I’ve only been freelance writing for less than a year. But in that time I’ve learned a lot, from how to land high paying clients and finding editors’ emails to building social proof and launching a writer’s website. But, one of the most important skills I’ve developed is an ability to manage freelance writing clients.
I’d like to say that you can teach people how to manage writing clients. But the reality is that often you only develop these skills when you’re in that position. Indeed, it’s a skill I developed because I found myself in situations where clients were overly demanding and lacked workflow. The result was that I bore the brunt of their problems.
And that’s the thing, if you don’t address these problems early on they’ll end up perpetuating themselves. Over, and over, and over, again.
You’ll find yourself in situations where clients think it’s okay to send you an article brief on Friday that’s due Monday. No regard for your weekend there.
You’ll find yourself in situations where they think it’s okay to send follow up emails to an email they sent, asking why you haven’t responded yet. You should always be at their beck and call, right?
You’ll find yourself in situations where you request information from a client for an article you’re writing, but don’t get a response. Sure, you’ll just write the article and magically find that information, right?
Theses are but a few examples of situations I’ve experienced as a freelance writer in my short career. If you’re a freelance writer who hasn’t experienced this yet – lucky you.
But I guarantee you will experience these situations at some point in your writing career. It’s in times like these where you need to take control of the situation. Because if you don’t, they’re in control. And the sad thing is you’re to blame. No one else.
You don’t want to be in that position, do you?
To fix the problem I’m sharing two emails that I have used to manage freelance writing clients. I’ll explain the context of each email, deconstruct it for you and show you why it works.
Emails to Manage Freelance Writing Clients
Every situation will be different. But with a few tweaks to these emails and by following certain principles – you’ll have your clients eating out of your hands – and at worst, thanking you for your email.
Email One – The Agency Client
I sent this email to an agency. Now, agencies generally receive a healthy volume of work from clients and they work in pressurised environments. I know because I once worked for a company as a business development manager and dealt with lots of “agency-types”.
Projects are always on tight deadlines. The pressure agencies feel is often because of their own clients who have tight deadlines and agencies’ failure to manage them. Invariably agencies transfer these pressures onto contractors; exactly what happened to me in this first email exchange
I sent an email after I received an article brief on Friday that was due on Monday. Even before then, there was a feeling of constant urgency with tight deadlines. I’d been working for the client for a few months already.
I understand that sometimes clients do have tight deadlines due to factors they can’t control but when it happens repeatedly, it becomes a problem. So, I sent the following email in an attempt to put a stop to it.
Breaking it down…
- I titled the email, “Improving Workflow”. It’s concise, descriptive and nothing too fancy.
- I started the email with a positive tone – and referenced a survey they sent me a month earlier that asked me how they could improve. I made it about them and how I could improve their service.
- This immediately put me on a positive footing. Never start by complaining. A negative feeling yields a negative response.
- I then highlighted the current problems. Again, I didn’t whine and proposed a solution that would help fix the problem and benefit both of us.
- I also reinforced the importance of improving workflow in a time when the volume of work was increasing.
- I ended by saying that I enjoy working with them – more positivity right there.
The response I received was positive. The client mentioned that improving workflow was something they were working on.
In the end, your client’s workflow, whether good or bad, affects you. And if you do nothing about, you’re the one to blame not them.
Disclaimer: I stopped working for this client because of delayed payment. I’ll share an article on WriteWorlwide soon about this to help you get paid on time.
Now on to email two.
Email Two – The Start of a Relationship
In this instance I was starting the relationship with a client, so the email was different. But, the same principles apply that I detailed in the previous email.
With these clients, I was receiving emails from different people about the same project. Parties weren’t cc’d in. It just became confusing. They were also sending me stuff, without any guidance/brief.
Finally, they sent me audio files to transcribe, which at the time – wasn’t part of my services. So, I decided that if I was going to be working with them in the future, this couldn’t carry on. I sent the following email:
Breaking it down…
- Again I titled the email, “Improving Workflow”. Managing freelance writing clients often revolves around workflow, so it’s a good subject line.
- I started the email by thanking them for forwarding me information. I was already on a positive footing right there.
- I launched into telling them, “To make this process as smooth and as easy as possible for everyone, kindly allow me to request the following.” I showed that it was not only in my interest but also theirs. Remember we’re trying to form a business relationship here.
- I highlighted that ‘teething” problems often occur at the start of a relationship. I also stated that sending me the articles on time, as agreed, was to their benefit.
- Further, I told them that transcriptions weren’t part of my services and told them what I needed to start writing. Establishing project scope is important.
- I ended by saying that I do want to work for them and that I look forward to a fruitful relationship. This shows I’m invested in the process.
- Feel free to add any personal touches at the end like I did, saying that I wish her well for the operation. Personal touches go a long way.
The response I received from the client was positive. They apologised for the confusion and I’m still writing for them today. In fact, they’re my most lucrative client.
So, Why Do These Emails Work?
You’ve probably worked it out for yourself, but these two emails work because they are positive. It’s always about the client – and framed in a way that shows it’s for their benefit, not only yours. It’s as simple as that.
So next time you’re in a similar situation take charge of it. Own it. Because if you don’t, you’re the one who’s going to suffer. And in the end, you’re to blame. No one else.
Bonus Tip for managing clients: Take time to construct these emails. Never, and I mean never, send emails when you’re emotional as it only leads to regret. I constructed these emails with the help of a friend. Often an outside perspective works as they’re not invested in the process.
Have you been in a similar situation? How have you managed your freelance writing clients?