Congratulations on landing your first content gig! You pitched, persevered and persisted. You made your polite follow-up calls, sent those respectful emails and letters. And it finally yielded results. You landed that first freelance content assignment from a new client!
Yes, do that happy dance. Feel free to celebrate and tell all your friends and family about it. You’ve earned it. But also keep in mind that getting that contract is just the start. Your goal should be to successfully complete the work. You want to do this so your client will ask you to provide more content. And more. And more. Specifically, your end game is to become your client’s content creation partner.
Got your first content gig? Follow these six steps for success
The best way to put yourself in the position of ongoing writer and collaborator is to employ an onboarding process for your client. Additionally, using the following six steps can not only help you deliver the right content, on deadline. It can make you an invaluable resource to your client.
1. Mind your manners
You were respectful while pitching the prospect. And now that the prospect is a client, it’s important you continue being polite.
While this might be an obvious point — “Hey, I’m polite!” you might be thinking — the excitement of landing that first job can sometimes cause basic manners to fly out the window. Even if you’re the type who holds doors open for others on a frequent basis, that first-contract thrill can make you forget behavior basics.
Such as thanking that new client for the opportunity to work with him or her. Do this before you start the job, and after you’ve submitted the final draft. In between these two milestones, be courteous and considerate, without being phony.
Manners represent important soft skills for a content producer. Using those skills regularly can help endear you to the client.
2. Immerse yourself
You hopefully researched the client’s company long before you landed the assignment. So, you already know what the company sells, as well as its mission, vision and values.
Now you’ll need a lot more information to effectively create that first piece of content. Some of that knowledge should include the following.
Industries and sectors have their own ways of doing things, complete with specific terms, language and abbreviations. You might already be familiar with the sector in question. But lack of familiarity doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do the job. It does mean you’ll need to bone up on industry-specific writing and other content to help you strike the right tone in your own piece.
Maybe the client hired you to write a blog. That’s great. But you need more specifics. Like, what kind of blog? Listicle? Thought leadership piece? How long should that blog be? What style? The takeaway here is that a blog is more than a blog. And it’s up to you to know this before you write that first word.
In addition to understanding the type of content needed, you need to understand the client’s goals for that content, and its purpose. This also involves understanding the audience, and what the client wants the reaction to be when it reads that content. Many writers will use an intake form to collect that information.
The days during which you might send your content via email (or even further back, via snail mail) are in the past. These days, there are many ways in which you can submit content. It can be done through a project platform, such as Asana or Trello. Or collaborative software, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Teams. Along those lines, it’s a good idea to get an approximate timeline as to when your submitted drafts will be reviewed and returned for revisions.
3. Ask questions
Many of us become tongue-tied when it comes to asking for information. Why? We’re afraid that the client might not think we’re very smart if we ask for clarification, or if we bring up another viewpoint. We’re fearful the client might find us ignorant, which could mean the client might second guess him or herself.
Certainly, some clients might become impatient with questions. But, for the most part, asking questions before the process shows your intelligence, and positions you as someone who wants the right information before getting started on an assignment. It also helps eliminate potential misunderstandings, which could lead to time wasted.
So, don’t be afraid to ask these, or other, questions after getting your first content gig:
- Content theme clarifications
- Preferred writing styles (even from the competition)
- What the client wants to avoid
- Deadlines and milestones
4. Remember the basics
So. You’ve done your research, met with the client – several times – and finally pulled together the first draft. But, before you pound out the email, attach the draft and hit “send,” be sure to look over that document once again. Proofreading lets you find and correct typos and grammar errors before the content ends up in the client’s inbox. The goal is to ensure your content is as error-free as possible.
If you’re fortunate enough to have someone else look at your work, take advantage of it. Most of us don’t have a ready reader at our elbows. If this is the case for you, use the following to help proof your content.
- Run it through spellcheck and grammar check
- Read it out loud. If you have time, read it backward as well
- Take some distance from it. Leave it alone overnight, then look at it again
5. Be patient
There is not a freelance writer in existence who doesn’t hope for these magical words: “It’s perfect. No changes necessary.”
Spoiler alert: This rarely, if ever, happens. Your first draft will likely not be accepted, as is. Why? Because you’re new to the company, leading to an automatic built-in learning curve. It also means that the client will likely return that content, requesting anything from small tweaks to a total rewrite.
If this happens, don’t take it personally. The client isn’t out to get you, nor does he or she hate your work. It’s business. So, your best bet is to accept the content gracefully, ask questions for additional clarification, rewrite, re-proof, and resubmit. Doing this with a positive attitude demonstrates your adaptability. The more adaptable you are, the more likely the client will use your skills again.
6. Get feedback
Finally, once the project is completed and the client signs off on it, it’s perfectly OK to ask for any feedback he or she might have. This is not a fishing expedition to stroke your ego. Rather, it’s an opportunity to learn and improve your skills.
What you might want to ask is:
- What the client liked about working with you
- Any challenges the client might have experienced with your work.
- If the client is willing to work with you again.
Additionally, if you feel comfortable with the work you did for the client, don’t be afraid to ask for a reference, either for use on your website or on your LinkedIn page.
Rinse and repeat
While the above is geared to freelancers receiving their first content gig, onboarding tasks should be something that every content producer puts into play, regardless of how long they’ve been in the field. Following the above steps, and embellishing them, based on your own experiences, can lead to a positive relationship between you and the client and hopefully, more repeat business.