By Karin Beery
I grew up in a tourist town, so my first job was at the local mini golf course. I spent my first twelve years working in the hospitality industry. Cleaning hotel rooms, serving food, and coordinating weddings may not have a lot in common with writing and editing, but the lessons I learned in the hospitality industry more than prepared me for freelance work.
- Smile. Not many people responded kindly to me when I served their food with a frown. A smile, however, goes a long way. I’ve never met many of my freelance clients, but I smile when I talk to them on the phone. It puts everyone at ease and starts the conversation the right way.
- Listen. The worst event planners are the ones who don’t listen because they’re so concerned with what they can do that they’re not paying attention to what their customers need. Don’t be so focused on telling your clients what services you offer that you miss what services they need. Let them talk, then respond.
- Know your limits. It wasn’t uncommon for people to ask to bring their own booze into a birthday party or family reunion, but the law didn’t allow it. It didn’t matter how I felt about the situation; there was nothing I could do. The same is true when you freelance. There is only so much you can do—you can’t add extra hours to your day or become an expert in an unknown field overnight. If you can’t do it, that’s okay. Better to turn down a job than finish it a week late.
- Be honest. If you don’t know the answer, say so. When hotel guests would ask me about room rates and availability, I didn’t guess and hope I was right. I told them I didn’t know—then I promised to find the answer and let them know. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something; there’s no way you can know everything about your industry. Being honest will reveal your character, while also showing that you’re willing to do some research and get some answers to help your clients.
- Remember you can’t please everyone. If you work long enough, you’ll encounter the unhappy client—the person who complains about everything, even if you give him exactly what he wanted. Nothing’s good enough. It’s happened every place I’ve ever worked, and it’s happened in my freelance career. Just do your best, let him be crabby, and move on to your next client. (Read more about it here.)
- Communicate. Whether you’re selling pizza or editing a book, make sure your services, prices, and any changes are well communicated. It will save everyone a headache later.
Professional courtesy works regardless of your industry. Learn them, practice them, and apply them, and you’ll provide a great experience for your clients.
Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, Karin Beery specializes in fiction and professional business copy. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the American Christian Writers Association. A Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network member, she is the Substantive Editing for Fiction instructor for the PEN Institute. Karin is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at Word Wise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.