Are Your Former Freelance Clients an Untapped Resource?

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on May 3, 2011 in Freelance Writing Jobs, Networking
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When we think about marketing our freelance writing services, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of finding new clients. But what about former clients? Sometimes they get lost in the mix, or are downright forgotten. Do you remember to approach them about potential new writing gigs?

Here are a few things you can do to bring old clients back:

1. Reach out.

The most important thing to do is just contact your past clients. See how they're doing. Touch base. Bring them back into your network and remind them that you were the kind of freelancer who really cared about them and their business (or if you didn't, now's a good time to start).

2. Mention that you're available.

You can't be afraid to let people know that you're looking for new freelance writing jobs. You don't have to be pushy and pleading. Just mention that you have an opening in your schedule should they be interested.

3. Pitch a specific project.

Did you write content for a newsletter around this time last year? Why not contact that client and pitch a similar project? Is there something going on in the news that would suit your old press release client perfectly? Then pitch a new one as a way to tie the company to current events. Clients don't care that you need a gig. But they do care about opportunities to help their own businesses. Go into the conversation armed with an idea, and you'll increase your chances of coming out with a paying gig.

4. Request referrals.

Referrals are one of the best ways to land new freelance writing jobs because they're jobs that generally aren't advertised (meaning you have little to no competition). But you don't have to wait around hoping someone refers work your way. Ask for those referrals.


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Contact past clients and mention that you have some new client spots open now or opening in the near future, and ask them if they know anyone who might be interested in your services. You could even encourage referrals with a discount -- maybe 20% off their own next order if they refer someone who becomes a paying client in the next couple of weeks.

5. Offer promotions and discounts.

As a last resort if people are mildly interested but hesitant, consider offering a one-time discount for returning clients who haven't worked with you for a certain period of time. For example you might offer a limited time sale of 10% off for any client who comes back after having not worked with you for at least six months. If you offer sales too often you might get the opposite effect where clients will hold off on ordering, waiting for the next discount to come along. So use this marketing tactic sparingly.

How else might a freelance writer bring former clients back? How do you approach past clients about the potential for new freelance writing gigs? Share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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6 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller May 3, 2011 Reply

    I find that my former clients were from my undercharging days – very nice people, but unable to pay my current rates. That being said, I do stay in touch because you never know when their situation might change.

    Another way to stay in touch besides the social, how you doing contact is to send them information useful to their business-an interesting article, report, etc. on a fairly regular basis.I have a target of sending 2 items of interest to clients’former clients or prospects 2 times/week.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 4, 2011 Reply

      I like that idea Cathy. It sounds like a nice way to keep in touch while setting yourself apart by showing them you still understand and want to support their businesses. :)

  2. Lisa May 3, 2011 Reply

    Very useful post, Jennifer!

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. I’ve gotten several jobs, a couple long term, just by contacting previous clients. A lot of times people think about hiring someone to help them with their needs, and get too busy to make that contact. A little reminder that you are out there is just the push they need to offer you that job.

    I did this after my third daughter turned two-years-old and I was looking for some work. I landed my first job within 24 hours, and the job worked out to last almost two years.

    By the way, I’ve also been wanting to tell you that I really love your new website. It looks great and has so many wonderful resources for writers at any level. For some reason, I was unable to leave any comments for a while.

    Also, thank you so much for listing my blog in your list of writer’s blogs. I was honored to be listed among some excellent resources.

    I hope you are having a great week and look forward to more awesome posts!

    • Jennifer Mattern May 4, 2011 Reply

      Sorry if you had problems commenting. That might have been post-upgrade. We had some server issues I was working to fix after we moved to the new server and updated the design files and then upgraded WordPress — somewhere in that mix we lost a few basic functions until I could dig through it all. :(

      I’m glad to hear you were able to land new gigs from old clients! :) You’re absolutely right. Sometimes they have projects in mind, but they aren’t urgent enough for them to reach out right away. When you make the effort it saves them hassle and it’s easier to say “yes, let’s do this” than try to track your contact info down and see if you’re available.

  3. Sarah May 18, 2011 Reply

    I think that this is a really important concept, and to be honest it did not even occur to me in my first year or so of freelancing that I could reach out to a client after a large project ended. I even felt that I would be bothering them.

    A friend of mine made the point that if they liked my work before then it would not be perceived as “bothering” them.

    So at the start of this year I sent out an updated CV and/or a brief email saying “Here are the things that I worked on this year (with an emphasis on the new areas), if you need help again, let me know.” I just had one of those clients contact me the other day and someone at that company had given my updated CV to someone else.

    I also don’t think that I realized before that it can take a lot of time to look for new clients (when I used to do that it would take a week or so out of a year, doing nothing but emailing), so going back to clients that you previously worked with is so much more efficient.

    • Jennifer Mattern May 18, 2011 Reply

      As long as you don’t nag or beg you probably won’t be bothering them. So no worries on that front. :) And your friend is absolutely right. if they liked your work once, it never hurts to follow up and see if they’d be interested again. It could be a good lead-in. Ask them how the results turned out over time perhaps (depending on the type of work).

      Congrats on landing a new client by reaching out! :)

      Marketers will generally tell you that it’s easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. And it’s no different in freelance writing. The more happy clients keep coming back, the less time we have to spend seeking out, vetting, and pitching potential new ones.

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