31 Days of Freelancing: You, The Problem Solver

What I’m listening to: The First Cut is the Deepest by Rod Stewart 

december-7_liThe work is still coming in, albeit at a slower pace. The holiday mindset seems to have hit early this year. I still have things to do, and a friend’s book to put revisions into, so I’m busy enough.

But not too busy to make the most of my marketing this month. And if you’ve tuned in today or any/all days this month, you’re serious about making the most of your marketing, too.

So let’s get to today’s strategy.

December 7: Present Yourself as a Problem Solver

Why do we hire contractors? To solve problems. Leaky toilet, outdated kitchen, lawn mowing you just don’t have time for … all problems that you’re hoping someone else can solve.

Clients hire writers whom they think can solve their problems. Click To Tweet

So let’s go about showing our potential clients that we can solve their problems.

This isn’t tough, either. But it does require a little groundwork to make a big impact. Start here:

  • Learn a little about the client you’re approaching (research them via their website, press releases, where they show up in the news, etc.)
  • Create smart questions that glean information on what the clients’ needs are, and that reveal (subtly) that you’ve done your homework on them

I like to have at least four questions on hand. I may not ask all of them (or any of them if the conversation steers into new territory), but it helps me lead me to answers that will help them achieve the results they’re looking for.

So armed with our research and our questions, we’re going to schedule a conversation. Here’s a seven-point format I typically use when talking with clients:

  • Frame the conversation by asking what problem they hope to solve
  • Uncover the underlying problems that go along with the first problem (there’s always an underlying problem or two). Repeat back the problem
  • If there is more than one person in the conversation, ask each person their expectations (makes for fewer revisions and surprises later on)
  • Listen and take copious notes (I always recommend a recorder so you can review later)
  • Brainstorm solutions with clients, starting with what they’ve done in the past and why they think it didn’t work. That keeps you from repeating the same solution that’s already failed. Then shift the focus to the intended outcome and how you hope to help them achieve that.
  • Ask who makes the final decision (then get that person’s input directly if they’re not present – again, to avoid endless revisions later on)
  • Ask how you can best serve them

Sometimes the problem is a little more detailed than a brainstorming session will fix. In fact, most problems, in my opinion, should be considered for a day or two before you give them a proposed map of how to get from point A to point B.

As you’re considering, don’t be afraid to reach out to clients via email to ask follow-up questions. This shows you’re engaged in solving the problem. That, along with active listening and a focused conversation, builds trust.

Writers, how do you solve your client’s problems?

What have clients said about you that indicates your value to them?

About the author




  • Joy Drohan December 7, 2016 at 9:21 am

    I had someone say, after reviewing summaries I wrote of a college’s agricultural research program, “Joy did a great job. This is money well spent!” 🙂

    • lwidmer December 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

      What a fantastic thing to hear! Good for you, Joy. But then again, I knew you were awesome. 🙂