Many clients complain about freelance writers who lack professionalism. Lack of contact, not being updated on progress, a touchy tone to communication, missed deadlines, disappearing – The list goes on.
The anonymity of the internet lets individuals get away with things the real world doesn’t. Basic business principles, though, shouldn’t be any different whether you’re running a virtual venture or working from a real office. Here are some ways to increase your professionalism:
Manners go a long way. It’s easy for virtual world comments to be misunderstood and even easier for us to convey a sharp tone when we’re feeling irritated or off at an email. Keep a close eye on what you write, and reread your messages before you hit send to make sure nothing you wrote gives the impression of anything more than calm politeness.
Answer emails, phone calls, and text messages as quickly as possible, even if it’s just to say, “I’ll get back to you.” Our sense of time passing skews on the internet. A virtual world minute feels like an hour and a day without an answer to an email can feel like weeks. A response of some sort to any communication helps clients know their note or message didn’t get sucked into the void and allows them to think on other things instead of worrying about when you’ll get back to them.
You’re in business, but you’re still a person at the end of the day, and so is your client. While you want to be professional, that doesn’t mean you should give the appearance of being stiff, snotty, or lofty. You’re in the virtual world to do business, but a personal or friendly touch to your communication conveys a sense of being real to the client.
Tentative comments, uncertain questions, and an inability to give a straightforward answer don’t convey an air of expertise and confidence. If you want to be considered a professional, act like one and believe in your talents and ability.
Be an expert.
Being an expert goes hand in hand with being confident. Know what you’re talking about and discussing with clients. Be sure about the answers you give or the suggestions you make. If you don’t know the answer to something, find out. If you’re unsure, gather information to make a confident decision or comment.
Some people will do anything to make a client happy, fearing rejection or losing future contracts. Some promise more than they can deliver, hoping to wow clients. Those aren’t smart strategies. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Accept deadlines you can meet, and try to keep clients satisfied by meeting their needs while meeting your own at the same time.
There are a lot of people who are going to push your buttons, irritate you, even anger you. While that’s never pleasant to deal with, staying cool and calm is important. Vent by writing an angry letter and then trashing it or by calling a friend who’ll listen, but never show the client they’ve hit a nerve.
So many buyers complain of writers who agree to work and then disappear into the virtual world void. One reason may be that writers promise too much, can’t deliver, and then don’t know how to handle the situation. Disappearing seems the easier answer over facing the music, but it’s the least professional answer to the situation.