A Guide to Writing for Freelance Clients: 10 Dos and Don’ts

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 05/09/23 •  10 min read

If you’re new to writing for freelance clients, it’s important to realize it’s not like writing for your college professor or your journal.

Clients have different needs and requirements when it comes to the quality of work they need from you. And if you want to keep clients around for the long term, you need to pay attention.

Unfortunately, way too many freelancers don’t.

So let’s fix that because I want you to become a successful freelance writer.

I want to get specific, covering a few key things you should and shouldn’t do to make sure you keep your clients happy and they continue to send you work.

Ready to dive in?

Keep reading, or if video is more your thing, take a look below.

Do #1). Understand Client Goals

The first thing you need to do is understand the goals of the client. Specifically, you need to know who is their end reader, who are they trying to target.

That’s the person you’re writing for, not your client.

So don’t be afraid to ask the client questions to make it really clear in your mind who you’re writing for and the major goals of the content you’re creating.

It’s going to save on edits, reach the reader, and make your client happier — which is a great thing for you.

Do #2). Follow Client Guidelines

Always make sure you follow the client’s guidelines for their tone and writing style.

How you write in your everyday life, or even on your own blog, won’t always be the same for clients.

While some may hire you because of your quirky style, others may have pretty strict rules they want you to adhere to.

It’s the same for some industries too. Heavily regulated industries like financial services have specific phrases and words you can’t say in your writing.

So get on the same page (ha) before you start writing. Read their site and review the style and tone of the articles posted, and as always, ask questions if you aren’t sure.

Make sure you understand those guidelines so you can tailor your tone and your style to what they need and keep the client happy.

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Do #3). Spend Time Prepping

Something that separates good writers from great writers is research. This is especially true when you get into a niche and want to show your expertise.

Use data to back up your points, and create a system that makes research easy.

My recommendation?

Make a research folder for each client. Keep their guidelines in there and add good sources, white papers, interviews, and all the other places where you can gather facts and statistics that can help enhance your writing.

Then, when it’s time to write, open the folder, and you’ve got the backup for everything you want to reference right there, ready to go. Plus, it’s a great way to help you learn more about your niche and industry, the more you dig into a topic, the more you learn and can bring new insights and research to the table.

It makes writing so much smoother, and it makes editing and fact-checking a lot easier for the client.

Do #4). Be a Trusted Partner

You are an expert.

Don’t forget that.

So use that expertise you have in writing, digital marketing, and your niche as you begin to build a relationship with your freelance clients.

You can keep it where they send you briefs, and you write, and nothing more. But, if you want to get more out of the relationship (and get more writing work), then offer suggestions and advice.

Are there ways you see they can improve their content strategy? Try suggesting different types of content, like more list posts, how to guides, or subject matter expert interviews.

See what their competitors or other successful sites in the industry are doing and highlight how they could benefit from some of the same strategies.

That’s how you start building a relationship with a freelance client, it’s based on trust. So they’ll start coming to you for more advice, and you can start adding content marketing strategy to your skillset.

Do #5). Hit Deadlines

Finally, the last thing you should do with your clients is review your work and hit your deadlines.

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it — and unfortunately, that’s why freelancers can sometimes get a bad rep.

So don’t be a flake. Being communicative, following directions, and delivering good work on time puts you in the upper tier of freelancers. These are the people that treat it like a business, and business owners hit the mark.

Get a calendar system and to-do list up and running. I love tools like Asana and Notion, but there are plenty out there. And then use tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway App to check your work and make sure it’s error-free.

This is simple stuff, so make sure you do it.

Okay, those are the things you shouldn’t do.

What are the things you shouldn’t? I’ve got a few suggestions for those too. If you want to keep your freelance client happy, don’t make these mistakes.

Don’t #1). Skip the Research Process

I covered a little bit about how important I think good research is above, but I want to highlight it again here.

Let’s face it, nobody likes boring, generic content. And these days, with more and more people going to AI writing tools and tossing in generic prompts, there’s a lot of mediocre stuff floating around out there.

So, avoid that by actually spending time learning about your niche, your client, and who they are targeting. The more research and thought you put into that, the better your stuff will be — and that makes you very hard to replace.

Don’t #2). Save Click-Bait or Sales-y Content for Where it Belongs

Know the purpose of everything you’re writing for a freelance client. Most freelancers start out as bloggers, and that’s a great way to earn a living as a writer.

But writing blog content is a lot different than copywriting a sales page or an email. You need to use a different tone and approach, which means you don’t want to be overly aggressive or pushy when it comes to your writing.

And the last thing you want to do is deliver some work to your client that just has the tone all wrong because you wrote a blog post like a sales page.

Does that mean you don’t want to write great blog headlines? Of course not. Use your copy skills there, but focus on making the rest of your post informative, honest, and educational. That’s what’s going to go a long way with your client’s readers.

So just keep in mind the purpose of the content and what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t try and confuse the two with a whole bunch of extra copywriting or sales-y stuff; your freelance clients probably aren’t going to be too thrilled with that.

Don’t #3). Avoid Jargon and Buzzwords

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some situations where there might be industry terms you have to use. But so often, I see a lot of new freelancers coming straight out of school feel like they have to use a lot of these overused buzzwords and terms that you only see in a corporate environment.

Most of the time, it just makes you sound like you don’t know what they’re talking about. You’re trying to be smart, instead of clear and straightforward.

I don’t care what industry you’re in, the best writers are those who can cut through the jargon and buzzwords and make even complicated topics easy to understand.

So don’t do that. Write naturally. Be authentic and don’t try and use a bunch of cliches. Usually, that’s going to turn editors off, and those are people you definitely want to make sure you stay friendly with. Make their lives easier.

Don’t #4). Use a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Every client is different. Every one of them has different needs,  different styles, they have different things they’re going to need from you.

Here’s where flexibility comes into your approach to business. Even within a niche or industry, different freelance clients could ask you to do work in completely desperate ways. So if you go into saying, nope, I only have one approach this is the only way I do things, then you may lose out on some potential clients.

So understanding their needs can help you tailor your approach to them, which can make their lives a lot easier. It shows you take this working relationship seriously and care. And when that happens, you’ll get a lot of work from clients.

This takes a bit of tweaking on your end, it’s ok if you aren’t sure how to best tailor your approach at the start; with time and experience, you’ll learn.

And it’s also important to say that it’s ok to say no to a potential client because you genuinely don’t like, aren’t interested in, or uncomfortable with their asks. But don’t dismiss taking new approaches outright if everything else feels like it’s potentially a good fit.

Don’t #5). Overpromise and Underdeliver

It can be very easy, especially when you’re a new freelance writer, to say, ‘I can totally write 100 blog posts in a month that are 3,000 words for $50’ because you’re so excited someone wants to pay you to write.

But then, a week in?

You’re burnt out. You realize there’s no way you can deliver what you said you would. And that feeling sucks, it’s not good for you or the client.

If anything, try the opposite approach: underpromise and overdeliver. Think of the little things you can add that will make the client happy but not take you a ton of time and energy.

There are tons of small things you can do like:

Each of these may just take 10 minutes, but it gives some extra value to your client that they’ll love. And, when you do it, let them know.

Tell them you did a little extra keyword research or you wanted to give them a few extra headlines to test. And while you do it, let them know how what you did can help the site through better optimization, search rankings, or improving internal linking.

Things like this can go a long way with your clients, and it also makes it really easy to start upselling more work to them down the line.

Now they may not think twice about paying you more to add social media posts with your articles or pay you to refresh old posts because they know you get SEO.

As you start getting more freelance writing clients keep that in mind, I know it’s easy to get excited. But keep it realistic and then think about those little add-ons you can provide to surprise and delight them.

Get (and Keep) More Clients

So there you go. When you are writing blog posts for clients, those are five things you should do every time as well as five things you should not do.

Every time.

My golden rule is “make your client’s life easier.” The easier you make things on your client, the easier it’s going to be for them to give you more work and want to continue working with you.

So keep that in mind with everything you do and you’re going to have a lot of happy clients with tons of work headed your way.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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