Building Long-Term Client Relationships – Part 3: My Business Model

My business model won’t work for everyone; in fact, it probably won’t work for anyone reading this. My goal is for you to find some useful information that you can adapt to fit your own business model.

Although, my blog title says I’m a writer and editor, my services are actually much broader than that. I’ve toyed with several ways to describe what I do: virtual assistant, author’s assistant, book midwife, writer’s right hand … but none cover the full scope of what I do.

When I first started freelancing I took every job that I could get. I spent several hours and interviewed four sources (one in person and three by phone) for a local business newspaper. I helped a professional in solo practice to organize files. I edited doctoral dissertations and legal documents – at least one lawyer wanted ordinary people to read and understand their contracts. I wrote letters of complaint and business proposals. Some of these projects were fun … others merely boring. I never accepted another assignment from the business newspaper; $130 for an article that took several hours to research and write wasn’t a good use of my time, especially when it seemed like work.

I wanted to do things I enjoyed and still earn a decent income. So I started turning down jobs that bored me, such as academic papers. I started letting people know I would accept virtual assistant work. I know some writers don’t want to do that kind of work; in fact, they hire virtual assistants themselves. But I enjoy doing a wide variety of things, and I like to organize and research.

In the 12 years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve discovered that I prefer to work with a few clients during a variety of tasks than to specialize in one kind of work for many clients. Now, I have a handful of long-term clients, and I do just about whatever they ask me to do. Sometimes I’ll work only a few hours for a client; other times I’ll work more than 80 hours in a single month for a single client. I’ve learned many new skills – I say “Yes, I’ll do it” if it sounds interesting … whether or not I know how at the time.

I charge by the hour and bill at the end of the month for the hours worked during the month. Although many freelancers advise against charging by the hour, charging by the project would be too complicated for me since some my “projects” are to file a few documents and delete a few e-mails.

Several of my clients trust me with their credit card information so I can register them for a paid Web site or make purchases for them online. One client gives me remote access to a computer in her office so I can organize her files and e-mails.

Perhaps a list (in no particular order) of some of the tasks I have performed in the last couple of months for my long-term clients will give a better picture of what I do:

  • Upgraded WordPress on six client blogs
  • Created YouTube account and uploaded videos
  • Edited and posted blog posts drafted by clients and either sent to me in Word or dictated over the phone
  • Updated several Web sites
  • Searched for an obituary and ordered the archived obituary from the Web site
  • Formatted a book for printing; created e-book
  • Wrote news releases and edited releases drafted by clients; submitted releases to media and PRWeb
  • Modified logos to fit the Revolution theme header space
  • Changed photos to grayscale, changed resolution, and enhanced for print book; laid book out in InDesign
  • Resolved formatting problems in Word and Excel documents
  • Negotiated with cover designer, ordered cover for client’s book, and made payment
  • Created bar code for book cover, made payment for online service, and sent bar code to designer
  • Wrote back cover blurbs for books
  • Created and uploaded advertising flyers and posted property descriptions for real estate site
  • Developed book of sample documents for client to give to clients
  • Researched a topic for a consultant and drafted a plan of action; after several rounds of editing, finalized the document as PDF for my client to submit to his client
  • Performed cost analysis and created Excel spreadsheet for consultant to use in calculating prices to quote in a proposal
  • Drafted survey questions based on previous surveys; after client’s edits and final approval, created the surveys online, sent to participants, and compiled the responses
  • Edited and formatted resumes
  • Drafted business proposals based on previous proposals for similar projects by client, along with research and additional information from client via phone, fax, and e-mail; after several rounds of back and forth editing, finalized the documents and created PDF
  • Created PowerPoint presentations based on information provided by the client
  • Organized files and e-mails on client’s computer, deleting unnecessary documents and ensuring that folders for each project contained complete information
  • Edited employee handbook, including making recommendations for the policies as well as the structure of the handbook
  • Created Web site, purchased shopping cart service, set up shopping cart, and uploaded products
  • Advised clients on publishing and writing
  • Recommended a company style guide to a client; compiled style guide after receiving approval
  • Composed reports for consultant and finalized after several rounds of edits
  • Proofed printer’s proof of book and submitted changes to the printer
  • Listed books at Web sites; drafted answers for author interviews and promotional questionnaires about clients and their books
  • Created advertisements (post cards as well as magazine, newsletter, and program ads)
  • Worked with an author on development of his manuscript; copyedited

Some items (such as “sample documents”) are deliberately vague to protect client confidentiality. I’ve also mixed up the list so the work for individual clients isn’t listed consecutively. My purpose isn’t to describe specific projects and clients but to give you a scope of the kinds of things I do.

Next, I’ll give you the perspective of how I work with an individual client.

[tags]client relationships, freelancing[/tags]

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