Worried about content marketing work drying up and clients freezing budgets for freelancers?
If you’re scared, worried, anxious, or afraid, you’re not alone.
Your first instincts may be to grab onto anything you can to stay afloat and spam pitches scattershot-style
Maybe you’re thinking about going back to content mills even though you swore you never would. Or maybe you’re ready to give up on the dream of being a freelance writer.
Stop right there. When you act from a state of fear, you’re forgetting about the people who may be hurting even more than you are:
Your clients. They’re used to one job and a steady paycheck. And that does sound like a content marketing crisis. Chances are pretty good they’re not sure if it’s time to close the doors, cut back, or ramp up content marketing.
Want to know how you can help? It might seem counterintuitive, but now is the perfect time for some one-to-one contact, transmitting positive vibes, and spreading good karma to help your clients. Here’s how it’s done:
Are your freelance clients worried about content marketing?
If your freelance clients are worried about content marketing, think about the difference between your two worlds for a minute.
As a freelance writer:
- You’re flexible. When you have multiple freelance writing clients, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose 100% of your income in one go.
- You can pivot on a dime when needed. When industry X is in a downturn, you can focus on industry Y.
- You’re used to working remotely. You’ve already got the tools, systems, schedule, and self-discipline in place to be productive working from home.
It’s a different story for freelance clients and prospects
They’re going nuts trying to manage teams, or get their own work done, when everyone is at home with their kids running wild in the background.
And then there’s overwork and layoffs. I know one consumer magazine editor who’s trying to ship three magazines—with her whole staff working remotely. Two other clients saw their whole marketing team fired, and they’re trying to do it all on their own. And those are the ones who still have a job. One client lost her job entirely.
Make a mindset shift to help your clients
The best way to stay afloat during the recession may be to stop thinking about yourself, and think about your clients instead.
When you prove to be a helpful, caring writer, they may ask you to help them with the jobs their teams used to do, pass your name along to other potential clients—or just remember you when all this is over and the workload is ramping up again. Those are the kind of viral updates we want to hear about, right!
Here’s how to make it happen. (Don’t have a lot of clients yet? Use these tips to get to know your favorite prospects better.)
1. Be real
I know I just gave you a bunch of me-centric reasons for caring about your clients, but really, you should care about them because they are humans you’ve built a relationship with.
If you have “please…please..please hire me” running through your head with every email or letter you send, you’ll come off as fake and desperate. Remember, these are fellow humans with problems that are at least as big as yours.
Here’s an example:
Last week a writer friend checked in with a client he’d cut loose a few months ago because the pay was too low, and discovered that all the client’s staff writers had been let go.
But she was still expected to produce content for a website, magazine, and quarterly white paper. The writer offered to send her free reprints of and evergreen article he had written in a related vertical to help take some of the pressure off.
2. Just check in
Drop your favorite clients a personal email to ask how they’re doing.
When they respond, you may see an opportunity to help them, or at least to send along a little commiseration. (Believe me, the stories you’ll hear will make your own job seem not so bad.)
- Ask if they’re working at home, and if so how it’s going.
- Find out if work has slowed down for them—or sped up.
- Ask how they’re handling the kids being home from school.
- Ask if they’ve been able to get outside and enjoy the spring weather.
If you know your clients well, you’ll know what to ask. If you don’t, ask more generic questions and you’ll start getting to know them better and building a solid relationship.
3. Help clients justify their budgets
We’ve noticed that our direct clients see the value of keeping up with content during this time of crisis, but their clients or bosses do not.
Help clients keep content marketing going
In response, we created a list of eight talking points our clients and prospects can use with their key stakeholders to justify their content projects and budgets, plus three ideas for getting more content for less money. We sent the PDF to everyone on our mailing list, posted it on LinkedIn, and have started sending it to relevant media channels.
You can download your own copy of The Business Case for Content During COVID-19. It’s free; no need to fill out a form, just click and grab. Share it with people you think need it, or use the talking points with your own clients.
4. Mail some love
Who doesn’t love getting little gifts in the mail?
We racked our brains to come up with an inexpensive but relevant gift for our clients, and decided on a $14 solitaire logic puzzle that’s fun for both adults and kids who are stuck at home.
We sent copies to about a dozen of our favorite current and past clients with a note. One client wrote the day after she received her package to let us know she and her daughter had already whizzed through the beginner levels of the game!
Other ideas include:
- Mini bottles of hand sanitizer (we’re talking to you, sanitizer hoarders!)
- Rolls of TP (try hitting a Costco early in the morning)
- Fun office supplies like colorful sticky notes and paper clips
- Coffee-related gifts.
Not enough cash for gifts? Try mailing cards instead.(Just promise you won’t send e-cards. I don’t know about you, but I’m never super excited to click a link in an email and wait for a card to download, only to be treated to cheesy music and an animated flower.)
You probably don’t have clients’ home mailing addresses—so just ask. Our project manager handled that task, and had no problem getting most of the addresses.
5. Help them get a job
If you discover a client or prospect has lost their job, share relevant job ads with them, connect them with people you know who are hiring, or offer to help with their resume.
- If they’ve decided to go freelance, invite them to call you for advice. Even if you’ve been freelancing for only six months, that may be six months more experience than they have.
6. Drop your rush fees
If your clients aren’t facing budget freezes, then they’re probably slammed with COVID-19 communications and other urgent work.
Let them know you’re lifting your rush fees (and even your no-nights-and-weekends policy if you have one) to help them get their work done fast.
Here’s an example:
Client needs coronavirus report… fast
We had one client reach out to us for a short coronavirus-related report that required interviews with athletic coaches, athletic directors, and pro athletes. This was on Thursday, and it needed to be done by Monday. Not only that, but this was right after a lot of organizations and universities cancelled their sports seasons.
Freelance team delivers, minus rush fee
We interviewed people over the weekend as they were driving to meetings about this very topic, rushed out the copy, and stood by for any revisions needed. When we presented the bill, we let the client know that we’d rescinded our rush fees, so they would be paying $400 less than we had quoted the week before.
The client was thrilled with the work and happy for the discount, and asked how she could support our business. Our answer? Remember us the next time you need content, of course!
You have the power to help your freelance clients
Writers often see themselves in the supplicant position, and their clients as having all the power.
But clients are regular people too, and nothing shows it more than a crisis. Now you’re the one in a position to help.
Even if helping your clients survive through this economic downturn doesn’t pay off in terms of new assignments now, it will later—and it pays off in other ways right now.
How are you connecting with clients and prospects? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Linda Formichelli is the founder of Hero’s Journey Content, a content studio that strategizes and develops content for brands like Intel, GE Healthcare, Prevention magazine, Domtar Paper, PrecisionHawk, and Triangle House Hunter.