How to Be a Trusted Writer in One Simple Step

What I’m listening to: Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day

Well my plan last week was to increase my marketing. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, a client got in touch with me.

In fact, that’s been my entire year so far. Every time I think about kicking my marketing into high gear, another client gets in touch. This time, it was a new client who was referred by a regular client
That, my friends, is the sweet spot we all hope to get to.

Still, just because the work is coming in on its own, I have no illusions that this will continue, so marketing continues, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s that marketing that secured the clients I have and started the referrals.

And I’m about to share with you the reason it happened, the one thing I did that made me a trusted writer and a go-to source —

I pleased the pants off the regular client.

Okay, not literally. But they were happy. In fact, my referral client repeated how happy the regular client was with what I’d presented, something the client had told me personally. That it was repeated by someone I don’t know makes my day. That means I’m doing my job.

So how do you please a client to the point where they are happy to refer you? Here are a few things that I think contribute to their satisfaction:

Listen. And hear what they’re saying. Active listening is the best tool you have for pleasing your clients. If you’re listening actively, you’re going to ask questions. You’re also going to engage more in the project and the process because you’re paying attention. It’s not just helping them get their message out — it’s helping you feel part of the process.

Record. You’ll please them by giving them what they asked for in the voice they use. The best way I’ve found to nail a client’s voice, beyond reading what they’ve already written, is to record them. Yes, you can take copious notes (I do), but you’re going to miss those nuances that make the clients read it and say “This writer gets me.”

Repeat. Not sure you understood that last point? Clarify it. “Just so I understand, are you saying that your company intends to conduct security workshops for the technology teams of all companies, not just your own?” It doesn’t make you look stupid or inattentive to clarify information. It makes you look careful and involved.

Copy. Don’t copy off their paper, but, well, copy off their paper (just a little). If the project is one they put out regularly, such as an annual report or a white paper, they have a certain formula they’re going to like. For one client, I asked to see a previous report. That helped me see what info they wanted and helped me focus my research and questions better.

Revise. I’m not talking about a second draft, either. Revise that first draft line by line. Make sure the first piece you send to that new client is as close to their points, voice, and goal as you can get it. It won’t be perfect, but going over it once looking for each of these three things helps. Immensely.

Writers, how do you build that level of quality and trust with your clients?
What process do you use to make clients happy? How often does it result in referrals?

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  • Devon Ellington June 16, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Voice is so important. Too many writers think voice is only used in fiction, but it's a necessity to get the client's message across properly.

  • Lori Widmer June 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Exactly, Devon! It's such a fallacy to think we can write in our own voices and clients will be happy. While our voice can't help but sneak in to some degree, we have to focus on what their voice is.

    I wonder how many new or emerging freelancers know what voice is?