Having been in the freelance writing game for over 20 years, I have made just about every business mistake in the book. And those mistakes have cost me clients and money. If you are a one-person company providing writing services to clients – either online or in person – here are three big time mistakes that you want to avoid.
The first is not picking up the damn phone when it rings. I know this goes against the advice of the time management folks, but the simple negative act of not picking up the phone is a form of non-marketing you don’t want to engage in.
The minute a potential client calls you on the phone inquiring about your services, the job is yours to lose. If you keep them on the phone for more than 5 minutes, with them doing most of the talking, you’ve most likely landed a new job. But if you choose not to answer the phone – for whatever reason – then that potential client goes to the next person on their list.
Don’t assume they will leave a message on your answering machine. If they are in the market for someone who can provide the services you offer, they usually want to talk to a person – and talk to them now! You rarely have a second chance to make a non-impression.
So please, pick up the damn phone. You will never know how many clients you have lost if you don’t. Or many thousands of dollars you have poured down the drain.
The next mistake is only having one or two major clients in your portfolio, who have been with you forever. And you have neglected the marketing strategies that you employed when you landed them all those years ago.
There is an old adage that says you should market yourself, not just when you have free time, but more importantly when you are the busiest. It is all too easy to get bogged down in work when we are really busy and put our marketing initiatives on the back burner until the workload lightens up. That’s a big mistake we all make.
Remember – marketing and networking initiatives take time to pay off. Three to six months on average. So when your long time clients begin to drop off – and they always do through promotion or retirements (or worse!) all that income you had counted on for so long may well disappear overnight. Now of course you may be able to pick up work from their successors, or you may follow them to their new locations – but that is by no means a given. So let’s say you have two long-term clients that makes up 80% of your income. Could you afford to lose both of them in the same year?
I thought not. So remember, the busier you are the more you should be putting feelers out through whatever networking method that works best for you.
The third mistake is so distressingly obvious that you would think it hardly worth mentioning. That is not delivering what you promised, at the price you promised, by the date you promised. No exceptions.
Even if there have been intervening complications, always err on the side of your client. There had better be blood on the tracks and it had better be yours, before you break this rule. Do that and you will get the reputation of being utterly reliable – the go-to person each and every time.
After all, if that is how your clients see you – and they say so – why would they ever go to anybody else? You have become their de facto path of least resistance and they will tell their colleagues exactly that when they are asked for recommendations about reliable freelancers to consider.
So there you have it. Pick up the damn phone, market when you are really busy, and let reliability be the descriptors your clients use when they mention your name. Do those three little things, and you will have gone a long way to keeping your business thriving.