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Part of taking on new clients is the “initiation process”– that is, finding out if they’re trustworthy and reliable. This means having several phone conversations to get a “feel” for their character, several email exchanges, and of course the negotiation and contract-signing phase. Sometimes it can take as long as three months before a client seals the deal. Other times, a great one just falls out of the sky and into your lap.
Of course, you should always be wary of a client that wants to get things going too soon. What’s the rush? Is he trying to pull a fast one with his fast moves? Is she planning to hustle out as quick as she hustled in, and ultimately stick you with an unpaid invoice?
While some people operate in a swift and sheisterly manner, others are simply feeling the pressure of a deadline crunch and asking for your help. Can a harried client offer you a terrific new opportunity for stimulating work? Sure he can. And if all goes well, you can count on getting a callback for an upcoming project with this same good egg.
If an unexpected work prospect with a tight deadline lands on your doorstep and you have nothing else going on, seriously consider taking the challenge. Take it if you value time well-spent for quick cash. Take it if working under pressure quickens your pulse and gets those creative juices flowing. No, the rush job isn’t for everybody, but if you’re the type who gets a rush off it, then just go for it.
Some deciding factors: how well you get along with the prospect. Without a doubt, have those phone conversations. Pay close attention to what this person needs and how she responds to your questions. If she seems to be on the same page as you and her ego doesn’t rule her thought process, then you’ve got it made. Lob a couple of ideas back and forth and see if you can’t firm up a plan together. Sometimes, collaborations like this come together like a well-set gelatin mold. Other times, you know that you’re just not seeing eye to eye.
If the first few discussions feel bumpy and uncertain, forget it. The key to a short-order contract job is instant sympatico. Don’t kid yourself for a minute that the work will go smoothly if you can’t even hold a simple conversation with the person. Don’t let the promise of quick cash cloud your judgement. If things don’t go well with this client, you’re looking at a potential hit-and-run. (That is, hit-you-for-a-job, run-away-without-paying.) So, you must know in your gut that you already love said prospect’s style, approach, sense of pacing, ideas… every last bit of it.
A final test: ask the potential client to send you a rough draft ahead of time if he has one. Also ask him to send samples from prior jobs. In reviewing the work, you’ll definitely be able to tell if you can mimic his style and produce what he wants with minimal effort. You may find that he writes like nothing you’ve ever seen, or the work is totally unfamiliar. If that’s the case, don’t take the job.
Other things: a quick review of her website and business materials. An address check. Draw up a contract pronto. Oh yes – and since you’re “fitting her in” on short notice, absolutely consider raising your rate. If you normally charge $70 an hour, see if she bites at $100 per hour. If she’s making a decent living at what she does and really needs you, she may just go for it. If not, your regular rate will do.
Give this client your devoted attention and the bulk of your time in the few short days that she may require it. She’s paying you, after all. When something like this goes off without a hitch, it’s truly a beautiful thing. Yes, you may be a little stressed out for a bit, but in the end it’s worth it if the client is pleased with the work. Heck, you may just have yourself a regular! And isn’t that what this freelance thing is all about?
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.
Dina Giolitto is a copywriting consultant and ghostwriter with 10 years of experience writing corporate print materials and web content. Trust her with your next e-book, article series or web project, and make a lasting impression on your audience of information-hungry prospects. Visit http://www.wordfeeder.com for more information.