In your first year or two as a freelance writer, you focused on getting more clients to build your fledgling business. Landing a new client was a big deal, and you had time to respond to all of their (many!) emails.
Now that your business has grown, you’re drowning in email overload. Why does it take seven back-and-forth emails spread out over a week to get the basic assignment details?
When you take a break from banging your head against the wall, it might occur to you that there has to be a better way.
Guess what? There is.
It’s called having a process.
Processes 101: They key to becoming more efficient
When I started my freelance web design business, I didn’t have a process either. After my first year of business, however, I knew something had to give.
I examined my workflow from client intake to project completion and developed a streamlined process that I could repeat with each new client. Creating this process changed my business.
Among the benefits:
- Each project took less time (so I could take on more projects and earn more money).
- My clients were impressed by how organized and professional I was.
- I got all the information I needed up front — no more waiting for clients to respond to my latest email.
- It was easier and less stressful for my clients to work with me because I had clearly communicated the process.
- I got more referral business and recurring clients.
- Bonus: I received fewer “Hey, how’s my project coming along?” emails.
You can create your own sanity-saving process in just three steps.
As a bonus, these processes will help you improve your first and last impressions. The first two strategies will help you say hello like a pro, while the last one shows you how to say goodbye with style.
Here are three processes every freelancer should create.
1. Client intake form
Sure, you probably have the standard contact form on your website, but how often does a potential client complete the message box with all the relevant information about the assignment?
That’s what I thought.
Help the prospect help you by creating a more detailed client intake form. Think about the first questions you always have about each new project and get those in your intake form.
- Name, last name, website
- Business and reason for wanting my services
- Which service are you interested in?
- Project description, including word count
- What’s the deadline?
Tip: One question all freelancers should have on this form is, “How did you hear about me?” This allows you to track your marketing efforts to see which ones are paying off, so you’ll know where to focus your time next time you need a new client.
2. Welcome package
That introductory email that you rewrite for each new client?
Create a welcome package instead. It can be a fancy PDF, a simple email template that you copy and paste, or a canned response.
While it takes some time to create this on the front end, once it’s done, you can use it again and again. All you have to do is attach necessary documents and send it to each new client.
What you include in your welcome package is specific to your business, but here are some ideas.
- In-depth questionnaire
For more complex projects, like writing web copy, you’ll probably need to create a more in-depth questionnaire to really understand your client’s business and desired results. Create a fillable PDF or a Google form and attach it to your welcome email.
- Process document
This may be the first time your client has hired or even worked with a writer. Break down the process step by step, so they know what to expect.
My process document is just a numbered list, but it makes it clear what happens — and when.
Things to include:
+ How many revisions you offer as part of the contract.
+ Your typical working hours and when to expect a response to an email (within 24 hours, not on weekends, etc.).
+ What you will work on first, second, etc.
+ When and how you expect payment(s).
If you use project-management software or other tools a client may need to learn how to use, include instructions for common functions. One freelance writer I know found herself constantly explaining how to use Google Docs, so she included a set of instructions as part of her welcome package.
3. Goodbye package
Yep, we’re jumping to the end, but that’s because this is the step most people skip — which means you’ll stand out from the crowd if you implement it.
A goodbye package is your opportunity to wow your clients. It leaves a great impression of your end-to-end service, and lets your clients know the work is complete.
Again, what you include will be specific to your business, but here’s some inspiration:
- What questions do clients typically have after working with you? Could you create an FAQ sheet, tutorials, or links to blog posts that answer those questions?
- What are the next steps for your clients? If their next step is another service you provide, let them know; you could even offer a loyalty discount if you’re so inclined. If it’s a service you don’t offer, provide a referral list or helpful resources.
- Finally, what would wow them? A style guide for their blog posts or website? A list of adjectives that reflect their brand? Spend some time brainstorming how to delight your customer.
Wrap up all the pieces into a branded PDF and get ready for the flood of referrals…and you won’t spend all your time marketing your business anymore.
My process wasn’t created in a day, and yours won’t be either. But by focusing on one piece at a time, you’ll be able to automate your workflow so you can spend more time on client work and less time managing your inbox.
Do you have a streamlined process for your business?
This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.
Photo via GuadiLab / Shutterstock
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