Leaving Work Behind

The Art of Over-Delivery: How to Be More Than Just a Writer for Your Client

Written by Kaya Ismail on May 17, 2016. 13 Comments

Parcels wrapped with string and tags.Finding worthwhile freelance writing gigs can be a struggle, but I’d say the real test of a writer’s character comes after they’re hired. After all, nobody wants to get comfortable on the first rung of their client’s ladder.

Let’s face it – we all want to progress, we all want to gain more responsibility, and ultimately, we all want to earn more money. The key to advancement, however, isn’t just to become a better writer – it’s also to become more than a writer. In short, you need to over-deliver.

I should know – I’m now the editor of my biggest client’s website, but the journey to my current post was riddled with over-delivery. I had to consistently demonstrate my value, and I made sure I always provided solutions rather than problems. Eventually, that attitude paved the way for my progress.

In this post, I’ll demonstrate the art of over-delivering in a way that won’t hurt your bottom line, and yet will impress your client enough to get you climbing the ladder.

Transcend Your Job Description

I’ve found most clients will explain their expectations of you from the start, but for those clients who are vague about what they expect, make it your job to find out (in a way that doesn’t annoy them, of course). Once you know your job description, you can start planning ways to go above and beyond it in a balanced way. For example, when a client of mine requests five new article headline ideas, I see it as an ideal chance to go above and beyond – so I send them seven or eight.

The same principal can be applied in other areas. For example, a client may want you to write articles around 500 words in length. To deliver an extra bit of value, give them say 600 words every so often, at no extra cost. Be sure to politely point out that you did so, at no extra cost, because you felt the article needed it. (Clients often need to be clearly shown where you are going above and beyond – don’t necessarily expect them to intuitively know!)

It’s these slight over-deliveries that eventually tally up in the mind of your client – particularly if you do them on a regular basis. They make you seem competent, confident, and most of all, worthy of advancement.

Do More Than Just Write

Your client expects to hear from you around deadline time, but what’s stopping you from delivering value at other times, and in other ways? To get ahead, you need to become an asset to your client beyond just being a writer. That may be an alien concept for some of you, but bear with me here.

There are a few tried and tested ways to contribute outside the realm of writing, and you should experiment with all of them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your client with gentle suggestions on subjects such as the design of their blog, the state of their social media activity, or their email campaign scheduling, for example. By tastefully making suggestions on these fronts, your client will begin to see you as somebody who truly cares about their brand. You start to become a source of ideas and solutions, rather than just a source of blog posts.

Recently, I’ve put the access I have to my client’s Twitter handle to good use. I’m not obligated to retweet relevant stuff, nor do I have to respond to tweets – however, that’s exactly what I do when I have a spare 30 seconds. Heck, sometimes I even post links to my client’s website on relevant subreddits, to stir up discussions and bring in some extra traffic.

Additional ways to increase your value include going out of your way to share your client’s posts on social media, and responding to blog comments – even on posts not written by you.

To make all of these habits easier to incorporate into your daily schedule, start involving yourself more in your client’s other professional activities. Follow their social media handles, subscribe to their newsletter, and read their other blog content.

All in all, show that you care about the growth and wellbeing of your client’s brand. That way, you’ll be seen as a serious team player, rather than a paid mercenary.

Strike a Balance

The key throughout this process is to deliver big, but in lots of small ways. Occasional grand gestures are far less effective in the long run at convincing your client of your ongoing value, and additionally, they’ll eat into your time and budget considerably more.

Instead, implement small-scale over-deliveries into your working ethos, and create solutions for your client however you can, in a way that’s useful, and never annoying. Essentially, you need to strike the balance between being actively helpful and irritatingly intrusive. That way, you can over-deliver when it’s healthy for you, your schedule, and your bottom line – remember, the last thing you want is to start giving your client extra hours of your day for free.

Finally, you should be on your guard against exploitation. Unfortunately, you may well come across clients who are deceptive and untrustworthy – so it’s important to be constantly guarding against clients who wish to take advantage of your hard-working nature. Be sure never agree to large or regular tasks for little or no compensation.

Conclusion

Over-delivery isn’t a short term strategy to getting a raise – it’s an attitude that needs to become part of who you are as a freelance blogger. Make it your goal to provide solutions for your clients at every turn.

By doing that, not only will your client pay you more, but they will also come to trust you with more responsibility – which in turn gives you more room to impress them all over again.

To over-deliver correctly, just apply the following steps to all your writing gigs:

  1. Review, then transcend your job description in a balanced way.
  2. Go out of your way to deliver value outside the scope of writing.
  3. Deliver in lots of small ways often, rather than in big ways occasionally.
  4. Maintain balance, protect your time, and never carry out full-blown tasks for free.

What steps do you take to try and go the extra mile for your clients? Share your over-delivery tactics in the comments section below!

Image credit: fotownetrza.

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13 Responses to “The Art of Over-Delivery: How to Be More Than Just a Writer for Your Client”

  1. Celina
    May 17, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Love it, Tom!

    I especially agree with the point of doing more than just writing. You have to continuously give values to your clients, so you end up over delivering and the clients end up loving you.

  2. Grainne
    May 17, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Great post Kaya 🙂 Totally agree that it’s always worthwhile to give something extra when you’re working with a good client. But you should always ensure that you look after your own interests too – i.e. make sure over delivery doesn’t become an expectation, rather than a an extra now and then.

    • Kaya Ismail
      May 17, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks Grainne!

      Definitely. You need to strike a balance between delivering more than what’s expected, and being a doormat. I think sticking to the “deliver big, but in small ways” technique helps with that.

  3. Rita Duponty
    May 17, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Yes, I agree. When you go the extra mile for those you work for (and it is recognized) there is a good feeling you get perhaps more than the money. Although, the money helps!

  4. Rob @ Money Nomad
    May 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Great insights! I’ve discovered that under promising and over delivering always wins out. And, as you learn how to quickly add those little extras, you become more valuable – allowing you to earn substantially more per hour. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Mary
    June 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Totally agree that it’s always worthwhile to give something extra when you are always working with a good client.

  6. Jeffrey Hill
    June 26, 2016 at 6:26 am

    I like these tips. Its win-win in most situations, as not only are you providing your client with more value than they expected, but it will usually come back around to you as well.

    Just make sure you’re doing this with clients that are worthwhile, and so you’re not putting yourself in a position to be taken advantage of! That may seem like a given, but many freelancers can run into that trap. Thankfully, you’ll usually figure out pretty early in the process whether a client is going to be a good one.

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