3 Ways to Turn Freelance Writing Jobs Into Stable, Recurring Work

3 Ways to Turn Freelance Writing Jobs Into Stable, Recurring Work

Freelancing is notorious for unstable schedules and fluctuating pay days.

One month might be seriously lucrative, while the next might be a “beans on toast” kind of month.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, all my clients are on long-term contracts, where we work together month after month. This means they have regular content to promote, and my bank account stays afloat.

It can be difficult making the switch from one-off assignments to recurring work, though.

At the beginning of my career, I was eager to pick up any work I could, which meant saying yes to even the smallest job that came my way. You might be in the same boat.

But I wasn’t moving my business forward.

I was essentially “snacking” on new clients every month, and then I’d have to start all over again finding the next batch for the next month.

It was exhausting.

I started each month in a slump, annoyed that I was back to square one again.

So I decided to shake things up and hunt down long-term gigs and recurring work.

Now, this kind of work isn’t always easy to find, because clients usually come to you with one problem they want solved (or one project they’ve pinpointed). However, there are a couple of ways I’ve successfully turned those one-off gigs into longer lasting relationships.

Now I start each month on a high because I don’t have to rummage around for new clients.

How can you turn one-off jobs into recurring work?

1. Propose a package

I’m willing to bet writing isn’t your only talent. And, if it is, I’m betting you’re not just good at one type of writing.

If you can write blog posts, you can write press releases and social media updates. If you can write compelling copy, you can write sales pages and drip marketing campaigns.

As freelancers, we don’t just have one set of skills. We’re running businesses, after all, so we’re on top of marketing, social media, and all sorts of other elements that go into keeping a business humming.

These skills are often valuable to our clients, but we don’t even realize it.

Think about it: What tasks have you done today besides your client work?

Now think about whether these tasks would benefit your clients in any way. Maybe you’re a natural at creating engagement on Twitter? Or maybe you’re the best at writing headlines.

When it comes to creating an ongoing relationship with clients, you have to offer them something, well, ongoing.

Say, for example, you’ve been asked to write the website copy for a new brand. You could just finish the project, send it over, and never speak to the client again.

Or you could offer other services that complement the website copy, like creating monthly blog posts, writing regular press releases, or touching up product descriptions.

Often, clients don’t realize they need help with something until you point it out. Even if they recognize they need assistance, clients might not realize your skills roll over into that area.

2. Try a retainer

When a potential client comes to you, they want your help to solve a problem, whether it’s attracting more customers, building their brand presence, or encouraging more sales.

There is never just one way to answer these problems.

Usually, there can be multiple assets that come together to create a solution that’s right for the brand, but the client may not immediately see the light.

Yes, altering the copy for their sales page might make a difference, but there’s also the small task of getting people to their site to see said sales page in the first place.

In this instance, you might consider offering a retainer package to the client, where you offer a select number of services throughout the month.

Now, a retainer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do a set-in-stone number of blog posts, press releases, and social media updates each month. It can also mean that you set aside a certain number of hours each month to carry out work for the client, whether it’s a last minute copy rewrite or a time-sensitive blog post.

While you’re on retainer, the client might not need your services, but they still pay you to set aside the hours just in case.

It’s a win-win situation, because your client essentially has a writer “on-call”, while you get a regular monthly paycheck.

3. Go above and beyond

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many clients have come back to me time and time again because I’m professional, easy to get along with, and prompt with my deliveries.

Being the best freelancer you can be is one of the easiest ways to keep clients coming back for more, because reliability is a much-coveted quality in the business world.

When you prove to clients you can get work done in a timely manner, are quick to respond to requests, and complete the work in a way that exceeds their expectations, you’re essentially saying, “Leave this to me, I’ve got your back.”

Think about it this way: When we find a hairdresser, a plumber, or a cafe that works for us, we tend to go back time and time again. It’s exactly the same with freelancing.

Are you looking to get more recurring client work? How do you make sure you don’t have to find a whole new set of clients each month?

Filed Under: Freelancing
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  • Tal Valante says:

    I love your attitude, Lizzie. In particular, I’ve found that given a wide enough client base, doing #3 is enough to attract repeat clients and fill up your calendar.

    What do you think about asking clients to pass your name to colleagues and friends? Or asking them for testimonials?

    Thanks for a good read!

    • Hi, Tal! I can’t speak for Lizzie, but I wanted to offer my own answer to your question:

      As a freelance editor, I face many of the same business development issues as freelance writers. I have testimonials from past clients on my website, some from the acknowledgments pages of their books and some that they wrote for me later.

      I’ve found that I feel more comfortable requesting testimonials (or permission to use whatever they’ve written about me in the acknowledgments) because I can offer a win-win: If they choose, I can put a link to their website or their book’s page on Amazon with their testimonial. This serves the dual purpose of giving the client a benefit in return for helping me promote my business and lending credibility to the testimonial when it is read by future clients.

      I find that if you do good work, people are glad to spread the word, whether by testimonials or referrals.

      It can also be worthwhile (if all the other business factors are right) to get some of your work through a system that has a built-in procedure for reviews or referrals. For example, I have a small shop on Etsy where I offer writers’ resources. Reviews and favorites are customary there, and can greatly boost confidence in one’s work for potential future clients.

      I wish you success in building your own business!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC

    • Lizzie says:

      Hi Tal! I completely agree – the vast, vast majority of my clients are repeat clients and I get them by being good at what I do and being easy to work with. So simple!

      I think if you get along well with a client it can be worth dropping a “Please feel free to pass along my services to anyone you think might be a good fit” email when a project comes to a close. Otherwise, you could do an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine kinda thing”, where you refer someone to them first.

      Asking for testimonials is another kettle of fish, and something that I do ALL the time. When a project ends and I know the client had a good experience, I’ll ask them for a couple of words about how they felt the project went.

  • Robert says:

    Freelancing can definitely be feast or famine depending on the clients you end up with. Within the scope of this wonderful job comes the ups and downs. I think the best advice in this article was the retainer package. It’s something that any freelancer should strive to get as it can mean stability and, if done right a great paycheck.

  • Chad Nikolic says:

    This was a great read Lizzie! I especially liked #3. I feel that going above and beyond is something that we can apply to lots of things and freelancing is definitely no different. Providing heaps of value to a client helps cement why they chose you and why it’s a good thing to keep you around. 🙂

  • Lizzie says:

    Completely agree with you, Jimmy! I always tell my students to do one thing every day that’ll move their business forward – however small that thing may be!

  • Thanks for the great tips, Lizzie. I always offer my blogging and social media services to clients after I complete their website content, but I never thought of offering a retainer service. I would have thought small businesses, in particular, would baulk at the drain on their cash flow when they could always use you on an ad hoc basis when required instead. Has it worked for you with many clients?

    • Lizzie says:

      Hi Aoife, glad you like the tips! Retainers have worked for me with a couple of clients. Sometimes they do balk at the idea, but when they need a piece of content immediately and I tell them I’m completely booked out for the next week, they start to see the value in it. It’s often worth it for them to have content when they need it, and not have to go through the hassle of finding another writer at short notice.

  • Petra says:

    I love these tips. I think one of the biggest hurdles sometimes is fear and putting yourself out there. But if you are willing, then opportunities show up.

  • Thanks for the advice, especially the idea of offering a package like some other commenters have said. We all have other skills besides writing to offer, and the more we can show how these skills might benefit them, the more clients we’ll be able to keep long-term. 🙂

  • Rosalind Harris says:

    Thanks Lizzie,

    Followed point 1. when I started out and this does indeed work.
    Have not tried point 2. but will now give it thought
    Have endeavoured point 3. to date. Definitely essential

  • Jason says:

    I have been unable to attain any longer-term gigs or to convert any customer I have worked for into something more than a one-time assignment.

    I have actually tried the above strategies, and others, but have not had any success.

    I find myself undercut by freelance writing sites overrun with non-native English speaking writers.

    There have been numerous clients that have asked me straight out if I can beat the proposal they received from blahblahblah.com.

    I try to educate them as to why working with me would be much more beneficial for them, but I can’t overcome their objections, which are price.

    I tend to believe that my lack of sufficient experience and/or knowledge in any one niche is hurting me as well, but I don’t really know how to break free of this constraint. I have no specialty or qualifications needed for better paying gigs.

    And of course, as eluded to above, my sales skills probably aren’t the greatest either. I try my best, being a typical reclusive writer, but it must be a combination of things that are holding me back and have me looking for a retail job to pay the bills.

    Any suggestions would be massively appreciated.

    Best regards,

    • Lizzie says:

      Hey Jason,

      Breaking into freelance writing definitely isn’t easy, and it can be really defeating when you realise there are so many people out there charging pennies for their services.

      Can I ask where you’re looking for work?

      I found a massive shift when I changed my mindset and started thinking about the value I was offering people, rather than how cheap I could get my prices. The clients who balk at your rates aren’t the kind of clients you want to be working with – if they don’t respect you from the beginning, they’re sure as heck not going to respect the work you produce when you start working for them.

      That being said, I know it can be difficult turning down ANY work (even if it really does pay pennies) when you need the income, but I think about it as if I’m free-ing up time to land better-paying clients that are a better fit for me. It’s worth finding some different avenues for landing freelance work, because at the moment it sounds like you’re using content mills and sites like UpWork, which are notorious for wanting to find the lowest prices. This just isn’t a good model to build a business on and, if you want to create a long-term career as a freelancer, you have to think about it as a business, not a series of one-off gigs that just about pay the rent.

      I’ve written 10 guides to finding clients outside of the content mills in a free e-course I offer. I’m not sure whether I can post it here, but feel free to click through to my site and then click on the resources tab and you’ll find it there.

      Hope this helps, and keep at it – it gets better, I promise!

  • Laura Turner says:

    Thank you for the great article, Lizzie! I have been away from freelancing for awhile, but now I’m back in the game. With this said, I appreciate your helpful ideas for freelancers who are interested in building careers successfully. I love the idea of planning ahead and building relationships with clients that are long-term; not here today, gone tomorrow. To me, those are the clients I want to work with the most. I love all of what you have written in this article, but especially idea number three: delivering quality work consistently and exceeding expectations. This is at the forefront of any great business model regardless of career path, and I appreciate your pointing this out. Thanks again.

    • Lizzie says:

      Glad you liked it, Laura! And yes, quality work should always be a number one priority, whatever kind of business you’re running. It seems like such a simple thing, but it really can make a huge difference!

  • Ben Oliveira says:

    HI, Lizzie!
    Very helpful tips for freelance writers. It’s not always easy to find clients, specially during times of financial crisis.
    Thank you!

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for these 3 points. I am trying to build my freelance career and really struggling to find consistent, long term work. I am new to all of this, and this post has helped to clarify everything in my mind and given me a starting point. Thank you!

  • Michel says:

    I was distracted by the three-armed writer in the picture.

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      I went back to look at the photo after reading your comment and had to laugh. Consider it an aspirational shot — the extra hand we wish we all had!
      Thanks for reading,
      Lisa Rowan