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Dealing with Clients

Know When to Stop Talking

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I think I experienced a new first for me in my life of freelancing.  I responded to a tweet looking for a copywriter to do some basic web copy.

I responded, and chatted with the client for a little bit, discussing his needs and my offerings.  Things were moving in the right direction. He seemed to be happy with the price I quoted, and I felt like I had a decent handle on what his expectations were.

Towards the end of the discussion, the conversation that had started out fairly professional had become almost casual.  He asked me a question about a marketing concept, and I shared my thoughts about it.  I understood the concept, but I told him it was tired and probably wasn’t a good fit for his product.   And then the call got very quiet.  He was still very polite, and said he would be in touch with me to get the project started, but I haven’t heard from him in a week now.

I’m pretty sure I successfully managed to talk my way out of a new project. Yay. But at least I learned when to stop talking.

I think my fatal mistake was interpreting his casual tone as an indicator that the job was in the bag, when I should have listened more, and talked less.  In retrospect, there were a few indications that he was interested in this marketing concept, and I could have been more sensitive with the answer I gave him.  Some might argue that I should be happy not to have to work with a client that wants to use stale concepts; that the client isn’t always right.  I think in this case, the client gets what he wants from you, or he goes to someone else.  You’re welcome, whoever won this new project.

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Freelance Contracting with International Clients

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It used to be that freelancers were limited to the cities we live in for clients. On occasion, some freelancers could land clients and handle projects through mail, but most companies preferred to work with someone based nearby. Technology has improved since then, letting most freelancers take on clients no matter whether they’re around the corner or on the other side of the globe. It’s a good thing: we get access to more work and, quite often, higher pay rates than we could get locally.

But there are a few considerations to look at before freelance contracting for international clients. These considerations don’t mean that you shouldn’t take on clients outside of your own country, of course — it’s a matter of making sure that working with those overseas clients (and getting paid) is as easy as when you can just walk down the block and knock on the client’s door.

Keep Communications In Order

When working with overseas clients, communications can be the hardest part. Few of us want to spend the price necessary to make international phone calls even now, preferring to rely on Skype and email. That’s fine, but considering how easily ambiguity can creep into written communication, it’s important to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that everyone’s on the same page. Language difficulties can also come up: even if both you and your client are native speakers of the same language, differences in idiom or slang can create communication problems.

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Market Your Business by Being Two-Faced!

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I’m a great believer in targeted marketing and specialization. Focusing on particular types of clients and offering services aimed tightly at specific needs enhances your appeal to those clients at the same time it improves your efficiency, resulting in better margins on your work.

But it is possible to market your business by having more than one target for your services. Unfortunately, many people expand their targets haphazardly, drifting into others kinds of clients and services by accident as opportunities come up.

If you are looking for ways to expand your audience for your services while still taking advantage of the efficiencies and other benefits of focusing on a target market, examine the two-sided relationships:

  • between you and your client
  • between your clients and their own customers, suppliers, and so on.

By taking this “two-faced” approach to relationships, considering the alternate perspective that you usually leave to your client, you may find new services to sell, and new customers to sell them to.

An Example

It may be easier to show how to market your business using this approach with a couple of examples than it is to explain it. Let me share some stories from my experience in content development and writing for consultants who work with banks.

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