I am a horrible at estimating. Don’t ask me how far away something is or what I think something might weigh – I don’t know the actual dimensions of anything, I only know how to share measurements in ways that I can understand (Petoskey is farther away than Traverse City, and that baby weighs less than Nora but more than Evie). I am especially not good at estimating work times.
If you contact me to edit a manuscript in three weeks, not a problem. I can do that. Give me the same manuscript, however, and ask me how long it will take me to finish…I have no idea. A week or two? Probably, if I lived in a perfect world where I never get sick, my husband never gets sick, we never have to dig out of snow storms, and none of my other projects have unexpected issues, I could do it in two weeks, but that never happens. I haven’t met my self-made deadline a couple of times. I’m a good communicator though, so if there’s ever a delay I let my clients know right away, but I’d much rather get everything done when I said I would. To make sure that happens, I’ve instituted a one week buffer because I want to be someone that people can rely on. I want to be the writer and editor that publishers want to work with.
You don’t have to be perfect, know everything, or provide free services to become a favorite writer or editor. What you do need to be, though, is reliable. Do that by knowing your limits. Here are a few ways to keep your clients coming back:
- Be honest. Don’t low ball a bid, then invoice for twice the amount. Don’t try to make the client feel better for the sake of a good review. Put everything on the table. If you don’t, your client will find out. It won’t matter how good your work was, dishonesty will taint everything.
- Know your calendar. If you’ve filled your calendar for the month, don’t take on another writing or editing job that you won’t have time to complete. Be honest with your client about it – they’ll appreciate it. (They may even delay the project for a chance to work with you.)
- Know your talents. If you’ve never written a white paper, don’t agree to do it just because you’ve written a novel. Those are completely different writing styles, and you’ll end up wasting your client’s time and money (since he’ll probably have to re-do it or hire someone else to do it).
- Make referrals. If you don’t have the time or ability for a particular project, refer your client to someone who does. You may lose out on one gig, but the other writer/editor and your client will remember your help and honesty.
- Use a buffer. If you think the project will take you two weeks, tell your client three weeks. Better to finish early than to keep asking for an extension.
- Communicate. Give your client updates. Let her know how the project is coming along. By keeping her in the loop, she’ll know that you care about her project.
These steps may lose you a couple of immediate writing/editing jobs, but they will also show your client what kind of a person you are. That goes a long way, especially in an industry where so many agents, editors, and publishers know each other and communicate regularly. When you become a writer that someone likes to work with, word will get around. You may have to be patient, but your clients will appreciate it.