The biggest struggle of any freelancer, any business, is client satisfaction. Sometimes it can feel like you are doing your very best, and yet nothing you do is good enough. And unfortunately, sometimes it seems like when it rains it pours. When it comes to content writing, sometimes I hit it the nail on the head, and sometimes I fail.
As a freelancer, failure is the worst. There’s no one to blame but yourself. If they don’t like your content writing, it feels like a reflection on your entire being. Failure isn’t easy, but it’s a natural part of the freelance process.
There are three types of client failures:
- The Fade Away
It’s like a ghost breakup. You’re content writing, everything appears to be fine and to be going well, but suddenly, you stop receiving assignments. You reach out a few times to check on the status of new work and current projects, and every time they push you off. “Oh, we don’t have anything else right now. Maybe next week.” “We’re still looking that over, and we’ll get back to you.” Then eventually, three weeks have gone by, and you realize that the client is gone.
To me, this is the most frustrating client failure. There’s no explanation. There’s no feedback to help you improve your content writing. Instead, the client disappears, and you’re left wondering what exactly happened.
I’ve experienced this quite a few times already in my four months of freelancing, and I expect I’ll experience it many more times. Each time, I just have to remind myself that there are other clients and a reliable client is better than a fade away.
2. The Impossible to Please
We’ve all been there. We close a new client, and we’re excited to get to content writing, but immediately it seems that everything we do is wrong. This client, unfortunately, already had the perfect idea in their mind and no matter what you accomplish, you’ll never be able to reach that ideal.
With these types of failures, there’s rarely anything that you can do unless you’re willing to go far above and beyond the project budget and deal with countless rewrites to make it work. Typically, when I run into an impossible to please client, I realize that it’s time to cut my losses and move on. The key to a great freelance content writing relationship is 100% satisfaction on both sides. That will never happen in this case.
3. The Mistake Failure
Unfortunately, this content writing failure is par for the course and the hardest for me to accept. I’m human, I make mistakes, but I don’t have to like it. There are times where I’m overwhelmed with client work or life interference and I write an article or submit an assignment that is subpar. I either completely missed the client’s point, I wrote in the wrong voice—carrying over from another client—or I was too hasty and didn’t edit appropriately.
The mistakes are killer. When the client calls out your content writing, you know you’ve messed up. Now it’s all about rectifying the situation. The worst part about this failure is that it only causes you more work in the end. If you have to complete a rewrite, you’ve lost the time it took to write the original article and added on additional time—you probably don’t have. Mistakes are inevitable, it’s all about handling it well.
So, what do I do to ensure that my content writing satisfies my clients? To tell you the truth, it’s not always easy, but I’ve learned a few tips along the way.
- Put it all out up front. Don’t beat around the bush. Lay out your expectations and ask the client to lay out their expectations. The worst thing you can do is try to be too polite and miss the point.
- Admit your mistakes. I’m not perfect, and I have off days, sometimes weeks, where my writing isn’t what it should be. In those cases, I admit the issue and ask what I can do to fix the issue.
- Follow up often. I’ve come to realize that closing the deal and keeping a client happy is all on my shoulders. I have to be the one to complete the final follow-up, to check for happiness, to ask for feedback, to provide the rewrite. If you wait for your client, you’ll end up with no clients.
- Don’t over apologize. I have a terrible habit of saying “I’m sorry” or “my apologies” for everything. That’s the wrong way to go about it. Content writing is subjective. Sometimes you’ll have a different viewpoint than your client, that doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Now, you just need to work to find a common ground.
- Always review and edit. When work gets busy, it can seem like a good idea to punch through an assignment and submit it without a review. This is a horrible idea. No matter how “on your game” you feel, your writing always needs a re-read and an edit. Period. This includes re-reading your article to ensure it’s user-friendly, particular when you’re writing technical content. Here’s an article with some great advice on improving your technical writing.
- Get detailed instructions. Many of my failures have occurred because one or both sides decided to say, “whatever you want.” That’s one of my most dreaded phrases. 99% of the time it’s not true. The client knows what they want; they’re just busy at the moment. Instead of moving forward, follow-up until you have the instructions and resources you need.
- Ask for feedback. I can’t tell you how often clients have said, “It’s good, there are just a few things.” Then, when I ask for details, I discover it’s far more than a few things. Feedback is amazing. It’s not always easy to read or to hear, but every time you get feedback you can improve your content writing.
- Set your budget immediately. Don’t start work or move forward unless both sides have agreed on a budget and signed a contract. Even that won’t always protect you, but it does provide a measure of trust that will allow you to write your heart out with less fear.
- Ask questions. Before you write, while you write, after your first draft, ask questions. You’re a content writer, not a mind reader. If you don’t understand the direction of the assignment, ask for clarification. Don’t waste your effort content writing something that the client doesn’t want.
Freelance content writing is one of the best jobs in the world; it’s also one of the most difficult. Give yourself enough grace to make mistakes, lose clients, and feel your way. Eventually, you’ll find the clients that suit your writing style, personality, and work desires. Remember, your writing is not everyone’s cup of tea, that doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a content writer, it just means you have to find the people who love your flavor.