I remember being confused the first time a prospective client said, “Thanks for getting back to me.” “Who are these people who don’t respond to email inquiries?” I wondered.
Who would have thought actually responding to emails and phone calls was a competitive advantage! Yet, new freelancers tend to give weight to things beyond their, things like experience and skill level that can only be gained over time.
At the same time it’s easy to minimize the things that you can control—attributes like courtesy, humor, integrity, generosity, and responsiveness.
Respond to emails within forty-eight hours.
Sometimes, to be the front runner for a project, you must simply show up. By responding slowly or not all all, other writers take themselves out of the race. The client chooses you because he has a deadline and couldn’t get a timely response from anyone else. You win by default.
If you’re new to freelancing, a race of one may sound too good to be true. Yet, responsiveness is what makes you the one person at both the starting and finish lines.
Respond to inquiries in twenty-four hours or less.
As you’re building your brand as a freelancer, respond to inquiries in less than twenty-four hours, preferably the same day. Turn around quotes the same day, and if you say you’ll send your client service agreement by Friday, then send it on Thursday instead.
So simple. Yet more rare and precious than you’d think.
I admit that I have been slow to respond myself at times. I’ve lost out on shoe-in projects because I got swamped and didn’t make finalizing quotes for new clients a high priority.
Having more than enough work is a dream come true. You have finally escaped the feast-or-famine roller coaster. You have finally grasped both handles on the Holy Grail: freedom and profitability; the freedom and autonomy of freelancing and the consistency and stability of a nine-to-five paycheck.
Send quotes so quickly you become the easiest choice.
Enjoy your prosperity, but don’t outsmart yourself. Send quotes very quickly. So quickly that you’re the easiest choice. (In fact, steal my complete client onboarding process.)
If you’re overwhelmed or you take more than a day or two to put together quotes, then you’re missing the forest for the trees.
Responsiveness will help to keep your pipeline full and make your business sustainable. If you struggle to keep up with the production work you’ve already got, then hire subcontractors, which is one counterintuitive way to grow your writing business.
By moving from a production to project management, you can free up precious hours for admin, business development, and yes, quoting. These often boring tasks keep your business vital.
Always meet deadlines.
And while we’re on the subject of responsiveness, always meet deadlines.
Not that I recommend mediocrity or B-level work, but the truth is, you don’t have to be the best if you’re reliable. Do good work on time, and you will win repeat business. Do great work and meet deadlines, and you will soon be turning clients away.
When someone gives you money in exchange for work, they shouldn’t have to ask for the work. By delaying long enough that I, the client, must ask for it, you create work for me. I hired you to decrease my workload, not add to it. Working with you has now become counterproductive.
So send me the work before I ask. Pleasantly surprise me. Wow me not with your wild skill but with your conscientiousness and reliable communication.
Do you want to be FedEx or the USPS?
Do you want to be known for your keeping your work or making excuses? Do you want to be known for your lackadaisical attitude? Your long wait times? Your disorganization and inefficient systems?
Nobody enjoys working with a freelancer who seems to stifle a yawn between every agonizingly slow transaction.
No. You want to be known for on-time delivery, with no excuses or nasty surprises.
Make these maxims the building blocks of your brand and business relationships:
- Respond to emails within forty-eight hours.
- Respond to inquiries in twenty-four hours or less.
- Turn around quotes so quickly you become the easiest choice
- Always meet deadlines.
- Meet deadlines.
- Meet deadlines.
Of course strive for excellence. But always dazzle with responsiveness.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.