Why Clients Need Freelancers They Can Trust

Most freelancers think it’s easy for clients to find freelancers they can trust. But it’s not. If you’re trustworthy, you’ll have a competitive advantage over other freelancers.

It’s been 11 years since Keith D’Oria and I worked together. But when Keith was looking for freelance help for his new company, he contacted me—because he trusted me. “Having worked with Lori in the past with much success, I decided to ‘go back to the well’ and work with someone who I knew I could trust with important assignments and who would aim to be helpful in any way possible,” says Keith, who was looking for freelance help when he became senior medical writer at MediCom Worldwide, Inc. The full-service, accredited, independent medical education company has educated more than a million healthcare professionals. (Keith is now Scientific director at VMLY&Rx.)

Keith was my client when he was editorial director and senior writer at Physician’s Weekly, a medical news and information service for healthcare professionals.  We last worked together in 2007. After that, Physician’s Weekly hired full-time writers and no longer needed freelancers. Over the years, we kept in touch now and then. In 2018, Keith joinedMediCom Worldwide, Inc. and soon found that he needed freelance help.

Clients Need Freelancers They Can Trust

Most freelancers think it’s easy for clients to find freelancers. But it’s not.

“Finding freelancers is a long, arduous process. It’s not easy to find the good ones or the ones who you know you can trust,” says Keith. “While groups like the American Medical Writers Association are great for many purposes, their directory is clunky and not user friendly when you click on profiles unless the freelancer is steadfast about keeping it clean and making sure it’s up to date.”

Clients Appreciate Referrals to Trustworthy Freelancers

I would have loved to work with Keith again. But I don’t write CME (continuing medical education) content.  So I told him that I appreciated him thinking of me, but I wasn’t qualified for the work.

And then I found three freelancers I trusted who were qualified, and who had relevant therapeutic experience. Keith gave each of my freelance colleagues an assignment.

“At MediCom, we needed freelancers who have written in the CME space,” says Keith. “Lori was up front about not having that experience. While I’m sure she could’ve done the work, I know everyone faired better by her recommending others rather than just taking a stab at it.”

Keith appreciated both my honesty and my referrals.  As he says, I probably could have done the work but the freelancers I referred can do it faster and better.

Freelancers Who Give Referrals Get Referrals  

It took me about 30 minutes to think about my network and check out the freelancers I was thinking about recommending.  By doing this, I helped 4 people:

  • 1 client
  • 3 freelancers.

I didn’t do this because I expected anything in return. It was just the right thing to do.

But freelancers who give referrals also get more referrals.

Clients are very grateful for referrals to competent, dependable freelancers. “My boss is super excited about your help here, so you really have done me a massive favor,” says Keith about the freelancers I referred to him.

And if you refer work to other freelancers, those freelancers will think of you first when they have a freelance gig to refer.

What Clients Want from Freelancers

Keith is just starting to work with freelancers at MediCom Worldwide, Inc. But he has lots of experience with freelancers from his years at Physician’s Weekly.

So I asked him to share some of his experiences working with freelancers.

Clients want freelancers who “get it right the first time”

“At Physician’s Weekly, I only trusted a few freelancers completely, meaning I could trust them to get it right the first time and turn in work that fit the exact specifications we needed. That short list included Lori. When the workloads got heavy, I knew I could trust Lori (and several others) to get me what I needed in a timely fashion,” says Keith.

Clients want freelancers who make their lives easier

Keith also worked with other freelancers who required longer deadlines and heavily editing. These freelancers didn’t make his life easier.

But other freelancers were far worse. Some freelancers didn’t understand Physician’s Weekly’s audience or the type of content that was necessary. Many freelancers “always made us feel like we were being given a favor to have their assistance (it happened a LOT),” says Keith. “These people didn’t get repeat business.”

And some freelancers “went dark,” meaning they failed to respond to email inquiries and phone calls or became incommunicado despite many attempts by Keith to get back in touch with them. “Some actually took an assignment but never completed it or reconnected with me regarding updates on status of the project,” says Keith. These freelancers didn’t get more work from Physician’s Weekly either.

“Think about what it does to a company when you’re on tight deadlines and a freelancer doesn’t work out. At Physician’s Weekly the work still needed to be done, which meant it fell back on my lap,” says Keith.

How to Refer Work to Other Freelancers You Trust

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that it took me about 30 minutes to find and check out freelancers for Keith. Taking 30 minutes out of a busy day to do this wasn’t easy. But I know that when clients are looking for freelancers, they usually need help right away.

So I found the time. I made a list of trusted freelancers in my network who I thought did CME. Then I went online and visited their websites or LinkedIn profiles to make sure they really did do CME, and to see if they had experience in MediCom Worldwide, Inc.’s areas of focus. After that, I emailed Keith their names, email addresses, and a link to each person’s website or LinkedIn profile. That way, Keith could check out each freelancer before deciding whether to contact him/her.

From the client side, Keith only wants referrals from colleagues like me who he knows and trusts to freelancers that the colleague knows and trusts.

“Before you refer someone, be sure you know that he/she is competent and dependable. You’re not doing your fellow freelancing colleagues any favors by recommending them, only to have them be less than qualified to do the work. It puts companies in a tough position because they still need the work done, but now need to do too much hand-holding,” he says.

What to Do When You Get Referrals

If you’re on the receiving end of a referral, remember to say thank you. If the referral turns into freelance work, send your colleague or client a thank-you gift. Usually, I send an Amazon gift certificate, because then the person can order whatever she/he likes best. If the referral doesn’t work out, a card with a handwritten note is a perfect thank you.

Saying thank you is the right thing to do. And like taking the time to refer a freelance gig to other freelancers, it helps you get more referrals—because thank-you cards and gifts put you at the head of the line when the client needs freelance help or the colleague has a freelance gig to refer to another freelancer.

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