My first client came easily. When I announced I was launching a freelance business, my friend said, “I’ll be your first client!” We discussed her web project, and I came up with a price, a basic agreement for us to sign, and a payment process.
It was exciting. It was also relatively easy because my friend (now client) and I had an existing relationship. We trusted one another.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that every client wouldn’t be as simple. For one, I didn’t know that many other people who could hire me.
I went to networking events and tried out different versions of an “elevator pitch.” I did get new clients but felt like I was re-inventing the wheel with everyone.
As I became more experienced, I thought it’d get easier. Yet, I found myself talking to multiple people in different industries with widely varied experience working with freelance writers.
The more I learned about the business of freelancing, the more I realized the most successful freelance business owners had processes. They didn’t start from scratch with every proposal or client conversation.
First, this happens, then, this happens.
It wasn’t a mystery.
Having workflows helped them accomplish their work with less stress. It also increased their pay because they were more efficient.
I could have these too. I just needed to write down the steps between “hello” and getting paid. It turns out it’s one of those things that’s simple but not always easy.
So, I studied AWAI articles and courses about processes. I scoured Facebook groups and finally pieced together a workflow.
Now I’m putting together a Standard Operating Procedures with scripts and templates for myself. It gives me a structure for everything from handling inbound queries to getting paid in a timely fashion. It frees up my brain for my writing work rather than wondering how to scope a project.
As a freelance writer, you’re also a business owner. When you have processes to follow, it streamlines your work and makes it more efficient.
For example, I have a simple checklist now when I speak with a potential new client. We discuss their possible project, expectations, time frame, and money matters. While it can be uncomfortable discussing money, it’s even more painful to waste hours putting together a proposal only to be ghosted.
I’m also building out my template library.
For example, I have two templates for blog writing. One is a client blog brief template, which I send to every new blogging client. I ask that they fill out the form for each blog post.
Wow, it makes a difference!
This template asks things like targeted keyword terms, calls-to-action, desired talking points, and resources. Often, the client may not have thought through these things, so it helps them focus. As a result, I have the direction I need to write a post that elicits comments like, “This is great, Jen. Spot on!”
Now, I don’t have templates for everything I do… yet. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I already see the value!
To create your workflow, it helps to write down the steps.
Initial Prospect Interaction
Is this an Inbound prospect? Maybe via social media or your email form? Or is it outbound like via a cold email? The first one knows something about you (perhaps it’s a referral or previous employer). The other doesn’t. Either way, your goal is to assess their needs, your skills, and determine if there’s a match.
You don’t always need a call. I’ve done plenty of business with a simple exchange of emails. Still, for more complicated projects or where one of you wants to have a more personal interaction, a call is helpful. Your goal is to limit your time. 20-30 minutes is enough to find out about the project and discuss expectations (including rates). I’ve found writing bullet points for myself helps me stay on track and get the information I need.
Proposal/Statement of Work Agreements
If you’ve already agreed to a specific project — three blog posts, for instance — and a rate, then all you need to do is type this up and send it over for signing. I use DigiSigner for digital signatures.
Method of Payment and Payment Terms
From PayPal to checks, there are as many ways to send and accept payments these days as there are ways to be a professional writer. I find it’s helpful to confirm payment terms ahead of time. I usually request a 50% deposit for new clients too.
I write hundreds of client blog posts a year. I’ve found that sending a Google Doc that asks for essential things like the intended audience, desired keyword terms, key talking points, etc., is helpful. It reminds the client to share needed information. It also can help them clarify issues in-house so I can focus on research and writing.
Submission of Work
Does your client prefer Word or Google Docs? I use both depending on the client, but I ask before sending it.
If your role is to write a series of blog posts, then it’s easy to know when you’ve completed the task. But what about more complex projects? Maybe you’re working with developing a Key Message Copy Platform or mapping out social media strategy. It’s important to have specific milestones, so you know when you’re “done.” You can probably see that even within each of these are multiple steps for developing your workflow. I’d suggest starting with one and asking yourself what you already know and what you still need to find out.