Be a Partner

When it comes to landing and keeping clients, the key is to position yourself as their partner. Yes, you are a writer, editor or [insert profession of choice here], but moreover, you are someone your clients can turn to when they need an extra hand. It is important to be flexible and easy to work with, and I’ve always said my job is to make my clients’ jobs easier. 

My motto was tested this week when I reached out to an editor about a story he assigned me a few months ago only to learn he had forgotten to list me on his editorial calendar and assigned the story to someone else. He apologized (several times, actually), and promised to touch base with the other writer to determine who was further along on the piece.

I took a few deep breaths and thought about what losing the assignment would mean to me. For this paper, I get paid by the word and typically earn $1,200 or more for a feature. This is a heck of a lot of money. I also love the front-page byline this piece will have. Plus, I had several hours in on the project. 

Then, I thought about my editor, the sources who had already shared time and information with me and all of the leg work I’d done on the piece. As a partner, there was no reason to let that work go to waste. I’ve been writing for this paper since I started freelancing three years ago and value the long-term relationship we have.

I emailed my editor and let him know that if he went with the other writer, I’d share my notes and the dates and times of pending interviews in addition to an overall status update.

Minutes later, my phone rang. My editor was confirming that I’d just offered to share my info, apologized again and thanked me for being so willing to help. He also offered to pay me for the work I’d done so far, give me credit on the story as a contributing writer and put me on the editorial calendar for an upcoming feature.

Was it the right move? Part of me wonders if I shared my info a little too easily. But overall, I think I showed my dedication to my client. My editor knows that I put the story first and he rewarded me with compensation for the time I’d spent and, more importantly for a soul proprietor, future work. I'm still a firm believer that putting the client first is the first step in building trust and securing repeat business. 

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