Are You Making Your Clients Fire You?

I’ve heard the same complaint from small businesses as well as larger agencies:

“Why don’t more freelance writers have a sense of urgency with their clients? I can barely get someone to email me back, much less make a deadline.”

Yeah, I’ve noticed that too.

When I mention this issue to freelance SEO copywriters, they talk about how much business is coming through the door. They’re trying to ramp up, write faster and keep up with the growing demand. Yes, that may mean that it takes some time to get back to the client. But the client understands – right?

Here’s the problem:

Clients pay you to make their problems go away. If you want to keep clients, you need to convey a sense of urgency at all times and make the client feel like they’re your first and only priority. Otherwise, the client will get squirrelly, consider YOU a problem and move on to another writer.

You may say, “Well, this isn’t about me, I’ve never been fired.” But have you ever heard, “Sorry, we don’t have any more work for you. We’ll call you when we do” (and you notice that the client is still uploading new pages?).

Yup, you’ve been fired. It’s just a softer way to hear the news. :)

If this sounds like you, it could mean that changing how (and when) you communicate with your clients can transform your client retention rates. Here’s how to do it:

  • Respond to emails in a timely manner. You don’t have to email the client back five seconds after they contact you, but you should get back to them that day.
  • Tell your client if you have set times when you read and respond to email. Clients love this because (1) they know when you’ll be reading their email and (2) when to expect a response.
  • If it’s a time-sensitive project, email the client right away. Tired of emails that ask, “Did you get this?” Here’s how to prevent them:  Immediately email your client back and tell them your timeline. They’ll relax once they know you’re “on it.”
  • Give frequent status updates. Rather than going completely silent, send an email that says, “I don’t have any new information, but I wanted you to know that I’m still working on it.” That prevents the client from thinking you dropped the ball.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. If you tell the client that you’ll have something to them “in a couple hours” – don’t email them later in the day and say “something came up.” That response will send your client to Crazytown, guaranteed. Especially if they set aside time to review your work.
  • Don’t send emails that start, “Wow, sorry it took so long to get back to you. I’m just really busy.” We’re all busy. Your client doesn’t care.  Send a fast note if you’re crunched for time,. Even something simple like, “Just a quick note to say that I received this.  I’ll respond by my end of day”can make a huge difference.

Are you a SEO copy freelancer? What are some of your favorite client management tips – especially when you’re busy?

And if you’re an end client who hires freelancers, what would you add to this list?

8 replies
  1. Amy C. Teeple says:

    Hi Heather. Thanks for the good advice, as usual.

    Being busy is a good thing when you’re a freelancer/solopreneur. However, without the good customer service, you won’t be busy for long.

    I love your point about you don’t have to return an email in five minutes, but within the same day (or next morning). I used to respond to every email that I received as soon as it came in (email alert on Blackberry), but that became counterproductive and I could never get anything done. Trying to find that balance.

    Personally, I know I need to get better at touching base when I am in the middle of a project. Sometimes you get so caught up in various projects that you don’t think to take a second to say, “Hey, this is where I’m at – in case you were wondering.” Of course, you don’t want to overdo it either. Set expectations of updates (weekly, biweekly, etc.).

    Don’t forget about voice mails! Many writers would rather email someone than talk to them on the phone. That doesn’t mean you can ignore the phone. On my voice mail message, I state that I will return a call within 24 hours (barring weekends and holidays). That sets up an expectation for a client or prospective client.

    Also don’t forget, sometimes a two-minute phone call can accomplish more than several emails trying to explain something.

    I am currently looking into a CRM (customer relationship management) system, so I can better track not only my projects, but my communications with clients.

    Thanks again for the post. Now I need to go follow up with some clients. :-)

  2. Heather says:

    Great tips, Amy. Thanks!

    Yeah, I hear you about responding to email *right away.* I used to think that I was being really proactive by doing that. But really, all it was doing was burning me out and making me feel like I wasn’t accomplishing as much as I’d like. It’s taken me YEARS to get out of the “checking email every 10 seconds” habit. :)

  3. Copywriting Dean says:

    I try to respond to clients and prospective clients promptly by email – and do a good job of it. But lately I’ve had prospective clients want to talk to me by Skype and get frustrated when I seem uninterested to talk in any way other than email. I suppose I should be more upfront, but talking on Skype before I’m hired is a time waster for me. And the clients who insist on it so often are the headache-clients I try to filter out anyway.

    Lately I’ve been “fired” by two prospective clients I effectively filtered out by not jumping on the phone with them – and in both cases it became clear I made a good decision.

    • Heather says:

      I totally hear you about the phone stuff. I do chat with folks on the phone, but I’ve also learned to limit the amount of time I spend. Otherwise, I can spend 6 hours a day on calls – and poof – the day disappears. And I haven’t done any “real” work.

      Isn’t it nice when you’re fired – and then you realize, “Yeah, that was a blessing.” Love it when it works out like that. :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pamela Jones says:

    Hi Heather.

    Great article and advice.

    I’m guilty of always checking my email. It seems to work so far because when I get an email I try to answer it before the end of the day. I have also started using Skype. I believe I lost a client because I wasn’t using it at firest. I figured, “this is something I better jump on!” Now I love it and try to get my other clients to use it. Some do; others rather take up time sending email after email.

    Email or Skype – it really doesn’t matter with me. As long as I can communicate with them to get their project done right.

  5. Vi says:

    Hello Heather, good advice. As for saying to clients what you are going to do – it depends. Sometimes I feel some of my clients feel annoyed if I email more often then they expect Some others start getting nervous if I don’t respond at once in 5 sec) SO it is all very different and you have to adjust – every new client brings new rules of communication…

    • Heather says:

      Very true – every client is completely different. I have some clients I barely hear from – and others who email me a few times a day.

      Thanks for your comment! ;)


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