This article is written by Quin Hoskins. Having studied law and several science-related subjects at degree level, this has provided him with the perfect foundation to cover an eclectic range of topics in his freelance writing career. From the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs to countless travel sites, he is proud to be associated with companies and organizations that are definitely at the top of their game. The flexibility of his freelance writing business allows him to devote a significant proportion of his time to study and is finishing his last course – out of 6 – towards his LLB (Hons) this year. He is also an avid traveler and has proudly visited 40 other countries to date, with much more planned for the future.
As you will no doubt already appreciate, the key to any successful business is the ability to convert initial inquiries into orders and then impress these clients so much, they come back time and again and become important repeat customers. Getting repeated customers is what you should be looking for as a freelancer and this article aims to provide you with some useful advice and tips to win repeat customers.
Dealing with Initial Enquiries
When inquiries come to you, be these over the phone or by way of e-mail, it is imperative you address them as soon as you possibly can. Even if you were to leave answering an e-mail for just a few hours, you would be surprised at how impatient most people can be. There is a high chance that this potential client would have already lost interest in your service and would be in the process of negotiating contractual terms with some other provider.
Most freelancer sites will stipulate a response time of within 24-hours: you should ignore this as this will prove to be damaging to your business. My advice here is that you do your best to respond to all inquiries as quickly as you possibly can. If this means straight away, that's great, as this will increase your chances of securing the work.
Personally, I have found instant messaging services to be too invasive in my life. Instead, I ensure I check my e-mail accounts at least every hour to 90 minutes, and this seems to work out well with my clients. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding a workable balance.
When you do respond to the potential customers’ inquiries, do your best to answer their questions in full, carefully. Remember to continue to sell yourself; remain confident and friendly, and this should all help you to secure that work.
Turning Enquiries into Firm Orders
The million dollar question most freelancers ask is – how to get repeat customers? To a large extent, a lot will depend on how many potential providers the client gets in contact with before they go ahead and place an order. Some potential clients will only make inquiries with a couple of freelancers; others will make a huge song and dance about it and will insist on the providers undertaking some work to compete against each other. Moreover, worryingly, they may ask for this job to be made free of charge, and it is essential you always refuse to do such a thing. If a client requests free work from enough potential providers, low and behold, they have soon covered the entire project at absolutely no cost to themselves. You certainly won’t be getting this ‘paid’ work at the end of the contest; make sure you adhere to a high working ethic here and always turn such scavengers down! Such practices compromise the integrity of our industry, and you have a professional responsibility to refrain from dealing with such people.
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I have to admit to finding these clients tedious and infuriating. I am far too long in the tooth now to enter such contests, every time I am looking for new work, so I always politely turn the client down and suggest they focus their search on providers who are new to the industry and looking for the experience.
When you know you have received a genuine inquiry from a potential client, which you will soon work out for yourself, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to turn those initial inquiries into firm orders.
When I first started my freelance business, I found it fun to record all the projects I had applied for (e.g. placed a proposal on) and how many of these resulted in an inquiry. Even more importantly, I then recorded how many of these inquiries converted into firm orders. Interestingly, over the months and years, I found methods that seemed to work better for me (e.g. in my proposals), and I noticed how my percentages were slowly increasing when it comes to converting proposals into inquiries and inquiries into orders.
Not Just a ‘One Trick Pony'
Of course, finding new clients can prove to be a time-consuming and sometimes even a costly business. If you have to work so hard to secure every piece of work you do, this may not transpire to be a lucrative business. So, you really should do all you can to turn those initial orders into repeat business – try to refrain from becoming that proverbial ‘one trick pony’.
It means undertaking all the work you do to the very best of your ability. If you only give 50% to a project, you can bet your bottom dollar that client will not be back to order more work from you in the future. However, if you put your heart and soul into what you do, your client will notice it, and it is likely that they'll appreciate your efforts and want to carry on working with you in the future.
I am very proud to admit that I am lucky to have had repeat clients for many years. In fact, I still have one client whom I work for every month, and they have been with me since I first started working as a freelancer nearly nine years ago now. I always prefer to establish long-term working relationships. Over time, we build up a strong and friendly rapport together, and that is always one of the biggest assets of this job.
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