reaking up hurts, especially when your better half is a steady writing client. You had a good thing going! Why did it have to end? Unless you made a really terrible mistake, losing a long-term client isn’t usually about you. It’s about them. Here’s how to bounce back from a break-up and land more writing work.
1. Don’t take it personally.
I’ve had a break-up occur after a decade-long publishing relationship. I received a curt reply to my usual breezy query to the editor. Then I spotted a new name in the signature line. I learned eventually that Ms. New Editor revamped the periodical and axed all freelancers. Another time, a ghost blogging job of several months dried up without warning. I had no reason to feel jilted. The blog owner had closed his business and no longer needed blog entries. It’s just business.
2. Don’t spit in their coffee.
I know a writer who felt our mutual periodical had treated us unfairly when they changed the pay rates. He felt that it was time to end his relationship with them by sending a scathing group email to the editor and publisher, which he copied to all the freelancers. Guess who came back months later and had to somehow convince a new editor to let him submit again?
3. Understand their world.
Anyone hiring freelance writers has to make money with his business. If their sales suffer, budget cuts may include you. Despite the break in your relationship, occasionally keep in touch, but without a hard sell. I have found that using this strategy, I often receive surprise assignments from these clients.
4. Value what you do.
Never offer free samples or cut your rates to entice former clients (or any clients). You have to price your writing based on what you need for your writing business, not on what clients have to pay you. Some clients believe that paying a writer $15 is a good rate; however, they would readily pay their plumber $35 an hour to fix their drain. They’re basing the low rate on what a receptionist might make without taking into account that they provide the receptionist with a solid 40 hours of work, benefits and all her supplies and equipment.
Let’s say you need $60,000 to pay yourself a sufficient salary, replace your business equipment and supplies, and pay taxes. Divide that by forty hours a week and by 52 weeks in a year. If you work full-time, expect a rate of $28.85 per hour. Also consider that you can’t spend exactly 40 hours per week only writing, as you’ll need time for administrative tasks and possibly research, traveling and photography. That means you should increase that hourly rate to $35 to $40 to ensure you make enough. Don’t slash that rate for lowball clients who promise “exposure” or copious amounts of future work.
“Despite the break in your relationship, occasionally keep in touch, but without a hard sell. I have found that using this strategy, I often receive surprise assignments from these clients.”
5. Remain flexible with an ex-client.
Perhaps the client doesn’t need blog entries at this time, but could use editing work on the website. While you shouldn’t chop your rate, it’s okay to accept a rate commensurate for the type of work you’re performing. I’ve edited product descriptions for a blogging client at a lower rate per word than writing blogs because the work takes less time. After a few months, sales were up and I was back to writing blog entries.
6. Reflect on your writing.
While it hurts less to think that the break-up is about the client, it might be partly your fault. If they need to reduce their freelancers, it makes sense to let go of ones with error-prone work than those submitting clean copy. Review some of your recent work in light of these tips on how to become a better writer. Have you succumbed to using trite expressions, for example? Have you strayed from writing what your audience wants?
7. Look for others with similar needs.
Perhaps there’s another client or editor who wants the type of writing you do. You can use examples from your past work to showcase your abilities, but never badmouth the other guy. The new guy will wonder what you’ll say about him someday. This springboard technique can work for blogs, websites and magazines of similar audiences as well as for writing similar types of work, such as profiles, how-to pieces and trend pieces. If you can write a newsy blog about COVID-19 for a technology blog, you can likely write a newsy piece about COVID-19 for a general-readership magazine. Using this strategy, I’ve won jobs writing website copy for several service companies—like roof repair, fire recovery, and security alarm installers—even though the nature of the services varies considerably.
8. Leverage your advanced skills.
After writing celebrity profiles for a monthly magazine for several years, I had mastered the ability to interview people over the phone. When the magazine cut their freelance budget, I used that experience to win writing work that involved phone interviews. It’s key to relate the skills you used in the past to the work you want to do for the new client.
9. Expand your writing type.
Maybe you’ve only written one or two kinds of writing but want to branch out. Check out resources that can help you find more writing, such as Writing Jobs, Writer’s Digest, Freelance Writing, and of course, WOW! Women On Writing. Don’t rely on Craigslist.com or low-paying freelance sites (the ones that offer $1 or $2 an hour. Yes, they exist!). You may occasionally find some good-paying work there, but it’s like shopping at the thrift store. You have to sift through a lot of junk to find that pristine vintage jacket.
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant (www.skilledquill.net) has been freelancing full-time since 2000. She writes magazine and newspaper articles, web copy, blogs and marketing materials.
Enjoyed this article? Check out Deborah’s articles on WOW!:
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Raise Your Income by Writing About Agriculture