First impressions take many forms in freelance writing, particularly in the virtual world that most freelance writers inhabit. It is more than possible for all of a freelance writer’s professional engagements to take place online and on email; therefore, nine times out of ten, freelance writers do not ever have a face-to-face meeting with a client. Exceptions include freelance writers who work internationally and conduct video meetings on Skype or whose freelance clients live and work locally.
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Most clients care about the work primarily; thus, the freelance writer who consistently delivers a high-quality final product typically enjoys steady return business and effective referrals. High quality work is what all freelance writers should aim for consistently; a steady and successful freelance writing career depends on it. However, other components of the first impression, besides the quality of the work, do factor into the overall impression you as the freelance writer makes on a new client.
How important is it therefore a freelance writer to impress the client from the start, and what constitutes impressive? What follows is an overview of the important elements of the first impression as it pertains to freelance writing. The goal of all freelance writing assignments is to generate effective referrals and repeat business; therefore first impressions beyond the work also count significantly in this regard.
The most vital element of the first impression is email demeanor; how you write emails, how quickly you respond to emails, the tone of the emails you use to respond to clients, and the language you use to discuss the nature of the freelance job. Emails to clients need to be brief, but not so brief that they might be construed as abrupt. Answer all the client’s questions succinctly; avoid offering tangential advice, thoughts, feelings, or ideas that the client has not requested.
Avoid using humor in an email to a new client. Oftentimes, humor is distinctive and personal and needs to be experienced live. Email humor can backfire quickly, especially when the client is new, does not know you, and lacks context for your humor. What you think is funny, the new client may find cryptic or worse, offensive. Therefore, conduct all email exchanges using clean, neutral business language. Respond to the emails from all new clients and customers within a ten to the twelve-hour window, even if you have no new information. Simply send the client an email to acknowledge receipt of his or her email and report your progress.
Most clients, especially new clients, simply want to be assured that you are doing the work; they seek the peace of mind that the work that they are paying you for is in good hands. So, a quick email response assuages any concerns they may have. Conversely, if you allow too much time to pass between email responses, the client may begin to doubt the quality of your work. This simple example of email etiquette marks the difference between a satisfied client and an effective referral, and a bombed opportunity that may lead to a bad review of your services.
As a freelance writer, what holds in real life also holds in the virtual space; you will not have more than one chance to create a good impression. The best work in the world may not be enough to reverse a bad impression created by tardy email responses or inappropriate language.
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