. There are lots of ways to lose a client. There are even more ways to keep a client happy and a part of an expanding, stable client base.

1. Oversell.
I’m proud of what I do. And, frankly, I’m a show-off. So, even after the deal is closed, I’m still selling my services. I once had a client tell me that I made him nervous with all of the sales hype I threw at him whenever we spoke.

Now, I provide just enough information to let the client know that I have some authority as a copy writer. Then, I shut up.

2. Take it personally.
This is a tough one. When I write something – anything – it’s my baby. I think it’s perfect, so when a client comes back asking for revisions I used to take it as a personal affront.

Over the years, I’ve been able to separate my self-esteem from my work. I know it’s good. But if the client wants to make it worse, s/he gets what s/he wants. I don’t debate clients any more. I tell them that I think they’re making a mistake, I tell them why I think they’re making a mistake, then I write that “Black is white” because that’s what the client wants. I get paid to deliver what the client wants, good, bad, or indifferent.

3. Put your interests before those of the client.
Another sure fire means of driving clients to distraction.

There are days that, as writers, we’re more productive than others. Days when we feel like writing and days when every word is a struggle. Clients don’t care. They want their copy. NOW. So, even when the muse isn’t perched on my shoulder, I write. And I put the interests of my clients before my own. I deliver what was promised and I deliver it before the deadline.

4. Lose steam.
This happens a lot.

There’s always excitement and renewed interest when a new client comes along. But after a few weeks of writing about beekeeping, it gets kinda boring. And after a few more weeks, it gets to be work.

It may be difficult to stay enthusiastic after writing about beekeeping for two or three years, and as a result the quality of your writing slips. Can’t let that happen.

You’re the creative one so find new ways of approaching the beekeeping issues of the day. If you stay interested, your writing will be interesting. Oh, and your clients will stay in place and ask for more.

5. Ignore the client.
You may have eight projects all moving forward simultaneously, though at different stages. It’s common to work on the latest project to come through and let some of those older assignments collect dust.

Clients want to think that they’re the most important client you have. Pick up the telephone, drop an email, meet for lunch, connect on social media sites. In other words, pay attention to all clients and they’ll pay attention to you – with a check. That’s always nice.

6. Miss a deadline.
It’s happened, but only a couple of times. One time I came down with the flu from hell and was unable to work for a week. I dropped the ball, missed a deadline and lost the client.

I never blamed her for dropping me, even though I was on death’s door for a few days. I never even brought up the flu. Clients don’t care about your problems. They care about results, even when the flu has you bed-ridden.

7. Accept project creep.
It starts with a simple request. “Would you mind adding a short auto-responder to the list?” Of course, no problem.

Then, it’s another request and another and finally, you’re doing keyword research and making $3.00 an hour. At this point, it’s tough to put on the brakes since you’ve been so accommodating thus far.

Say “no” as soon as that first request comes in. Let the client know that your time is valuable, your experience and knowledge have value. Simply explain that this is your livelihood and you have to put your time to the most productive use.

Reasonable clients (there are some) will accept this and respect you for your courteous professionalism. And the cranks who think you’re holding back are clients you can afford to lose. They’re time wasters.

Today, I’m older, wiser and have a nice group of clients with whom I’ve built friendships. Most importantly, I’ve learned when to shut up and when to speak, when to accept and when to push back.

It’s a lot more fun and profitable working this way.

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