Under-Promise and Over-Deliver: A Real Life Example

If you’re trying to start a career as a freelancer, you may have heard the experession “under-promise and over-deliver.” The concept is simple: state what you’ll do, and then do a little bit more. Depending on how much you want to get repeat business from the client, deliver a lot more.

I have a great example from a contributing writer who sent me an excellent pitch, and then over-delivered on her promises. With Celia Abernethy’s permission, I’m sharing her journey to becoming a contributor on multitalentedwriters.com.

Under Promise; Over Deliver: A Real Life Example

Celia’s pitch was excellent: she followed instructions, was clear, concise, and polite. She also wrote her email in a way that showed me she’s familiar with both my work in general as well as this website in particular. This is important, because it shows that she’ll be able to write in the voice of my publication.

I knew I’d like her to write for the site as soon as I read her pitch. I also knew her article would be easy to edit. I accepted Celia’s pitch, and she showed her professionalism by over-delivering on her promises. Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Beat the deadline

I gave Celia a deadline of mid-November to send in her article. She sent me her article before the end of October, and less than a week after I’d sent her my acceptance email.

While beating the deadline is certainly not a necessity (but meeting it is), it establishes you as a professional who takes your career seriously. It also establishes you as a reliable person. If I ever need an article with a quick turn-around, you can be sure Celia will immediately come to mind.

2. Offer more than what was asked and more than you initially promised.

Over-delivering needn’t be an extremely time-consuming task. Little things go a long way to show that you appreciate the editor’s time and the opportunity to be published. 

Celia and I agreed on an article. She sent me an article and a Creative Commons License image I could use to go along with it. Whether or not I use the image is irrelevant: this small gesture shows me that she’s thinking about making my life a little bit easier by cutting one of the tasks from my to-do list.

Offering a Creative Commons License image is one of the easiest ways to over-deliver on your promises as a writer. It’s quick (and free) and it shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile. Make sure it’s Creative Commons Licensed, though, or you could get into a world of trouble. More on this on a later post.

3. Ask for feedback

feedback written on chalkboard; ask for feedback when you're a freelance writer, to under-promise and over-deliver.

Even though our barter agreement for this site is clear (writer provides an article, I provide full-on editing with coaching-style feedback), you’d be surprised how many writers are unhappy when their words are changed or when reality hits them in the face about their writing ability. This kind of thing makes editors dread their jobs sometimes.

Although Celia knew her work would be edited, she asked for feedback when she sent me her article. This shows her willingness to hear out an editor and her wish to continue growing as a writer. It also shows humbleness, which tells me she’ll probably be a pleasure to work with in the future.

4. Receive feedback graciously

team discussion; receive feedback graciously to under-promise and over-deliver as a freelance writer

Celia looked at my feedback and made changes where needed. Her article was excellently written, so I made very few changes. The changes I did make were accepted with grace.

This is not to say you should never question an editor. We’re humans too, and we make mistakes. If you have a concern about an edit, sometimes it’s good to hash it out.

Having said that, if you’re writing for someone else’s publication, understand that you need to write it in their voice. If you don’t, your article will be either rejected or heavily edited to suit the publication’s needs.

5. Be willing to be edited

editing; be willing to be edited to under-promise and over-deliver as a freelance writer

Even after I sent Celia the final version of the article to be published on the site, she still ended her reply email with “feel free to make any other edits.”

While saying this after receiving the final edit isn’t necessary, it shows me that she understands how publishing works: changes sometimes need to be made at the last minute. 



If you’re a freelancer, you’ll always be talking with editors. First, you’ll need to get their attention with a great pitch. Then you’ll need to communicate with them about changes to your work. And finally, you’ll need to talk to them again if you want to sell another article.

Celia is an excellent writer and I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll quickly become even more successful than she already is. If you want to work well with editors, following her example will help you immensely.

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Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a writer, a wife, and a homeschooling mom in an out-of-the-box, adventurous family. She's on a mission to show the world that writers don't need to niche to be successful. She hopes you'll join the conversation on the MultiTalented Writers blog.

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