The reality of freelance writing seems to be that you always feel like you never have enough work. You’re constantly dogging your marketing efforts to get more exposure, increase traffic, and get more work.
You run yourself ragged with work and worry, basically. And you never feel like you’re making any progress…but there’s no other alternative to keeping your freelance career and beloved lifestyle alive.
Then, one day…it happens.
Your teeth-grinding marketing efforts have paid off, and you feel like you’ve finally got a full enough work schedule to keep yourself busy during the weekdays and earn a comfortable income.
And then a dream client reaches out. And they LOVE all of your work they’ve seen across the Internet, and they’d like for you to re-write their website by the end of the month.
And if you were less booked, you’d jump at the chance. But since your calendar is SO full and you’re already working until 10:00 p.m. with your eyeballs glued to your laptop, you know it’s simply not possible. Not with that deadline, anyway.
So you really, really don’t know what to do.
You cannot say no. But you can’t say yes, either.
So you have to say yes with one caveat: you blow their deadline.
The good thing is, you haven’t yet promised work by a certain date. (Because that’s another story altogether.)
If this client found you by your impressive work online, they’re probably going to understand the fact that you’re in demand.
The key here is to take the lead and to stay in it. (Even if you feel too nervous to do so.)
All you’ve got to do is write them something like this:
So glad you liked my work on [website]. [A comment about the work, if appropriate.]
That being said, I’ve actually been a huge fan of your work for the last few years, too. I love the [insert something they do really well] and am super happy to see a new blog post from you guys in my feed.
So, clearly, I’d LOVE to help you with your website re-write. As soon as you mentioned it, I opened your site in a new tab and all these wonderful ideas started coming to mind.
However, since my work has gotten lots of attention on [website mentioned in first sentence], I’ve found myself in higher demand and can’t turn around work as quickly as I’d like to.
Once I clear out a few of my current projects, though, I’ll have no problem fitting you guys in at the top of my priority list. Shouldn’t be any later than [insert date].
Could we schedule a call to talk more about your goals and figure out some timeline ideas that could work for both of us?
As uneasy as you might feel sending it, they are looking at you as the writing expert.
And when you send an email like this to position yourself in the position of authority from the get-go, it’s easier for them to get on board and follow your lead. You know, rather than creating a dynamic where you’re at their mercy, which isn’t healthy at all.
The key, once you’ve had a discussion and had your rough timeline accepted, is to constantly let them know what the next steps are to keep yourself in control and keep them happily engaged.
A good idea is to have a timeline set up and send an email before, during, and after each timeline milestone, always making sure to remind them what’s next and what they can expect.
It won’t come across as too much, and you’ll avoid putting yourself in a defensive situation when they send you an email after a period of silence because they’re nervous that you’re not keeping up your end of the bargain.
“Always knowing what the next steps are will keep your clients from wondering what is next and will prevent them from doubting you,” advises Esther De Boer on ShootZilla. “You are in the lead, they are the customers and they don’t have to wonder if everything is alright.”
Sometimes, a client might not be 100 percent sold on the idea of blowing their deadline. In this case, think about offering an add-on that will provide extra value for them without taking too much extra time from you. It’s a nice incentive to still book you and not go for another freelancer just because of the wait.
For example, if you’re writing landing pages, you could write social media teaser texts tailored to each platform, a handful of free ad copies to A/B test, or an introductory email for a new service that’s launching.
None will take too much extra time since you’ll already be doing a lot of work on defining their product messaging for them, but this will provide a great help to the client in exchange for waiting for your calendar to clear up. Plus, you get to secure that work and income for yourself.
Remember, when a client reaches out to you for your expertise, they’re expecting you to take the lead a bit. They don’t know your standard procedure and are expecting you to define it, not them.
If part of defining this and offering the leadership they’re looking for means postponing their original deadline a bit, they’ll still respect you for your expertise. And, truth be told, will probably be grateful that you’re still willing to work with them given your busy schedule.
Freelance writing will always come with difficult moments that have no easy answers, but subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter, and we’ll send you weekly tips on how to better manage.