5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Earn a Flood of Repeat Business

Image of Two Customers in a Shop

You knocked yourself out to get that client to work with you, and she was a perfect fit.

But, after the project ended, you never heard from her again.

Maybe that’s the story of your entire business — get a new client, do the writing, fail to get more work. Get another client, do the writing, fail to get more work.

Needless to say, this is a very frustrating way to run a freelance writing business.

What if you could attract clients and then, after each project is finished, have them want to work with you again — and again and again? What would that mean to your productivity, your profitability, and your state of mind?

Gaining loyal and repeat clients isn’t really a super power. It’s simply a way of approaching business relationships that anyone can master.

But thinking of it as a super power can help you create ways to provide your clients more of what they truly need, and keep them coming back for more.

Do you consistently amaze and astonish your clients?

Superheroes stand out. They command respect. Not only because they help people, but because they have ultra-cool super powers — their own unique, super special attributes that affect the way they help people — which leave everyone wanting more.

Your work helps people too. But do you blow clients away with your own unique way of doing it? Do your clients feel like they can always rely on you to come through and save the day? Do they think of you as their own powerful secret weapon? Can they hardly wait to work with you again so they can watch you work your magic?

Or, too often, do you just become an order taker, writing what your client has asked you to provide, regardless of all the other great ideas and talents you have?

You have super powers too

Whether you believe it or not, you have the ability — right now — to choose a superhero identity, and wear that identity throughout the course of your client engagement.

And you can change your super powers based on the type of clients you have, the stages your varied clients are in, and what kind of content your clients need.

No more order taking.

First, determine what your client needs

Before choosing which superhero to be for any particular client or project, first take a look at the client herself. Determine her most basic need: what’s truly challenging her, besides the details of the work?

She might be:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Exhausted
  • Inexperienced
  • Overworked
  • Desperate
  • Stressed
  • Frustrated
  • Under Pressure
  • Unsure
  • Harried
  • Lacking Confidence

Or she might be in some other anxiety-prone state of mind … which is why she’s hired you.

Next, choose the superhero who can help your client the most

Once you’ve identified your client’s state of mind, choose your superhero for the specific situation you’re facing, and prepare yourself for the part. Superman used a phone booth for his transformation. You can just use your imagination, but be sure to properly assume your role.

What follows are five freelance writing superhero choices and examples of situations where they’ll work for you, and your business …

1. The Hero

“Here I come to save the day!”

If your client is under pressure and desperate, you can be The Hero who saves the day.

Imagine this …

An important client has a big deadline looming and has waited until the last minute to get it done. He needs your expertise and he needs it now.

There’s a glitch, though. As soon as he hands you the details, he’s off on another project, out of the country, and isn’t available. He wants you to write his presentation and deliver it right before he submits it. You have no time for back-and-forth approvals.

Your client’s reputation rests on your ability to craft this important assignment well.

You both know you can do it, but you don’t usually work without approvals. It’s like walking the tightrope without a net. Accepting this project requires courage.

The impression you make when you save the day for your client will be tangible, and he’ll remember that he can count on you. You’ll be his Hero from this time forward — an ultra-valuable partner he can’t do without.

Warning: Making a habit of doing “rush” or “emergency” jobs is no way to run a sane freelance writing business. But doing it at the right time, for the right client, can alter the course of your operation forever.

2. The Helper

“I can see what needs to be done, and I will take care of it.”

If your client is overwhelmed and exhausted, you can be The Helper, who has the ability to see what needs to be done, and does it — often without anyone asking.

Imagine this …

You can tell by your initial conversations that your client has been burning the candle at both ends, trying to slog through the immense pile of work assigned to her. In trying to give you direction, she quickly becomes overwhelmed.

Instead of becoming annoyed at not getting good direction, you don your Helper super powers. You see areas that are backing her up — some she hasn’t asked you to take care of, some she hasn’t even recognized herself.

You ask questions, like, “What if I organize all this and bring back some recommendations?”

Her relief is palpable. You come back with everything organized, including a simple checklist that outlines how you can assist, and a list of additional content elements she may not have thought you could provide.

She can’t believe her good fortune.

She now knows you can cut through the clutter and find real ways to assist, a skill far more valuable than simply doing what she asks of you. Will she be back? You betcha, Batman.

3. The Sage

“I have the knowledge to help you pull this off.”

If your client is inexperienced, unsure, and lacking confidence, you can be The Sage, who brings wisdom, judgment, and experience to the project.

Imagine this …

Your client is woefully under-equipped for her job. Her false bravado barely masks how she’s actually scared and afraid someone will blow the whistle on her.

She gives you terrible direction, and she’s missing all sorts of information. Still, she’s in charge, and it’s a wonderful project you can truly assist her with.

You’ve already determined that asking questions is pointless, because she doesn’t know the answers — she’s never done this before.

But you have.

Gently, with the patience only wisdom and experience can bring, you take her under your wing. You show how she can bring the project in with a big splash — things that will truly impress her boss and make her look great in her job. You bolster her confidence with proven strategies and show her how writing and content fit in.

When she knows you’re on her side and can boost her credibility while adding to her job knowledge, she’ll want to have you available whenever she needs you. You can become her super-secret weapon.

You may even have an advocate for life — and none of your competitors will be able to gain ground with her. Because you have gained her trust, this is a client who will come back to you again and again.

4. The Interpreter

“Don’t worry; I can walk you through this.”

If your client is frustrated, overwhelmed, and unsure, you can be The Interpreter who makes things easier to understand.

Imagine this …

Your client is super busy, and got in over his head. He needs you to write about something he doesn’t understand himself — and what’s worse, you can’t do the work without some level of understanding on his part. Halfway through explaining the situation to you, he realizes he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

You know your client is smart and educated in many areas — this just isn’t one of them.

Instead of waiting for him to get his act together, you tell him …

Don’t worry, I get it. I can talk you through your part — I’ve done this before. There’s a certain order we need to do this in, that’s all. Let me plot it out and I’ll get a plan back to you.

Your client may never have had anyone advise him like this before. You’ve just used your super powers to become super valuable to him. He won’t forget your ability to understand how these things work, and he’ll be back too.

5. The Magician

“Let me just take this off your plate. It’ll all come together … like magic.”

If your client is stressed, harried, overworked, frustrated, and under pressure, you can be The Magician who makes things happen … as if by magic.

Imagine this …

Your client has to put on a big event — and is she ever wigged out! She wants you to provide content for a small part, which of course you can do.

Using your super powers, you see she’s going to be crazy unavailable and hard to contact, right from the get-go, on your part of the project. You can see her spinning out of control already, which means you can crash and burn too, if you can’t get her approval at critical stages.

By asking a few questions, you find out things are on her list that, if you had control over them, would make your work go more smoothly while making it easier for her as well. So you shoot her a proposal to include them in your scope of work. It’s better for you, and a larger part of her headache gets taken off of her plate.

She can’t believe it. She asked you to do one thing, and presto, you jumped in and removed a larger chunk of her problem, like magic. She’s so happy — and she’ll be back the next time she needs someone who can truly assist her.

Just use your x-ray vision

In any situation with any client, only by using your super powerful x-ray vision will you see certain opportunities — you just have to look for them.

Of course, waiting for the client to tell you what to do is easier. They know what they need; they’re the client, right?

No, it’s not right. They’re not just clients.

Now you know that every client is a person you can assist.

Now you have new super powers, if you’re willing to assume them. And you have to use them soon, or the abilities you’ve gained here will fade. Don’t let that happen.

Don’t lose faith in your own capability. Don’t doubt your own genius. Don’t step back into your old habit of just taking orders from clients.

The world needs more superheroes. And your clients need you.

Do you want your clients to stick around and work with you again and again?

Be your clients’ very own secret weapon.

About the Author: Marcia Hoeck began consulting after one too many people asked how she got her 25-year marketing communications firm to run so well and so profitably. Get her free video series, “How to Get Unstuck, Get Focused, and Gain Momentum in Your Business without Feeling Icky or Salesy: Three Business Building Strategies that Work”.

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Comments

  1. I guess it all comes down to those two magic words; “added value”.

    No matter what superpower you choose, you’re adding value to your service. And that’s what keeps people coming back time after time.

    Great advice Marcia, thanks!

  2. I agree with Andy about the “added value” but sometimes this just isn’t enough. There is a percentage of clients/customers who are just gonna leave you regardless of how much added value you give them. It could be based on price, location, relative who now does what you do or something else completely unrelated.

    It is extremely frustrating to go through the process of getting a client, doing the work till they’re satisfied, then dealing with them after the fact over and over again, so I think you tackled a complex problem with a simple solution using a great analogy.

    One way I would attempt to counter the problem is to request an immediate testimonial so there is a little more vested investment on their part. At least that way, if they do wander off never to be seen again, you have new marketing ammunition in your quest for attracting new clients/customers.

    • Thanks, Shola, and you’re right — not every client is going to stay with you no matter what you do. But so often we think the client knows what they want and we wait to take direction, instead of using our noggins to find out how we can REALLY help them. Thinking in terms of super powers gives us a direct way to uncover the true value we can bring so we take action, before the client slips away.

  3. Great suggestions, Marcia! I just scored a new client with whom I’d love to build a long-term relationship, so this post is perfect timing. I always work by the over-deliver mentality – not necessarily under-promising, but definitely over-delivering on what I do promise – and being a “superhero” is a great way to craft the over-delivery. Now I just have to figure out which superpower(s) my client needs most. Thanks!

  4. I stumbled upon this post at just the right time…I’m trying to land a few freelancing gigs, and I needed some additional insight.

    Now, if I could just land that first client, I’d be good to go…

  5. Nice Article Marcia,

    I’ve enjoyed doing a lot of ‘Trusted Advisor’ type consulting roles and on the writing front always found the idea of ghost writing fascinating. I guess that puts me somewhere between the helper and the sage in your superhero choices. You should add what color cape each of these should be wearing ;-)

    take care & best wishes,
    Alan

  6. I’ve noticed that one key to success seems to be thinking ahead and planting seed ideas in my clients’ minds to take root and eventually they can take the credit. Yeah, it’s a time-honored technique that works well now.

  7. This is great advice, especially for those wanting to break into freelance writing. First and foremost, it’s a business. Knowing who your ideal clients are will help you decide the type of superhero you are. In fact, you could be a combination of all of them. Let your intuition guide you. And don’t forget to ask questions and then listen. Listen more and talk less. Write on…

  8. I think having one-off projects are part and parcel of the freelance world. Obviously we’d all love rolling contracts and continual business, but sometimes people need specific things. I’d rather excel and deliver what a client wants and get a glowing testimony than worry about the next job before it even arrives.

    Great, fun article though. And I totally agree that freelancers should do their best to get that repeat business if possible.

  9. My consulting is in a different world, but the business is the same. It is interesting that some people find more use for our super powers than others do. Our business is successful because of these relationships and as the people who have invested in us have reaped the benefits and moved up, their recognition of what we bring grows.

    Thank you for starting our year in a positive way.

  10. Oh my gosh, this was a great read because it finally put into words what I do on all my projects. I agree that sometimes the SuperHero act only nets a one-off project, but most of the time it worka like seeding. Do it frequently enough and word gets around.

  11. Jane Pellicciotto :

    It helps to have a costume. I once had a bad day and wore my wonder woman costume the whole day except that I lost my rope of truth so it wasn’t that effective.

    A key takeaway is what’s implicit in your post– making sure you value your superpowers enough to charge appropriately and don’t become the door-mat, fix-it person. I like how you address issues of a client disappearing and not being available for approvals. These are real-life scenarios and if not handled the right way, you risk becoming that door mat or worse, being responsible for a mistake.

  12. Thank you for this article! It’s great, tangible advice, as always. Sometimes, we forget that clients are people, first, and people sometimes get overwhelmed. What we might mistake as a “difficult” client may just be a stressed-out person who needs help. I know it’s a reminder I needed. A big part of freelancing is sales and a big part of sales is understanding how to solve a customer’s problems, even if they don’t know what those problems are.

  13. Love this post. As copywriters, we understand that our marketing needs to stand out. If you want repeat business, the whole experience needs to be exceptional!

  14. I like your superhero descriptions! They describe perfectly what being a marketer feels like.

  15. I have no choice but to agree with you Marcia. I’m a freelance writer myself and I had tried everything that you have stated in here. I should say that all these strategies work and if done right then this could led you to a gold mine. I have repeated clients almost every day and those happy faces assures me that I’m on the right track.

    You have just laid my words in a nice and timely manner. Thanks for the effort you put in. Enjoyed every word of this fine article.

  16. Great article, Marcia! That was really helpful! Some things were reinforced and others were new insights. What I loved the most about your post is the framework you gave for it. You pointed out the symptoms to look for that gives us a systematic way to diagnose a problem and prescribe the right medication (aka which superhero role we should play in order to address each problem).

    My twin brother, my friend and I have a small business consulting company that we started right out of college and I think this framework will help us a lot! So thanks again for the great info and I just signed up for your newsletter and video – looking forward to hearing more great wisdoms from you!

  17. We’re in our eleventh year of running a business, and there certainly is something to be said for building long-term relationships with clients. Relationships have been a huge part of our longevity and success. Taking care of projects isn’t just about working according to the contract or agreement. It’s also about making life easier for your client — and sometimes being a mind reader.

    I would also add that reminding your client about your super powers every once in a while doesn’t hurt, either. For instance, if you told the client you would do something extra by a certain time, starting the email with “As promised, I am emailing today to do …” This reinforces the idea that you do what you say and it also reminds your client that you promised and delivered something extra.

    Great post!

  18. This is a great read. I’ve just started a new blog and even though I don’t intend on selling my writing (yet anyway) I’ve been able to learn how people may see you as you write. You maybe their superhero or their muse but the way you deliver your writing has a lot to do with how your readers will see you. Thanks for the tips!

  19. I think for some of us, sometimes writing can be really fun to do, but sometimes, we always tend to lose inspiration to create new creative contents, even when we realize that we’re getting paid for creating that article.

    I really like the idea of becoming “The Helper” every time we’ re asked by our client to write articles. I mean, we can just focus on becoming “The Helper” every time we write new contents. I think it can really simplify our mind in creating more helpful but also, “easy to read” articles.

    Great post Marcia!!

  20. Marcia,
    I love the proactive perspective you bring to this. The more ways we can find to alleviate a client’s pressure, the more valuable we become. As copywriters, we’re always looking for the “pain” we can soothe. It’s helpful to look at clients the same way: “What’s the pain she’s going through? How can I soothe that pain?”

    She’ll never ask, but she is hoping I can be the superhero. You’ve given 5 excellent ways of thinking about how we can put those superpowers into action. Great stuff!

    • Jesse, you bring up a good point: “She’ll never ask, but she is hoping I can be the superhero.” Very often clients don’t know what they REALLY need from you. Thanks for adding this!

  21. What great advice for starting the new year. Finding new clients is a top priority for me, but more importantly I want to keep them happy.

  22. No matter what superpower you choose, you’re adding value to your service. And that’s what keeps people coming back time after time.

  23. I was just commenting on another blog about shopping habits and this seems very similar. Some items, like pasta, are pretty much the same from brand to brand, so you might as well get the cheapest since the more expensive brands don’t add much value. Other items have a noticeable difference in quality and you might be better off getting the pricier brand. As a freelancer, you want to make sure your value is apparent. Don’t be the pasta of writers.

  24. Freelancing is easy if you take it seriously. Thank you for the great read on being a better seller and businessman. This is a valuable reminder to remember the importance of under promising and over delivering. Going up and beyond the article, post, or project to make your client happier than ever should be the objective, I think. Repeat business is a healthy business.

  25. Very good tips. I rarely ghostwrite anymore, since my own products earn more than my services now, but once in a while I will just to keep my skills sharpened.

    I know when I was ghostwriting, the superpower I had was quality. Or that’s what they told me. I sucked at deadlines, but what I delivered was much better than my competitors at the time.

    My mentor in marketing teaches freelancers to surprise their clients – like one extra article delivered in the batch, or delivery 3 days ahead of schedule. Both of those impress the client and earn you repeat business.

    It’s so hard (as a marketer) to find the right person for your needs, so if you as a freelancer can convey that you’re their man (or woman), and be available when they need you, you’ll always have work.

  26. I really love this idea of different “identities” that are suitable for each task. Great job!

    • This helps me, too, Tom — I use this myself when thinking about each client I work with. Not all clients need the same thing from me, or from you! Thanks for your comment.

  27. Before reading this post I thought the only two ways to get repeat business were:

    1. Write quality content.
    2. Offer a cheapish price.

  28. This piece is invaluable! I can’t even tell you how much this helps and will help my business. Thank you!!! Pure genius!

  29. Being a freelance writer indeed is hard. However, brand building is very important. I think that publishing Kindle books on Amazon might be of great help especially in establishing your credibility as a writer.