In the freelance world, finding a great client is much more difficult than we like to admit to ourselves. What makes a great client?
- Pays well/ fairly
- Pays on time
- Doesn’t question your process
- Doesn’t hinder your process
Although some of these attributes might seem like no-brainers for clients to possess, unfortunately all of these things bundled up into one point of contact is quite like finding a unicorn.
But every now and then, you find one of these unicorns. And when you do, you never let the unicorn go.
My most recent “unicorn” was found via a combination of fate, networking skills and a bottle of champagne. As I grow, I’ve noticed that these are three things that seem to really work for me.
Here’s the story about how I landed my unicorn.
Being a “digital gypsy,” I’m able to work from anywhere. So I didn’t think twice when my best friend suggested I book a flight down to West Palm Beach for her birthday. I booked it just a week in advance, via iPhone, on a roadtrip back home to Crystal River for Thanksgiving. Impromptu and spontaneous like the majority of my trips, my West Palm Beach trip at the beginning of December proved to be more than just a celebration of my favorite person’s birth. It was also a celebration of a new client.
One night while at a bar downtown, we were grabbing a quick bite to eat before hitting the other spots we had planned. However, the rain was relentless that weekend, and we decided to continue drinking until the rain let up and we could move on. A friendly couple in their mid-50s overheard us talking about my friend’s birthday, so they bought us our next round of Moscow Mules. They then bought us a bottle of champagne.
As the rain continued to beat down, we enjoyed our bubbly and friendly company. Then, another couple sat down. We learn that these folks are newly engaged (just 5 days prior!) and ‘awww’ over their adorable engagement video. My friend, being an event planner, immediately saw them as a potential new client for herself.
Then the couple politely asks what I do for a living, to which I reply, “Oh, I’m a writer.” Many people sort of scoff at my profession, as if to say, She doesn’t make any money or Great, another millennial with no real job. And others just say, “That’s interesting.” So I don’t often reveal my line of work with too much enthusiasm. But the girl immediately looked at her fiancé excitedly, then back at me, and asked, “What do you write about?”
“Mostly fashion,” I say. The girl gets even more excited and looks at her fiancé again.
“Babe, aren’t you guys looking for a fashion writer?”
“Yeah,” he finally chimes in, “we’re actually looking right now. We have a lot of fashion blog content needing written.”
At this moment, my champagne buzz has turned me into a giddy child who’s just found buried treasure. But the professional adult in me is keeping my grin to a small smirk: Don’t mess this up, Alyssa. Be cool.
This is where being an adult gets a little tricky. An innocent social outing has just become a potential client meeting. Like an interview, you don’t want to give off a bad impression, but since the conversation began under completely different circumstances, you’ve kind of already blown your cover. I mean, would you show up to a meeting half a bottle of champs in?
I, of course, don’t have my business cards on me (Awful mistake. Make sure you always have some cards on you!). But I try to sound socially professional in the least weird way I know how. “Fashion blogs are, like, exactly what I do. I do a lot of ghostwriting right now for a marketing company’s e-commerce client. I literally just did three today.”
“We’re fashion e-commerce too.”
I then use a little more industry language to indicate I’m not some idiot who claims she’s a “fashion blogger” yet can’t write a sentence to save her life.”Oh, nice! Do y’all have your own CMS?”
We continue a little more back-and-forth, but I don’t want his fiancé and my friend to get bored. Straddling the fine line between drunken banter and potential professional relationship, I knew I had to make a move before I lost my chance.
“Sorry I don’t have a card on me, but do you want to take my number or email?”
He gives me his number instead and tells me text him if I want it: “It’s on you,” he says.
Being it was a Friday, I try to respect his time while also getting a feel for what he thinks is appropriate, since a text is much more personal than email: “So, I’m guessing Monday is good then?”
“I’ll be in the office tomorrow.”
I took his cue and texted him Saturday morning, in my hungover haze. It felt exactly like when you meet someone at the bar you’re interested in and you exchange numbers, but you’re not sure if they’ll remember you, how drunk either of you were, or if they meant what they said about being in touch.
But this fairytale had a happy ending, unlike most people you exchange numbers with at a bar. He connected me with his creative team, and the managing editor was in touch within minutes. I began writing for them that following Monday, and I realized I had snagged myself a true unicorn.
Not only is the pay ideal, but the team is easy to work with and they trust me to do my thing. No micro-managing or constant nagging.
When my first story went live, the guy from the bar (he’s on the operations side, not creative) sent me a thoughtful email: “Congrats on your first article.” I thanked him and told him I was very happy we got to meet when we did, to which he replied what I had been thinking all along…
“Everything happens for a reason.”
What if I hadn’t randomly decided to visit my friend for her birthday? What if it wasn’t pouring rain and we hadn’t stuck around the same bar all night? What if we hadn’t struck up conversation with that couple?
As I fumble through my life as a new entrepreneur, I am learning that everything really does happen for a reason. If it’s right and it’s meant to happen, the opportunities will present themselves. You just need to be ready for it and accept the responsibility you’ve set up for yourself.
You never know who you’ll meet at the bar, on the plane, in line for coffee… Be ready for fate; it doesn’t wait around.