5 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Freelance Client Relationships

5 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Freelance Client Relationships

Philip Oyelola is a marketing enthusiast and freelance content marketer. He helps tech companies with content that builds trust and educates their audience. He enjoys writing on topics like SEO, client management, and content marketing.

Meet Jon, a freelance copywriter trying to land a gig.

He throws himself into prospecting to score clients by sending cold pitches, scouring job boards for exciting gigs, and connecting with fellow copywriters.

These efforts paid off when he signed three new clients, and business was going well. But Jon made a costly mistake. He didn’t take the time to build relationships with his new clients, so they ended up churning.

Many freelancers like Jon, are experts in their fields—not necessarily in communication or relationship-building. Both happen to be important skills for cultivating a thriving business.

If you want to be a great partner, collaborate better, and retain the clients you work hard to lock in, you’re in the right place. Follow these steps to develop long-lasting relationships that will help you grow your business.

Taking the time to develop long-lasting relationships might just be the missing piece to building a thriving client base.

First Thing to Know: Soft Skills Matter

Soft skills are often overlooked but are an essential component of managing a successful freelance business. These are the non-technical skills that make us good communicators, managers, and collaborators. Some of the most valuable soft skills for freelancers include:

  • Good communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Ability to solve complex problems
  • Flexibility
  • Organization

You need soft skills to run a thriving business as @alygouletwrites points out:

@alygouletwrites

Soft skills make you a better freelancer because, when leveraging them, you can:

How to Use Those Soft Skills to Build Long-Lasting Client Relationships

When you put your soft skills into play, you can create the client relationships that lead to a thriving business—and make your work enjoyable. 

1. Spend Time Understanding the Needs of Your Client

Truly understanding the needs of a client is the soul of every thriving freelance business. Many freelancers don’t take enough time upfront to do the research and understand the problem they are helping to solve. This often leads to multiple revision rounds and frustrating conversations down the road when you’re misaligned on goals, brand, or tone.

So how do you align up-front and truly understand the needs of your clients?

Start every project by gathering the information you need to truly understand their goals. You should have early conversations about the working process, your client’s challenges and needs, and what they hope to accomplish with you.

Here are some questions to help you get this information:

  • Tell me about your products/services and your target audience.
  • What are your short- and long-term goals?
  • Are there any recurring challenges I can help you solve?
  • Have you worked with freelancers before? What went well? What didn’t?
  • What are your expectations for how this project moves forward?
  • Do you have success metrics in mind or should we build those together?

2. Make Note of Important Client Details

Every interaction with your client is an opportunity to collect important information. As the number of clients you take on increases, it can be hard to rely on memory to remember all the details. Instead, start taking notes.

Anytime they mention new needs, expectations, preferences, etc., make sure you jot them down so you can reflect later and build them into your process. You can take these notes in your CRM or freelance management tool, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

3. Communicate Clearly and Effectively

Many freelancers are hyped about getting gigs but fall short when figuring out how to effectively communicate with those new clients. This is where your soft skills really have an impact. Being open, providing and asking for feedback, and listening with intention all improve your communication with the client while showing them you’re open to what they have to say.

If you struggle with this, here are some ways to improve your skills:

  • Be open-minded and truly listen. The ability to empathize with others goes a long way in creating an emotional connection.
  • Identify emotions in a conversation. Having what is referred to as emotional intelligence will help you figure out the best ways to respond to specific feedback.
  • Be proactive and send or give updates to your client regularly so they understand the status of your project.
  • Ask for specific feedback on concluded projects.
  • Be responsive to the concerns of your clients, if they express any.

4. Invest in Software to Manage Your Business

To maintain great communication, you need more than awesome soft skills. The right software helps you stay organized and on track so you can deliver on time, stay connected, and more. There are a lot of great freelance management tools available to you.

One of my favorite freelance tools is Harlow. Harlow helps freelancers streamline management tasks, like client management, time-tracking, contract and proposal creation, and invoicing. With Harlow, you get a full view of your clients and get paid for your work from one centralized hub.

5. Connect with Clients as Individuals

Although relationships within professional spaces can be formal, it’s also helpful to have conversations about topics outside of work. Get to know your clients as people by asking about their vacations, pets, family, and other interests. A little curiosity and interest go a long way in forming long lasting connections. Remember, your clients are humans too. 

You can easily do this by starting calls with a simple question like, “How’s your week been?” or “What are you up to this weekend?” However, remember to follow your client’s lead on this. Not all clients want to speak so casually, so if they seem uninterested in sharing those details, don’t press them.

You Can Build Long-Last Client Relationships

Client churn can be a vicious cycle that hinders the growth of your freelance business. Taking the time to develop long-lasting relationships might just be the missing piece to building a thriving client base.

8 Ways to Find Freelance Marketing Jobs

8 Ways to Find Freelance Marketing Jobs

So you’ve started your own freelance business (congrats!) and now you’re looking to land the freelance marketing jobs you need to make you feel cozy, comfy, and safe. Figuring out how to generate new clients, while building your business, and providing for the clients you already have can feel so overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there before.

That’s why I’m putting together this handy list for you. Here’s a big, juicy list of all of the places where we’ve successfully picked up a gig or two, plus the ones we’re seeing our community lean into. Whether you want to look actively for freelance marketing jobs or let opportunities passively come your way (yup, that’s possible), I’ve got you covered!

Whether you want to look actively or let opportunities passively come your way (yup, that’s possible), I’ve got you covered!

Tap Into Your Current Network

Your current network can be a powerful way to find new clients. It became the main source of leads for Andrea and me when we were freelancing. Think deeply through the people you’ve met along the way: previous colleagues, friends from school, and relationships that you’ve already built on social media or at networking events.

Who do you know that would be happy to refer you out and sing your praises? Start here. Let these humans know what you do, and who you’re looking for in a new client.

Build and Nurture New Connections

Building your community and network past your current connections is all about relationship building and nurturing. You can’t expect someone to engage with you once and then recommend or support you. You have to put in a little work along the way and nurture those connections. The goal is to find and engage freelance friends that you want to stay in touch with, that you want to root for, and who will root for you in return.

Here are a few ways to give, in order to receive:

Be Their Cheerleaders

How often do you celebrate the people in your network for their wins? This can be as easy as sharing their content on social media or commenting on their posts authentically and regularly. This is about truly building relationships—not staying connected to get referrals.

Think of this as an opportunity to cultivate authentic connections that are both fulfilling (for you and them) and help keep you top of mind for any freelance marketing jobs they might come across.

Be a Connector

Are you recommending freelancers in your network when you see opportunities? If an opportunity comes across your screen, or you see someone posting on social media about a gig, and it’s not for you—recommend someone you know. You have to give in order to get!

Search Online Job Boards and Marketplaces

When you’re active on freelance job boards and marketplaces, like UpWork or ProBlogger, you can browse around for gigs that companies are currently hiring for. While these websites make it easy to find available gigs, they can also be competitive. Many of the jobs have a large pool of applicants, not to mention a lot of people price their services at a lower rate than average.

If you’re someone who charges an above-average rate, it might be difficult to actually land a project that is a good fit. Does this make it impossible? Absolutely not! It just means it might be a little harder to land the freelance marketing jobs you’re really excited about.

Because of the vast number of opportunities on these job boards, it’s definitely worth browsing and creating accounts on a few sites to see what’s available and put yourself out there. You can start by browsing our curated list of freelance marketplaces and job boards.

Post Your Resume on Job Sites

Job websites like Indeed allow you to post your resume for companies to find when searching for potential candidates. This allows companies to invite certain people to interview rather than waiting for applicants to roll in—and it allows you to get in front of those companies during the early stages of sourcing candidates. (#ideal)

Check out this resume on Indeed. Notice how you can add skills and links to previous work. You can also specify certifications, languages, groups, and preferences for hours, pay, and location. You can also specify the type of work you’re looking for, like contract or part-time. The key is to set your resume to “public,” which you can do when uploading, so potential clients can find you.

If you want to stay open to opportunities but don’t have time to actively search for new freelance marketing jobs, this is a great option. If nothing comes of it, no big deal. If something does, then that’s a bonus!

Ask for Referrals From Past and Current Clients

Past and current clients have always been amazing sources of referrals for Andrea and I. We’ve found that if we do great work (which we know you do!) and simply ask for the referral, the answer is often a quick yes.

It can be nerve-wracking to ask for a referral, but a simple email can be all it takes to get connected to a new potential client. Here’s a template you can use:

Hey Brian,

It’s been great working with you these past few months. I so appreciate your prompt communication and openness to new ideas. I’m taking on some new clients in the next few months and I was wondering if you know of anyone who might be looking for support with their marketing.

I would appreciate any ideas or leads you’re able to share.

Thank you!
Jessica

Make Time for Cold Outreach

Do you have specific clients you want to work with? Cold emailing is a great way to pitch yourself actively, rather than waiting for whatever comes to you. Social media and email are two great channels to use, but to be truly effective, keep these important tips in mind:

  • Use a tool like Clearbit Connect to find the right person to reach out to if you don’t already know who you should be touching base with.
  • Keep track of your outreach in a spreadsheet so you know who you reached out to and when.
  • Don’t forget about the follow-up! There ain’t no shame in the follow-up game. Feel free to send weekly follow-ups until someone gives you a direct no.

Here are two templates you can use for your next cold email or DM:

Social media:

Hey, Non-Profit Digital!

I love your mission and that you support non-profits through marketing. They have an important message that needs to be heard and so often lack the resources needed to get it out there.

I’m a social media marketer and specialize in working with non-profits to amplify their message and generate donations through Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Here’s a link to some of my most recent work [insert portfolio link].

Do you need any help with this?

Thanks in advance!
Jessica

Email:

Hey Julie!

I love what Business Among Moms is doing! As a mompreneur myself, I have seen and experienced the power of community more than ever before in my life—and am so grateful for it. I love that you provide that community while also empowering mompreneurs to grow their businesses!

I was hoping to connect with you or your marketing lead on your marketing efforts and where I may be able to support you (email marketing, organic traffic growth, social media, etc.). A little background on me: I’m an organic content marketing consultant and coach. I also host my own podcast (Mindset Reset Radio) and am a published author. I love combining my passion for mindset/personal development and expertise in organic marketing to support female-founded businesses like yours.

Do you need any help with any of this?

Looking forward to your response!
Jess

Join a Pre-Vetted Talent Network

Get in front of potential clients by joining websites like Eighteen 4orty or MarketerHire. They work as a matchmaker between pre-vetted freelance talent and companies looking to hire. Once you apply and are accepted, you’re matched with organizations that are looking for someone with the skills and experience you have.

In many cases, once you submit an application, you’ll go through an approval process, some more extensive than others. You’ll likely be asked for samples of previous work, references from past clients, and more. While this can take time to put together, it has the potential to simplify your lead generation process moving forward.

Set a Notification on LinkedIn Jobs

LinkedIn has become one of the most popular places to search for jobs online—50 million people use this network to search for jobs every week! Even if you don’t actively post on LinkedIn (Reels are so much more fun, right?) you can still use it to find freelance marketing jobs.

It’s easy peasy to set up a LinkedIn job alert so relevant positions get delivered directly to your inbox. Go to LinkedIn.com/Jobs and click “Job Alerts” in the box on the top left of the page. This is where you can set your alert. Specify that you’re looking for contract, remote and part-time jobs—and then wait for those opportunities to come rolling in.

Online and In-Person Networking

Networking is the long game when it comes to looking for a job. While it may not result in immediate new work, it’s a smart way to build your funnel and make new connections. The idea: network now for opportunities in the future.

To build these connections, you have to go into each event with an open mind and be willing to have authentic conversations. Instead of going in with the hard sell, which, let’s be honest, is awkward anyway, genuinely make an effort to get to know everyone you meet. It’s all about finding commonality to build a relationship on.

After you’re done with the event, don’t let the connections made go to waste. Giving a quick follow on social or sending a DM to tell them you loved meeting them can go a long way. Bonus tip: ask if you can help them with anything; this offer goes a long way, even if their answer is no.

For offline communities, you can use MeetUp to find local networking events or ask other freelancers in your area. If you want to stick to online communities, check these out:

Now go on out there and find a new gig!

There are so many ways to find freelance marketing jobs, you just have to know where to look. Building a freelance business isn’t easy but there are so many networks, marketplaces, and people out there to help you get that next gig! Use the resources available to you and put yourself out there!

15 of Our Favorite Podcasts for Freelancers to Tune Into

15 of Our Favorite Podcasts for Freelancers to Tune Into

We all learn differently. Some of us prefer to read, some of us prefer to learn in person at conferences or live events, and some of us learn by plugging in our headphones and turning on a podcast while we walk our pet or unwind between clients.

For those of you who fall into that last bucket, we’ve decided to make a little cheat sheet for you.

Here are some of the podcasts for freelancers, solopreneurs, creators, and the self-employed that have taught us some valuable lessons. We were even lucky enough to be guests on some of them!

Some of our favorite podcasts for freelancers, solopreneurs, creators, and the self-employed!

15-Minute Freelancer by Louise Shanahan

If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to podcast episodes—but you still want to tune in—Louise has you covered! Each bite-sized episode shares tips, ideas, and strategies for being your own boss while creating a business (and life) you enjoy living.

Check out our episode, where we shared how to position yourself as a freelancer and set pricing—two things we’ve learned during our multiple years freelancing.

Brave New Work with Aaron and Rodney

It’s all in the way you work. That’s what Aaron Dignan and Rodney Evans are helping freelancers understand with each episode. Tune in to discover a more adaptive way of working, why that matters, and how it can make you better at what you do.

Freelance to Fortune with Jessica Pereira

Dig into all the exciting and messy parts of running a freelance business with Jessica Pereira. She speaks with freelance writers about how they reached their “fortune”—sharing actionable tips and inspiring stories along the way.

We talked with Jessica about how we went from corporate to freelance, how to shift into a business owner mindset, and more. Check it out!

Mindset Reset Radio with Jessica Thiefels

Jessica’s podcast covers all things mindset, business, and creating a life you love by living with intention. She chats with guests that share a unique perspective and actionable insights so you always walk away with something new for yourself or your business.

Freelance Writing Coach by Emma and Kaleigh

Kaleigh Moore and Emma Siemasko teach listeners how to create a successful writing business. Dig in for episodes on client relations, boundary-setting, rates, proposals, and more. So many good topics, so little time!

Don’t miss our episode where we talked about something close to our hearts: battling and managing burnout as a freelancer.

The Writer’s Co-Op with Jenni and Wudan Yan

Jenni Gritters and Wudan Yan call their podcast an audio business handbook for freelancers. Get a transparent look into what it takes to run a successful and resilient freelance business (we know how hard that can be!), covering everything from negotiation to organization.

Freelance Feels with Jenny Stallard

Tune into Freelance Feels for practical advice, real-world experiences, and great conversation. In each episode, Jenny chats with a different entrepreneur or freelancer about how to “get through this life we call freelance.” As you might imagine, everyone has a different way of approaching this challenge, which makes it such a great podcast.

On our episode with Jenny, we talked about some of our favorite topics, including finding balance and autonomy, remote work, and more.

The Coast Podcast by Whitney and Emilie

Whitney Popa and Emilie Givens talk with people who are doing life their own way, from creatives to entrepreneurs. Their goal is to show you the possibility of taking the road less traveled, a topic that we love!

In our episode, we talked about building a business, women and wealth, and what to look for in new clients.

The Deliberate Freelancer with Melanie Padgett Powers

Mel’s podcast is jam-packed with unique insights about running your business, from how to keep going when you’re grieving to having tough conversations with clients. Her guests bring as much experience and insight as she does, making this a powerful podcast to have on rotation.

Get More Done with Ben Dlugiewicz

Sometimes the smallest changes have the biggest impact—we’ve definitely experienced this for ourselves. Ben uses his podcast to share insights from inspiring managers, leaders, and business owners on how these seemingly insignificant shifts can make a significant change.

Tune into our episode where we chat with Ben about the major pain points that freelancers face and how we’re helping solve for them through community and product.

The Freelance Pod with Suchandrika Chakrabarti

This unique podcast focuses on one interesting topic: how the Internet has revolutionized the work of each guest. Suchandrika speaks with guests of all walks of life, from the MEL Magazine Deputy Editor to the Twitter Director of Curation. Tune in for interesting conversations with a diverse range of people!

10q Interview with Chris Hutchings

This podcast touches on nearly every topic you can think of because it’s all about each person’s unique story and insights. Chris’s goal is to get into the mind of his guests and figure out what makes them tick. What better way to learn and grow as a freelancer yourself?

In our episode, we talked about one-way versus two-way doors and building a business from scratch.

Being Boss with Emily Thompson

What does it take to be a boss as a creative freelancer, business owner, or side-hustler? More importantly, what does it mean to do this work for a living? We’re big fans of the topics Emily covers (you know we’re all about mindset and feeling empowered!) in this must-listen podcast for freelancers.

Business Banter with Mark Poppen

Mark’s goal is simple: find out what gets other freelancers and business owners up in the morning. You may just find you relate to many of the people he talks to (I know we do!) as they share their stories of becoming a freelancer and the lessons they learned along the way.

When we spoke with Mark, we shared how and why we’re building Harlow to help freelancers stress less and work happier.

Keepin’ Tabs by Tabitha Kraack

Tabitha’s interview format is fun and original—bringing together her local community and a wider-reaching community to bring in multiple perspectives. As you can imagine, the topics are as diverse as her guests and we just love tuning in and seeing her at work.

In our episode, we chat about maintaining balance and boundaries and share our advice for those who are starting their own businesses—so exciting and scary at the same time!

What’s your favorite podcast?

Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter (@samanthanderl or @meetharlow) and tell us which podcasts you tune into regularly.

We’ll be updating this list regularly and would love to hear what podcasts you think should be featured!

Freelance Interview Series – Protecting Your Mental Health with Momina Asif

Freelance Interview Series – Protecting Your Mental Health with Momina Asif

Momina is a freelance copywriter and editor for marketing, eCommerce, and mental health companies. She speaks openly and honestly about her mental health journey and recently took a sabbatical from freelancing to prioritize her mental health.. She shared transparently about her struggles as a freelancer and how she combats anxiety and depression.

Protecting Your Mental Health

1. What were the signs that you needed to start focusing on your mental health?

I started struggling with mental health issues during my undergraduate studies. It was a stressful time, but I didn’t take it quite seriously.

There is a lot of stigma around mental health in Pakistan (where I am from), and it was a long journey to first identify and accept that there was something wrong with my health and then another huge process to seek help.

When I started freelancing, I was working from my home office and was confined to my room, hunched over a laptop all day long. I would just do a quick lunch and sometimes even forget dinner. A routine and/or balance was non-existent.

Then I started feeling irritated about my work, the same work I was absolutely loving before. I felt like every article was a mountain that I had to conquer. The process of writing and submitting my work — research, outlining, first draft, editing — all of it started to overwhelm me.

I was beyond stressed out. My GI issues were getting worse, and I was not sleeping properly. That’s when I decided to hit pause and take some time off to catch a break.

2. Are there any tools or books you turn to regularly to manage your mental health?

I journal almost daily in the mornings, and that helps me remain in tune with my emotions and feelings. Journaling is also a great way to write things down, process them, and let them go.

I am very new to meditation, and though I get distracted a lot, it helps me with the constant state of anxiety my brain is used to being in. Meditation helps me calm down, think positive thoughts, and focus on gratitude and positivity.

As an anxious person, I also rely on my to-do list to get me through the day. I write everything down, however small (like follow-up with someone or reply to an email from a client). It helps me keep organized, feel less panicky, and stay more goal-oriented throughout the day as I work towards checking things off my list.

The book I go back to the most is ‘The Comfort Book’ by Matt Haig. It feels like a warm hug and tells me that, yes, everything is going to be okay.

When I feel down or demotivated, I also revisit my “Kudos Folder,” where I have added all the good things my clients have said about me and the excellent reviews I have received because of my work. It feels fantastic to know I achieved all that, and it keeps me motivated toward what I will accomplish next.

3. Talk to us about the pros and cons of social media when it comes to your mental health.

Social media can be extremely overwhelming, and as a freelancer whose entire career depends on social media, it’s challenging to just delete my accounts and disappear (although sometimes I would love to).

A couple of years ago though, prior to freelancing, I did delete all my social media accounts. The constant flow of opinions around me, the updates from friends I was no longer talking to, and the “perfect lives” people showed on social media was all too much.

No Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter meant I wasn’t checking my phone first thing after waking up. It also meant less emphasis on the world around me and more time to spend with myself to do some soul-searching.

Now though, I rely on Twitter and LinkedIn to get clients, do outreach and build my personal brand. So, how do I make sure I don’t let it affect my mental health?

– I keep my notifications turned off.
– If things get overwhelming, I delete the apps from my phone.
– I try to have social media-free weekends.
– I try to be as real and authentic as possible and follow people who don’t make these platforms a toxic and negative experience for themselves and others.

4. What are your go-to activities when you’re fighting burn-out or other mental health issues?

I love reading, and finding an amazing new book I can devour is the ultimate happiness for me (apart from good food). I also love binge-watching TV– I make sure something is on my to-watch list at all times. It makes me happy to have something to look forward to after work or on the weekends.

Going for walks helps me a lot too. Not just the physical aspect of getting up and moving but walking also gives me time to organize my thoughts and calm myself down.

5. Any additional tips for freelancers who are looking to protect or work on their mental health?

Start with identifying your emotions. Add a journal entry daily of how you feel that day — happy, sad, energetic, motivated, lazy, tired, sluggish, mentally drained. It helps you keep track of your frame of mind and can help you identify when something isn’t right (and why).

For me, the most significant part of the healing journey was accepting there was something wrong with my health (not with me). It’s such a huge but difficult step, and once you accept it, you can actually feel a shift within yourself as you start focusing on ways to get better.

Create a support system of other freelancers. Talk to them about your struggles and reach out for help when you feel alone. Having friends you can reach out to, who are freelancers themselves and understand the stresses of being one, can help you a lot.

 

Follow along with Momina as she continues to share her journey in an endearingly vulnerable and transparent way.

How to Repackage Your Services and Sell the Value of Your Work

How to Repackage Your Services and Sell the Value of Your Work

Pricing and packaging are hard to nail down as a freelancer. No way around that.

Often when you start out freelancing, you don’t have the confidence yet to charge what your work is truly worth. We often set our rates too low and sell ourselves short.

This was true for Samantha and me when we first started freelancing. We were charging hourly and quickly realized that the value we offered was being lost as the hours were tallied up.

The good news is that while pricing and packaging your work appropriately and accurately is challenging, you are your own boss. You run your own business and you can shift things whenever you want to!

So if you don’t feel properly compensated for your work and you want to start charging more, it’s time to make a change. We’re going to guide you through how to reposition your packaging, and raise your rates confidently so you can get paid more.

And, we’re living, breathing proof that these steps work.

If you don’t feel properly compensated for your work, it’s time to make a change.

Shift your mindset from selling services, to selling outcomes.

Repeat after me: the work that you do is important. You don’t simply complete tasks, you help push businesses forward. For example, you’re not selling 3 blog posts for $1,000. You’re selling an outcome: content that’s going to increase traffic to your client’s site and ultimately lead to more revenue.

If you read that and are having a hard time figuring out the outcome and value you’re selling, try this:

Look back on your last five clients. What was the outcome of your work together? What value did they get from that work? It can even be helpful to look through past emails to see what exact words and phrases they used to describe your work.

Use this to build your outcome-based elevator pitch. The goal is to be able to explain the value you provide, in 2-3 sentences. Use this as the basis for sales calls, proposals, your website, and more.

For example, your elevator pitch might be: “I’m a content marketing and SEO expert with more than 2 years of experience working with early-stage startups. I help you scale organic traffic and revenue through optimized on and off-site content.”

From there you can detail exactly what the actual tasks and processes are to fulfill that outcome.

Position yourself as an expert partner.

It’s important that you not only think of what you offer this way but that you communicate it clearly to your potential client as well. When you start communicating the outcome and the actual value of your work (I.E. more website traffic, HR processes that impact the bottom line), it’s easier for you to charge a higher price and get paid what you deserve. It’s all about positioning!

That’s all well and good, but you may be wondering: what do you even mean by “positioning”? Great question! We’re talking about the way you refer and speak to your skill set and the overall value you’re bringing.

When you’re speaking to a new client, or putting together your proposal, be cognizant of the language you’re using.

For example, you might use language in your proposal like:

  • Together we’ll build a paid marketing strategy to…
  • Your in-house designers and I will partner on the creation of assets…
  • As your social media strategist, I’ll work closely with your existing team…

Notice how this language alludes to you partnering, rather than simply doing.

Make the change from hourly to retainer- or project-based pricing.

While this isn’t the right move for everyone, for many freelancers retainer- or project-based pricing is a way to distance yourself from explaining what goes into every minute that you’re working. What you do is worth more than the hours you put into it.

As the popular saying goes, “I’m not charging for the 10 minutes it took me to do this, I’m charging for the 10 years of experience I brought to it!” This is another powerful shift that starts with you (knowing the value of your work!) so your clients can understand it too.

What’s more, clients may not understand how much work goes into something you’re creating (remember, they’re not the experts in this, you are!). Rather than justifying what you know to be a reasonable number of hours, you can wrap everything up into one lump sum. Don’t forget to still be detailed in documenting the work included in that retainer or project so they can still clearly see the magnitude of work being done.

Use your website, marketing, and proposals as a way to communicate value.

You should be using your website, social media presence, and proposals as a way to communicate the value of your work clearly. This can be hard to do—even a humblebrag can feel uncomfy, we know!

But once you shift your mindset, lock down your elevator pitch and positioning, and tie in your pricing, it’s time to share that with the world!

Putting that message out there not only helps to get you in front of the right potential clients, but it allows you to sell value before you even touch base with a client for the first time.

Get a gut check from your community.

If you’re feeling unsure of your new positioning and pricing, run it by someone! Even if you’re running your business on your own, there’s an entire community out there who wants to help—and can provide insights you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

Find someone you admire and ask for their feedback. Don’t focus too much on whether you have competitive rates. Instead, get their opinion on whether they think a potential client could understand the value you’re trying to get across.

If you don’t have anyone in your back pocket to speak to already, start connecting with other freelancers through online and offline communities. Check out our list of freelance communities we love if you’re not sure where to get started!

You can also find either Samantha or me on social and run it by us, we’re here for you! Connect with us on Twitter: @SamanthaAnderl and @thelittlestflea.

When and How to Break Up With a Bad Client

When and How to Break Up With a Bad Client

If you’ve never had to break up with a bad client, consider yourself lucky. This tweet from @Camieee, with dozens of comments, proves that many freelancers are all too familiar with the dreaded client breakup.

We all want our freelance projects to be smooth and easy, but the hard truth is that sometimes we take on clients who aren’t the right fit. Rather than try to bend and break to make the project work for both parties, in some cases, it’s better to part ways.

I remember the first time we had to break up with a client at Interimly. It was awkward and confusing and it felt bad. We didn’t have the right contract clauses in place to make it easy to part ways and we weren’t communicating well, which brought on even more unwanted stress and pressure.

Let my hard lesson be an opportunity to arm yourself with everything you need to do a better job than we did. Here are some contract tips, red flags, and even a “break-up template” so if you have to part ways with a bad client, you’re ready.

Let my hard lesson be an opportunity to arm yourself with everything you need to do a better job than we did.

Protect Yourself From the Get-Go

You never want to assume the worst, but putting the right verbiage in your contract ahead of time provides the coverage you need for a clean break. Adding a termination clause to your contract is what we like to call a failsafe. It should include how far in advance someone must let the other party know, how they have to let the other person know, and how any remaining payment will be handled.

Here’s an example, pulled right from Harlow’s contract proposal, which you get access to when you sign up for our free trial:

EX: The Parties may terminate this Agreement without cause, by [30] days’ prior written notice by either party. Client will be responsible for the remaining balance of any service package, due within 15 days of the final invoice.

While this might feel icky, I promise, your clients won’t bat an eye. It’s completely normal to include.

Why Breakup? Watch For These Red Flags

There are many reasons to break up with a bad client. You have to decide what’s worth bending for and what’s not. Here are just a few of the reasons why other freelancers in my community and I had to call it quits with clients in the past:

  • Payments are consistently late.
  • Consistent scope creep.
  • The client isn’t giving feedback in a timely manner.
  • The client isn’t communicating well, period.
  • The project is causing you unnecessary stress and becomes a time suck.
  • The project causes issues or interferes with other client work.
  • The client is disrespecting your time boundaries. I.E expecting responses when you’ve said you’ll be offline.
  • You’re feeling dread and bitterness more often than fulfillment and enjoyment.
  • You feel undervalued or overly criticized.
  • You and the client are no longer seeing eye to eye.
  • You’ve outgrown the work.
  • You raise your rates and they push back.

If any of this happens, first things first: don’t feel guilty! Not only is all of this common, but as freelancers, we need to make decisions that are right for our business and mental health. If you’re not being respected or paid on time—or you simply no longer align with the project—it’s better for you and the client to end the relationship.

I also want to be clear that I’m not suggesting you leave a client at the first sign of a challenge. It’s always best to start by trying to find a way to repair the issue and communicating your frustrations. If a solution can’t be reached, or the issue doesn’t change, that’s when it’s time to walk away.

It’s Time: How to Handle the Break-Up

If you’ve expressed your concerns and there’s been no progress, it’s time to make that clean break. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the client, nor should it be the first time they are hearing about the issues. Still, this can be awkward and challenging, but hopefully, these tips make it a little easier for you to break it off.

  • Be transparent and honest with the reasons you’re parting ways. This will help them be a better partner to the next freelancer they hire. Remember to have tact, but be honest.
  • Reference your termination clause.
  • Make it very clear that your partnership is ending, and in particular, when it will end.
  • Outline what work you will complete and attach deadlines so expectations are aligned.

If you break up with a client on a video or phone call, make a list of things you want to say so you don’t forget anything, especially if you’re feeling nervous or anxious. The client will likely have questions and a set of reminders written down can ensure you get all the essential points across no matter how the conversation goes.

If you want to do this via email (which I would recommend) here’s an example template you can use:

Hi Client 1,

As we have discussed in the past few weeks, [REFERENCE ISSUES]. It’s become difficult to [INCLUDE YOUR CHALLENGE]. While I wish you the best of luck on this project, I no longer feel as though I’m the right partner for you and will need to transition off the project.

In accordance with our contract, I will provide support for this project for the next 2 weeks and help you transition as best I can. At the end of the 2-week period, I will send over a final invoice so we can close out the project.

In the next 2 weeks, I will be completing:

Task
Task
Task

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. I’m happy to hop on a call to discuss further.

I appreciate your understanding and hope to stay connected,
NAME

Breaking Up is Hard, But Sometimes, Necessary

In the end, however, the sense of relief you feel can make it all worth it. All you can do is be prepared ahead of time and know when enough is enough. Your goal is to build a business you enjoy running with clients you love to work for and sometimes that means doing the hard things. If you’re stressed about breaking up with a client, know that we’ve all been there and we’re cheering you on! If you need extra motivation or need to phone a friend, you can always reach me on social.