Making sure you communicate with your freelance writing clients is important. There are, however, times when it’s more than important, it’s crucial.
For example, these four times illustrate when you simply must communicate with your freelance writing clients:
- When you’re going on vacation.
- When you’re confused about what you are writing for them.
- When you’re going to miss a deadline.
- When you haven’t been paid as promised.
Of course these can also be the more awkward kinds of communications you’re apt to have with your writing clients.
Let’s take a look at each one.
When you’re going on vacation
Yes, even freelance writing entrepreneurs are entitled to take some time off. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a formal vacation. For example, tomorrow I leave on a four day business trip for my real estate education business.
Here’s what I emailed to my current clients who might expect me to be available to them during these four days:
Hi (client’s name) – just wanted you to know I’ll be gone from (date) through (date) and be back in my office on (date).
I won’t set up my email to send an away statement – I really dislike getting those and so often the person sending them doesn’t get them removed when they get back. Besides I will have access to email where I’m going, just not much time to deal with anything but the most important items. And I’ve not let any of my clients know I can be contacted during that time.
There’s nothing about being a freelance writer that means I have to be available to my clients every single day of my life.
When you’re confused about the assignment
Last week this happened to me. My client wanted a promotional piece. I was even clear on why he wanted it. The trouble started when he neglected to tell me it had to fit in a form with a limited number of characters. I thought he meant I had to boil the 2,500 words or so to maybe a paragraph, which I did. He then tried to explain what he had really meant… I didn’t get it, and said so. He sent me a web link but since I didn’t have an account I couldn’t get in. Finally he sent me the info I wanted… we had a paragraph or so for each section of the form. Fortunately I’m totally comfortable with saying “I don’t understand!”
If you’re not 100 percent sure, ask. It can pay to ask even when you think you know what you’re doing. If I had asked my client if he meant everything had to go into one or two shortish paragraphs before I did that I would have saved some time.
When you know you’re going to miss a deadline
Every writing assignment I’ve ever had has had a deadline attached. Our obligation as freelance writers is to make the deadlines we agree to. Life, however, doesn’t always allow that.
Sometimes, of course, you get behind because the client hasn’t delivered the information you need to make the deadline. The best you can do in these situations is let the client know that if what you need isn’t forthcoming by a specific date you won’t be able to make the deadline. Stick with that. Don’t train your clients to expect you to work miracles.
Your life may get in the way too. You might get sick or have some other emergency. You might have underestimated the time it would actually take for you to do a particular project. The key is to communicate with your client as soon as you know you’re going to be late. Don’t delay. A quick email or even a phone call explaining what’s going on gives your client as much time to adjust on their end as possible. If you can, let them know when you will deliver the project, but don’t fudge on this one either. If you don’t know, say so. Keep the communications simple and direct. In many cases the client will be able to roll with the changes.
When you haven’t been paid
When a client is late with a payment, it’s up to you to insist you get paid. While it may make sense to wait a day or two to let a check arrive, don’t allow it to go beyond that. Start with a polite email – maybe something like this:
Hi (name), I was expecting my check of $(amount) for (brief description of the project) to arrive two days ago. So far nothing – when I can I expect it?
If that doesn’t get an answer and if in another two or three days no check arrives, pick up the phone. If you’re working for a big organization ask for accounts payable. Tell the person there who you are, who you are working for and ask if they know you are expecting what’s now become a past due payment.
Or, call the person you’re working for and ask if they need a copy of the invoice or what needs to happen so you can get paid.
Often a phone call will reveal the invoice never reached AR, or some other glitch that’s pretty easily correctable. And by the way, you should be invoicing every time in my opinion. If you get stonewalled, stay on them every week. Consider going to small claims court, or again going directly to the accounting department. Squeaky wheels do get paid more often than those who just hope.
What other times do you need to communicate with your freelance writing clients?
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Write well and often,