A regular customer… In the world of freelancing, it’s something like a four-petal clover, a lucky tram ticket, and a double rainbow combined. But is that really the case?
In this article, I will talk about the positive and negative aspects in working with regular customers that I have encountered on personal experience.
As always, I emphasize that I do not consider myself the ultimate truth, everything stated in the material is my experience and my subjective opinion. So, let’s try to consider the issue from all possible angles.
Groundhog Day, or How to Hate Your Favorite Topic
It is worth starting with the fact that for me the main advantage of freelancing is diversity. Today I work with the delivery of burgers, and tomorrow with the fuel pump store. Every day is an adventure. Every project is a challenge and a discovery. It is very cool when the customer likes the work and he turns again. But there is a negative side.
About 2 years ago I worked with a store of just amazing sofas. I was delighted with them, I told all my friends and acquaintances about them (and even strangers who had the imprudence to talk to me), I was burning with this project.
But it’s been six months. Every month I wrote 10-20 articles about these sofas, which is the worst thing is about the same ones. The hard-nosed marketing department got hung up on 6 specific models that needed to be promoted. One March morning, I woke up with a clear realization: I can’t do that anymore. Another article about a pillow sofa and I’ll go crazy. A little more, and I’ll just destroy all the couches I see. Thus ended my collaboration with a project I adored.
But that’s not always the case. For example, for several months now, I have been regularly cooperating with a food delivery site. And I’m still excited about the project, still inspired by it.
- I choose my own topics.
- My opinion is listened to and taken into account.
- I write about something new every time.
But, alas, such a development of events is rare for me. That’s my approach, or character, or style. And very often, with a shudder remembering sofas, I close the tab with the next project, where they offer constant cooperation.
I’m not sure about other areas, but in copywriting, if it’s creative, collaboration should be more periodic than permanent. It doesn’t scare me at all when a “regular” customer places a general order rather than contacting me. It’s right: if I feel inspired, I’ll bet, I’ll get the job done. Or there will be another artist who will see the project from a different angle. It is better to lose a few hundred profits than to give away dry, dull and soulless work, which will be ashamed to add to the portfolio.
Discounts, bonuses and to whom they are due
“Eva, the work turned out great! Even better than I expected! I would even pay extra, but, unfortunately, I will not pay extra.”
This phrase of one of the regular customers will never stop making me laugh and discouraged at the same time. So, what am I getting at?
I often hear stories about bonuses and surcharges from regular customers, but for some reason, I usually get exactly the opposite. Most likely, I myself am to blame – very often I offer to do something for free: correct, find, redo.
And there are two very simple reasons for this:
- It seems petty to me to ask for these extra 50-200 UAH.
- I don’t want there to be something crooked, awkward, and flawed next to my work, which I’ve put my soul into.
And that approach quite often plays against me. Once, having offered a similar bonus to the customer, the next time I heard:
- And what will be our bonus this time? I thought the bonuses would now be every time…
I don’t know, maybe this is an above-average price tag problem, but in my experience, most of the regular customers are sure that bonuses should be on my part. And, no, the problem is not the quality of the work, it is even more than satisfying.
However, it is worth mentioning that customers who are ready to additionally “thank” also happen, and this is always very pleasing. Not just because of the money, it’s just a definite indicator that the work is straight “wow!” And this aspect takes us straight to the next point.
“Praise me seven”: sometimes words are more important than money
I am literally addicted to praise and approval, even admiration. Enthusiastic feedback, the pleasant surprise of the customer, pleasant words about my work – all this is “honey on the heart”, which is cooler than any bonus.
And when you work with a person constantly, sooner or later all the delights are limited to the words “everything is fine, as always”, “I am sure there will be no comments”, or, most terrible, “thank you, everything is OK”.
I understand that this moment is not important for everyone, but it is very important for me to be sure that I absolutely like my work, to know that I am “well done”, no matter how ridiculous and stupid it may sound.
Another problem from the same category: inattentive verification. When the customer is confident in the quality of the work, he checks it not as carefully as at the beginning of the cooperation. And the flight of fancy is an ambiguous matter. In a fit of inspiration, you can skip a comma, and mix up a number, and it is difficult to notice your mistakes immediately. And then you look at your already published works after a while, and it becomes embarrassing and sad. And everything seems to be perfect, but due to a minor technical error in the portfolio, the work can no longer be added.
“A year ago it was 2 times cheaper”: permanent project = lifetime contract?
The issue of paying as a leitmotif runs through the entire article, and, yes, this is the most sensitive moment of constant cooperation. When it comes to intellectual work, it is very difficult to explain its cost.
More recently, a familiar customer (more “periodic” than permanent) after a long break turned to a new project. And I was stunned by the announced budget.
“How so? You did it twice as cheap last year! You don’t need gas or dollars to write. Why is it more expensive?
First of all, during this time I’ve improved the quality of my work, gained more experience, studied the features of my specialization more deeply. I work better and faster. Besides, because in stores, too, products are becoming more expensive, right?
– I was fine with the old quality and can do it more slowly!
In fact, I don’t even know how to comment on this dialogue and this approach. However, I can confidently say that regular customers quite often react to new prices extremely painfully, even if they agree with them. But there are also completely opposite situations.
– Eva, this time the work is of a completely different quality.
– Is that really a bad thing?
– No, on the contrary. You’ve figured it out directly, on a different level. I think it’s fair if I raise the payment by 15%.
And even if 15% is not so much, but it is very pleasant to realize two things:
- the work can be appreciated;
- a person is aware of the price of quality.
In my case, this moment is doubly pleasant, because very often I am really embarrassed to explain to a regular customer that the price tag has become higher. Especially if the project is a favorite and communication with the customer is quite pleasant.
You can’t keep a professional distance.
Where to put a comma in this sentence? Is it good to be friends with the customer, does it interfere or helps in the work? Personally, I can’t help but get close to a person in the process of constant cooperation. And this approach has both pros and cons.
- Personal space. Sometimes one informal conversation is enough for the customer to start calling and writing at any time or asking to postpone cases and projects in order to fulfill his task.
- Payment. The delay in payment, the need to increase the budget – everything begins to take a comic form. And it is very difficult to maneuver between the established friendship and a professional approach. On the one hand, you can ask for a full prepayment when you need it, on the other hand, you can face the answer “you know, I always pay” in response to a question about the reasons for the delay in payment.
- Clarity of requirements. I have a customer who can write: “Eva, I need something from you. Come up with something, say the price and work.” And it’s good if it’s really absolute trust. But there are cases when, after doing the work, it turns out that there were specific requirements, only “as a friend” I had to predict them.
- Small assignments. Sometimes, to get paid for the work, you still need to find a designer, a programmer, the phone number of the great-niece of the Queen of Great Britain. “I just don’t have time, I ask in a friendly way,” that’s all the reasons.
I’m not saying that getting close to the customer is a bad thing. This makes the work more enjoyable, but it is very important to stick to the middle ground and make sure that the friendship is beneficial to both parties.
So a dream or a nightmare?!
Finally, I will formulate a small subjective conclusion about cooperation with regular customers.
I really appreciate the customers with whom I work constantly. And, of course, to have a regular income, which you can definitely count on – this is a positive point. But I will not say that I am directly “chasing” constant cooperation. And I definitely wouldn’t work exclusively with one or more ongoing projects without doing new ones.
Freelancing is a new job every day. The opportunity to be part of something bigger, to learn new things and challenge yourself, to discover in yourself what you did not even suspect existed. At least for me, that’s the case.
What do you think about ongoing projects? What positive or negative aspects of constant cooperation have you noticed?