Jake Poinier, NAIWE’s Freelance Expert

We wanted to get to know Jake Poinier (NAIWE’s Freelance Expert) better, so last month we sat down with him. Here are some things he shared.

What is one thing that you learned about your craft the hard way, and what benefits have you received from it?

My freelance business turns 20 in August, so I’ve learned plenty of things the hard way! I’d argue that the most important element of having a durable business is focusing on the personal relationships. (I assume that, if you’re in this business, you have a talent for writing and/or editing, so that in itself is rarely a measurable competitive advantage.) The hard-way lesson is that not all relationships are going to work out—which is why I like to quote Mad Men’s Don Draper: “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.” A lot of times, maybe even most of the time, it’s not your fault when a client disappears. You need to foster loyalty, but also recognize that diversifying your client base is your only insurance policy against inevitable client loss. The marketing angle for me has been to also diversify the types of work I do (print, web, audio/video, books, social media, etc.) and expand the industries I work in.

What has been your most rewarding marketing avenue, and how was it rewarding? Self? Monetary? Clients?

Far and away, cultivating referral business has been the most beneficial. There’s a tendency to think that referrals happen by luck, but I remember seeing a survey stat that only about 1/3 of customers in a service business will refer you without prompting. Sure, doing great work is paramount, but there’s a lot of business left on the table if you don’t actively let clients know you’re interested in having your name passed along, or ask for a testimonial. The rewards are obviously monetary (duh!), but the key is that good/great clients tend to refer good/great clients, so there’s also less work involved.

What do you associate with marketing?

I work on a lot of marketing strategy and content for my clients, which has informed my approach over the years. As an example, I’m currently partnering with a marketing/advertising agency with a unique niche and voice, which has made it an energizing relationship—they’re not afraid to be different and even a little bit wacky. It’s difficult to distinguish yourself purely based on writing/editing talent, but you can always market yourself based on your unique qualities, whether areas of specialty or what it’s like to work with you. If you don’t feel like you’re attracting the right clients, you need to reexamine your marketing angle.


You can join in this conversation on May 14, at 7 pm eastern, when NAIWE will host a one-hour discussion on finances, safety nets, and fees.

Part of the enjoyment of freelancing is working with great clients on interesting projects—but let’s face it, it’s a lot more fun when the compensation matches our efforts. In this webinar, Jake “Dr. Freelance” Poinier will discuss the big picture of freelance finances as well as specific steps to help your business become more profitable:

  • Shifting your business mindset
  • Pricing and estimating for better results
  • Creating your safety net

The cost for NAIWE members is only $10! To register, send an email with your name and telephone number.

Jake Poinier made the leap into freelance writing and editing in 1999 after a decade of positions in the publishing industry, giving him key insights from both sides of the desk. As the founder and owner of Boomvang Creative Group, he has worked with a diverse array of Fortune 500 and small businesses, consumer and trade magazines, and independent authors. Jake is committed to helping freelancers improve their businesses and shares his knowledge and experiences frequently as a speaker at industry conferences, through webinars, and on his blog.

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