Sources are Crucial in Freelance Writing

If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to produce quality content. Having valuable sources is an important part of producing quality content.

How do you find good sources?

Network and build bridges between yourself and people who are well versed in the subjects that you write about. Ask friends and family, ask around in chat rooms and forums (to find out who experts are, don’t use a chat room as a source), and search online. Interviews make for good articles and associating with experts will boost your credibility.

If you primarily use the internet as a source, make sure that you favor the sites of experts with credentials, government websites and .org sites that tend to be educational. See if you can contact the experts behind the websites via email or phone.

Go to the library. Do not underestimate to quality of hard copy information. Some facts change over time, so it is best to show preference to later additions. You may be able to fact-check online to make sure the information you are using is up to date, but don’t be afraid to crack open a book.

Using Sources Properly

The way that you use those sources is vital as well. An improperly used source can be worse for a writer’s reputation than not using any sources at all. Remember to always cite your references, particularly if you spoke directly with them. Be sure to use quotes and researched information within context. Always record interviews (unless the source totally objects) to ensure that your quotes are accurate. Make sure that if you paraphrase, the words still carry a similar meaning to what was originally stated.

A “References” or “Sources” list at the end of a short online article may suffice. If you are writing for a magazine, make sure you follow their recommended citation process.  Mentioning your sources within the content will strengthen your points. Familiarize yourself with a variety of citation styles and stick to one that you are most comfortable using.

Learning from Client Feedback

As a freelance writer, it is important to pay attention to what your clients say. The life-blood of your business is your clients, and they are the ones you need to please. You can benefit from both negative and positive feedback and you should certainly look closely at both.

Positive feedback is important because you can find out exactly what you did right. If you understand what made your service good, you can continue to do those things that keep your clients coming back. Make sure that you continue to make an effort to meet the same standards, because clients can quickly change their mind about your services if you get lazy or overconfident.

Negative feedback lets you know what you need to improve. You shouldn’t take negative feedback personally or get offended by it. Use it as a tool to work on your writing skills and your business skills to make your freelance writing services better. It can be difficult to stay confident when flaws in your writing or services are highlighted. Nonetheless, it is important to believe that you can and should do better.

Make it a goal to constantly find ways to improve. Offer better customer service, and higher quality writing as much as possible. Your clients are all you have, and you should listen to them.

Treating Clients Well as a Freelance Writer

I have stressed in the past that it is important to have good customer service as a freelance writer, just as any business should. Here are some tips that can help you keep your clients happy, and perhaps even impress them.

-Address them formally. Sir, Madame, Mr., Mrs., Ms., and last names should be used at the beginning of the client relationship. It is perfectly fine to use their first name if they tell you that this is fine. I usually take notice to how they end their messages. If they use their first name alone, I take that as a signal that I can reply with their first name.

-Use proper email etiquette. Also, make sure that you respond to messages promptly and spell check and proofread before you click “send.” I try to make sure that I get back to my clients within 24 hours.

-Be friendly. While it is not required that you make small talk with your clients, a personal touch can create more of a trust and bond with your clients. There is no need to get overly personal, but you can ask how they are doing. Pick up on queues such as life events (marriage, death, new baby, moving, etc.) and use them to show your human side. Congratulations or condolences are appropriate in certain situations.

-Always respond professionally. All of your communication should have a touch of class and grace. Don’t allow strong emotions to cloud your judgment and keep you from acting professional. Not every client will be easy to work with, and you may need to end a client relationship at one time or another. Sometimes you will have to put up with personalities that you clash with, but, if you are professional and courteous, you will get through it without too much trouble.

-Give more than is required of you. Exceed your client’s expectations. Deliver your best work every time. Try to turn work in ahead of the deadline. Do a little more than is required of you.

-Offer discounts. You can reward clients who buy your services repeatedly or refer others to you.

Generally, the idea is to provide your clients with a stress-free, comfortable experience. Customer loyalty is really important. Do your best to foster long-term relationships with clients that you like to work with. They can provide you with work when times are tough. Good customer service is a major key to a successful freelance writing career.

Exceeding client expectations

It is a perfectly good idea to impress your clients with your writing and the way that you handle your writing business. Going above and beyond the call of duty will put you in a good position as a writer that comes highly recommended. There are certain basics that all clients expect when they first hire you. If you can give them more you increase your chances of getting a testimonial, repeat business, and referral business.

At the very least, your clients expect original work that is free of grammatical errors and typos. Clients also expect that you deliver on time and follow directions. If you edit and proofread your work more than once, and put effort into the quality of your writing each time, you will certainly make a positive impression on your clients. Meeting the deadline is a no-brainer, but if you can get the work done ahead of deadline, do it. Don’t try to rush the project and sacrifice quality, but deliver really clean copy early whenever possible. Clients appreciate timeliness.When it comes to directions, inquiring on specifics and thinking critically about the work will show them that you are attentive and that you desire to get things just right. Ask questions, even if you think you know the answer.

If you set your standards high, this will also justify calling for a higher price. If you are charging what you are worth, putting in the extra effort to provide excellent service won’t be a problem. You will be able to take your time and feel good about what you do if you are being paid well. There are some clients out there who aren’t willing to pay for quality, but there are many others out there who are willing to pay what you are worth.

Aim to provide high quality writing services, and eventually, you will earn a high paycheck.

Why Freelance Writers Need References and Testimonials

Being in business for yourself as a freelance writer does not lend itself to instant credibility. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite. In order to be recognized as a true professional, you have to have a track record of success behind you. “What if I am just starting out?” you may ask. From the first client you are somehow able to win over, you need to start gathering feedback and testimonials.

Many companies will ask for customers to fill out quick surveys or simply ask, “How can we make our service better?” Why shouldn’t a freelance writer do the same? Learning the things that you did right, and wrong, can help you grow as a writer. If a client has good things to say about you, ask if you can write it down and use it as a testimonial. You might even want to ask for feedback, or request a quick emailed statement about their experience with you to help you market your services.

One other good idea is to ask for a letter of recommendation or if you can put a client’s information down for a reference. I have seen several freelance writing job listings that ask for references, resumes, and reviews. It offers buyers a sense of confidence when they can see that you were able to serve others well, and the natural assumption is that you will serve them in a similar fashion. Customers attract more customers, and that isn’t going to change. I recommend frequently collecting testimonials and feedback from clients, and posting it on your website and/or adding it to your portfolio. It will not only make you look good to other prospects, but it can really boost your confidence when you are having a no good, writer’s-block-filled, stressed out day.

Don’t Leave Them Hanging

One thing that I like to do, that my clients love, is give them a regular update on progress. This works well for projects that are just over a week or longer. After one week in a long-term project, I like to send a brief message to my client and let them know that I have started and things are on schedule. I usually will not send rough copies of the work for them to see unless they ask me to do that. I just make sure that I keep in regular contact with them, so they feel more comfortable, and know that I am a self-started who doesn’t need to have someone looking over my shoulder.

When you make the effort to show clients that their project is important, they tend to want to hire you again. If I am half-way through a project, I will normally send a sneak preview of the work, as long as it is close to what I plan on turning in. Be careful with letting clients see your unfinished work. If it is a proofread finished portion of a longer project, you shouldn’t worry, but never send a really rough piece to them. That will only make them nervous, and they might begin to doubt that you will deliver the quality that they thought you would. If you have truly made progress, and the preview doesn’t need much more than a scan for typos, go ahead and send them that evidence that you are actually working as hard as you say you are.

Once a week is good enough, and longer than that tends to be a little too long of a wait. I never like it when clients have to ask me how things are going, so I beat them to the question. Try it. It will make you seem more together and professional, and clients really like it. It’s just another way to keep them coming back. No one can resist good service.

The Lure of a Free Sample

Responding to freelance writing ads can be awkward when you are starting out. What if you know that you can do a good job on a project, but the ad specifically asks to see samples of writing on a related subject matter and you just don’t have it? You may have a portfolio with little or nothing in it, or just don’t have anything related to the project you are applying for. What will you do?

There are several ways to get the client’s attention and present yourself in a confident manner. I like to offer to do a free sample of about 250 words for the client if they would like to offer a topic to me. Some writers will argue that you should charge for the fresh sample, but I don’t think that is always necessary. I will only offer a free sample if I have a good idea what they want but don’t have any off-hand samples that show that particular skill or are related to the subject. I have been hired for many jobs based on these samples, and I think it is a great way to prove your abilities.

Another reason why offering a free sample works is because it creates a vision in the client’s mind. They can more easily imagine how you would approach the rest of the project. Often times, they will feel that you have already started, so you might as well finish. Besides, everyone perks up when you mention the word “free.” It creates a trust between you and the client before they even hire you. People are more willing to purchase things from those that they trust. That’s why it works. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can send the sample in .pdf or simply tell the client that you will retain the copyright to the article unless it is purchased. If you don’t want to offer it totally free, you can offer it at half price.

There are times when I will charge for a sample. This is normally when the client requests a full-length, fresh article. Sometimes clients are a bit nervous about getting scammed or they have had experiences with poor service that included poor grammar or a “copy paste” submission. If the client does not want to pay for a sample that they are requesting, I would ask why.

I recommend luring clients with a free sample earlier on in your writing career while you are still building your portfolio. Like I said, it has worked like a charm for me.

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