Are you losing clients? Do you have clients decreasing the packages and projects you are working on?
Especially during the pandemic, you have to be adaptable and ready to pivot. Being proactive and communicating with your clients and knowing what is most important to your client right now can prevent them from pulling the plug.
In this episode, you will learn how to stay ahead of your client and be clear about the accomplishments you are making and the return on investment that you are delivering.
Here are some things we covered in this episode:
- What clauses you should have in your contract
- When to give your clients grace
- When to expect your clients to pull back
- Why you should be proactive in how you communicate with your clients
- The importance of sharing wins with your clients
- Sharing reports with your clients to explain their return on investment
- When to reach out to clients for contract renewal
- Be adaptable and ready to pivot during the pandemic
- Be strategic and specific in what you offer to your clients
- Know where your clients can get wins right now
- How to have conversations to get a sense of what you can offer your client
- The importance of a monthly or quarterly recap of accomplishments
- How to respond to a client that wants to decrease
After listening to this episode, share your action steps and take-aways with our group:
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Read the Full Transcript:
Welcome back to another episode of advanced freelancing. It’s been quite a while since you heard from just me. Right? Well, get ready. I’ve got several solo episodes coming your way. And due to listener requests, I’ll be transferring back to more solo episodes in the near future. So you’ll still hear from some freelance experts from other communities in places from time to time. But it’s very clear that most of my listeners love listening to some of these solo episodes, kind of peppered in with expertise from other guests. Today. I want to talk about something that’s really challenging for a lot of freelancers and seems to be coming up a lot more now as a result of the pandemic, what do you do when a client wants to pull the plug wants to cancel or wants to decrease the packages and projects you’re working on now, any business can make this decision for any reason at any time, right?
Sometimes they might just be going through a challenging time with their company. Their marketing budget has been decreased. They’re pivoting and offering something entirely new. There’s really so many different reasons that companies can naturally come up against the situation. But of course, anytime that we’re facing a recession or something like the pandemic, when questions are being raised about any project that’s on the table, in any expense in the business, you can definitely anticipate this becoming more likely with some of your clients. Now, just because a client wants to have a conversation about decreasing or dropping the project entirely doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Now, definitely. If this is a bigger client and they’ve already talked about it with their internal team and come to the decision that the project needs to halt entirely, or they need to cancel the contract and pay the kill fee for canceling early.
There’s very little you can do at that point in time, but you want to get to the point where that is very rare, right? We don’t want our clients blindsiding us with information that they’ve decided to cancel everything and throw out the baby with the bathwater with no notice for us. Most of you should have clauses inside your contract that require the client to give you a certain amount of notice. Now, if their business is going bankrupt if they’re shutting their doors if this has happened to me if the owner of the company passes away and it’s really influx, who’s going to take over. Those are situations where you might not get the required notice. And you probably want to give your clients a little bit of grace. If they’re going through something especially difficult, but otherwise your clients should adhere to what’s listed in the contract. As far as how long with advanced notice they need to give you that the contract is ending. So it’s most likely to happen towards the end of the month towards the end of the quarter and towards the end of your contract, right? Because these are naturally times when companies and teams are going to be taking a look at where they’re spending their money or monitoring performance of campaigns to make that decision. So you never want to let your clients get to the point where they are having those conversations without any input from you. This does not mean that you are there and are present for the actual meeting. No, it actually means that you are doing some outreach prior to these natural endpoints where you’re sending the client a report you’re discussing what’s gone well, and what can be improved, where you’ve made some type of outreach, essentially, where you haven’t let the situation just set it and forget it, right? That’s what we don’t want is to deliver work for our clients. And then at the end of a three-month contract, one week before the contract is up, when you realize you need to get it to renew, that shouldn’t be the only time you’re reaching out to your client to initiate the renewal conversation. You want to have a positive relationship throughout the length of the contract to make it much easier for them to be excited about reconsidering it.
And if there’s no input from you, their team is looking at this in a very simple, there is no gray area situation. They’re looking at, what is their return on investment and how much money are they spending on working with you? If you’ve listened to this podcast for any amount of time, I always talk about if you are negotiating only on money or on price, it is nearly impossible to back yourself out of that corner. And so we don’t ever want the conversation to be only about the amount of money that they spend on your projects. This is especially true when you’re working on things that are a long game, like growing an organic social media following or SEO writing or things that just take some time to get traction. We want to set our clients up with reasonable expectations when they start working with us and keep in communication with them over the lifetime of the project. So that you’ve kind of set yourself up for a win with the renewal conversation. You’re not waiting until the company reaches out to you about the conversation. You are reaching out to them a few weeks in advance to discuss some of the achievements that you’ve already had. Now, if you have got some big wins for the client since you started working together, this anticipating a renewal conversation should definitely include that. Let’s imagine that you’re a writer who published articles for a client. And those got picked up by traditional media and shared all over the internet or went viral or had hundreds of comments, or really got great engagement on Facebook. The client probably told you about those accomplishments, or you saw them organically as you worked on the project, but now is the perfect time to remind them of some of the wins you’ve gotten because at the end of a contract, it’s so much easier for a client to look back and go, Hmm, I don’t really remember all the great things that happened, but I do remember how I wanted this to perform better or there’s any other negative aspects.
You don’t want the conversation to be about that. So direct the conversation pre-renewal by highlighting some of the things you’ve done well. Now, if your client seems open to it, i.e. they haven’t had a company-wide meeting and already made the decision to cancel your contract. This preemptive work will really set you up to at a minimum, have a conversation with the client about what their next step is. And it’s very possible that in light of the pandemic or other issues, the package that you proposed previously doesn’t work anymore. It might not be as simple as just renewing what you’re already doing. You have to be willing to pivot and be adaptable in these situations because all businesses are being asked to, to do those things. And so you have to pivot and be adaptable on behalf of your clients, by thinking carefully about what they need the most right now. So if that is something different than what you proposed three months ago, six months ago, a month ago, bring that up to them and suggest different things that might be more helpful. I’ll give you an example from one of my coaching clients, there was a prospective client for this coaching client that really wouldn’t benefit from the current offerings that the freelancer had. And I’ve had the situation myself recently, where normally I would recommend blogging to just about all of my clients, but I was working with an attorney who just had no
website presence at all. It made no sense for the first thing I recommended to him to be, yes, you need to be blogging eight times a month. He didn’t even have the website structure built out properly. He had no technical SEO elements on his page. And so when I wrote the proposal, it was very specific to where his business was at right there. And when my freelance coaching client went back to the prospective client and said, you know what? I don’t think that blogging, you know, continued blogging is going to make sense for you. What I am going to recommend is writing great lead magnets and having some email newsletter copy, because you’ve already built up a following on your email newsletter list. And this is going to be the place where you can get the most sales right now. So as freelancers, it’s on us to be mindful of situations happening in the greater economy and marketplace that are forcing our clients to have tough conversations.
We have to be there with them. And in order to continue on the path of being taken seriously, as a true partner of your freelance clients, you have to be willing to pivot and adapt to. If you’ve known for a couple of weeks that your client is struggling financially, but they really believe in your work. Don’t just turn around and offer them a renewed contract at the same rate, with the same volume of work, be sensitive to that, think about where they can get wins right now, what is really going to be meaningful for their business right now, this gives them a chance to feel that continued positive relationship with you, that you have their best interests in mind, that you’re not just selling things to sell things you’re being very strategic and specific in what you offer to your clients. So if a client brings up to you, this idea that they’re thinking about decreasing the contract, one of the best things you can do is try to have a conversation around this and not over email, an actual video conversation or a phone conversation about some of where the challenges are at.
They may be misperceiving things, and you want to have the opportunity to correct that before they make a rash decision, like ending your contract altogether. So for example, maybe the client had unrealistic expectations about how a Facebook ad campaign was going to perform or how involved it would be to truly update all of the development tools and plugins on your website. If they had unrealistic expectations. And those weren’t caught at the beginning of the relationship, they might simply be thinking about ending things because the project just isn’t where they anticipated it to be. So if a project has gone off the rails, this is a good chance for you to step in and say, this is where we’re at right now. Here are the next couple of things we’re focusing on. And here’s when you can expect to receive them, having conversations with clients, we’ll also give you access to data that you will not find anywhere else.
You will get a really good sense of what you can offer to the client, if anything, just by having these conversations, right? So it’s really up to you to be the one to take that forward action step, to ask the client, if you can chat about things to do a monthly or quarterly recap of all the things you’ve done within the project, it makes them feel good that there’s still forward progress being made on some of their goals and remove some of that easiness about just saying, you know what, we’re going to cancel this project altogether because it’s a money issue. Now, if you get on the phone with your client, you’re hunting for information about why they’re not happy, why they’re thinking about decreasing things. If there’s something that you’re at fault for in this conversation, by all means, own up to it. Just simply say, you know what?
I do apologize for that. These were the circumstances around how that happened, and here’s what I’ve put in place to make sure that isn’t going to happen again, or here’s how we’ve gotten back on track. Since that point, if they were hoping for different results, you can kind of talk about some of the things that might have contributed to those results or not. Right. Um, I definitely have seen a lot of the metrics with my clients around the pandemic. They’re all over the place, right? Like web searching, podcast listening, it’s all over the place. And so it’s much less consistent than it was in the past. And it’s your responsibility as a freelancer to have those conversations with your clients and say that, you know, this is the reason why this has happened. And here’s how I’ve pivoted our strategy a little bit, um, to be mindful of that.
So as an example, running Facebook ad campaigns for a company, one of the things that I’ve learned recently is because people are on their phone more they’re at home more, they’re spending a lot of time online, a lot of time on social media. They’re more receptive to ads in some cases, but they’re also much more likely to get annoyed with ads if they see them too many times. So Facebook measures something known as a frequency score, which is how often the same people are seeing the same ad. And if you see the same ad on Facebook or anywhere else over and over, it just annoys you to a certain point, right? You’ve seen it. You’ve already made the decision not to engage with it, and that can decrease the effectiveness of your campaign. So where previously my strategy might have been to swap out the copy and creative on Facebook ads every couple of months, that’s become more frequent. Now, as I watched that frequency score very carefully, and I’ll tell my clients like, you know, some of these strategies we’ve implemented that have been successful in the past in nonpandemic situations or whatever situation is going on. They’re not working right now. And here’s how I’m going to recommend that we pivot and adjust that this is where your client sees you as a strategic partner. You have their best interests in mind. You’re recognizing when something isn’t working and you’re adjusting it. Now, if a client just wants to decrease the quality and cost of their overall project, working with you, it is your responsibility to think about whether there’s any way to salvage the relationship. If it could do a great deal of damage for them to quit altogether, you need to tell the client that, and not from the perspective of, I don’t want to lose your income as a freelancer, but from the perspective of this is important for me to tell you that if you choose to stop working on your SEO efforts, if you suddenly stopped posting on LinkedIn, when you’ve built a great following there, there’s going to be impacta from that.
That will be very hard to build back from once you make that decision. So you might not recommend that the client proceed exactly as they were prior to making the decision to drop or decrease the size of the project. But what you are going to do is to make some recommendations with what I call things going on low maintenance mode, right? Maybe it’s not achievable for them to be posting on LinkedIn every day. Maybe it’s not affordable for them to be paying you to post on LinkedIn every day. This is where you put on your hat as a strategist and say, how can I salvage this relationship? Not only to make sure that I keep the relationship and some of the revenue from it, but do the thing that the client needs the most right now, if people aren’t engaging with their posts on LinkedIn, the way that they were in the past, maybe you recommend dialing it down to just two times per week. That way they don’t lose all of the traction. They’d built up by being really active on that platform. But you’re also not stressing them out with a high bill, paying a freelancer to do it five times a week. So see how important it is to get on the phone and have these conversations because your clients want to hear how you strategize through things. They want to hear you own up to when things maybe aren’t performing as well, or the project hasn’t been delivered as well, or communication wasn’t as professional as they anticipated, but that’s not where you leave it. You leave with a next action step of what you recommend they do going forward. And when you can do this, honestly, with integrity and recommend things that are going to benefit the client. Now, even if that does mean honoring their original request to cancel the, or decrease the size of the project, it’s far better to do that than to come across as desperate and trying to keep the relationship just for the sake of keeping it.
So there are lots of things that you can do when a client talks about needing to be mindful of their budget or being concerned that they’re not getting great results, but you don’t want those conversations to happen after it’s too late, you need to be proactive in how you reach out to your clients and how you structure these conversations. You might just be able to save a relationship altogether.
Now, listeners, many of you already know that my second book, The Six-Figure Freelancer is coming out on October 20th, 2020. By pre-ordering the book you’ll get four exclusive bonuses and you’ll be involved and entered in giveaways and other opportunities for prizes. You can learn more about those bonuses and the book by going to sixfigurefreelancebook.com. Thanks again for tuning in.
Laura Briggs is empowering the freelance generation. Through her public speaking, coaching, and writing, she helps freelancers build the business of their dreams without sacrificing all their time, family, or sanity. Laura burned out as an inner-city middle school teacher before becoming an accidental freelancer with a Google search for “how to become a freelance writer.” Since then, she’s become a contributor to Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and Writer’s Weekly. She worked for more than 300 clients around the world including Microsoft, Truecar, and the Mobile Marketing Association.
She’s delivered two TEDx talks on the power of the freelance economy for enabling freedom and flexibility and how it’s being used to address the technical skills gap in the U.S. Laura is the host of the Advanced Freelancing podcast, a sought-after public speaker on the gig and digital freelance economy, and a freelance coach focused on aspiring six-figure freelancers. Laura’s books, courses, and coaching have reached over 10,000 people.
As a military spouse, Laura is passionate about serving her community and founded Operation Freelance, a nonprofit organization that teaches veterans and military spouses how to become freelancers and start their own business.