Still on the topic of freelancing, we ask one last question. How do I find/keep clients?
Actually the question should be how can I view the people I’m doing work for as “clients” rather than “employers?”
Here’s a little story: After learning that most newspapers were not using “correspondents” any more, including “her” newspaper, IFO suddenly found herself out of work. To get back up and running, she had to undergo a mindset change.
So, the scramble began. Joined several groups for professional writers. Read how-to books and magazines. Her client list began to grow, but she didn’t look at them as clients. Her idea was, “I need to get more assignments.” See the difference?
Her lucky day arrived when, one client, a weekly credit union newspaper, sent her to an annual state credit union convention. One of the motivational speakers talked about looking at credit union members as clients and the lights went on. From that day forward, she devoted her business activity to cultivating clients – publications that would have regular assignments for her.
This was a crucial first step in IFO’s own realization that she even HAD a business! Yes, she was a reporter, but first and foremost, the work she was doing was a business. This changed her attitude, though her reporting style stayed the same – find the news, report it.
Not to say it was easy. But consider: she had to write about 20-25 query letters to get one assignment, but only about 4-5 letters, or even a phone call, to pick up a client. Those client acquisition moves were preceded by research to find out the publications’ needs, and then to tailor her letters to those needs. More efficient. More remunerative.
Then, doom struck… again. At a meeting of one of her writers groups, an editor approached her and asked her to write for his publication! It was a great beat, but after freelancing for him for several months, he asked her to come on staff and be responsible for business news for the entire state of Oregon.
The job paid REALLY well and was more fun that anyone should be allowed to have, but she had to give up all of her other clients! Before you read further, what do you think she should have done?
Right. She took the job. Nobody’s perfect.
Then, doom… again! The dot.com boom ended. The publication went bankrupt. For the first time in decades, IFO had no work at all. Her former clients had all found replacements for her. She had to start over at the beginning. Eventually, she build up a *new* client base. But it took years, again.
Lesson: if you are going to freelance, do it. And don’t be fooled by the false sense of security you think a “job” might offer you. You can always fire a client (politely, of course), but know that if you only have one client, you have a job, and YOU can be fired.