The dream of freelancing is still very much alive, especially for people in creative fields such as writing, graphic design and website design. Talent recruitment and talent management agencies are often looking for good freelancers, as they’re flexible and used to working on a wide variety of projects. However, most freelancers and consultants eventually reach a stage where they want to be completely self-employed. Without good clients, freelancers and consultants have no business to speak of. For freelancers and consultants, client relationships are absolutely pivotal in ensuring success when working for yourself. Good relationships with a good client can lead to further career opportunities, but bad relationships can stop your career before it even starts.
Why You Should Build Great Relationships
While many new freelancers and consultants dive head first into finding clients, writing pitches and building their own brand, they often don’t give much thought to retaining the clients they already have.
It is easier to retain clients than gain new ones, and happy clients are likely to recommend or refer you to an interested party or friend when they require the services you offer. Consider it – if you were looking to hire a writer and a friend or business partner who you know and trust gave you a glowing recommendation for a freelancer, you’d probably start with them rather than going through a time consuming talent recruitment process. Thus, referrals from others are a much more effective source of gaining new clients than cold pitching or applying for jobs where you don’t already have a foot in the door.
Aside from the potential new business, building good client relationships invariably means you look forward to your work and enjoy it more than you would if you were on bad terms with your client.
Tips for Building Relationships with Clients
The first tip to building a good relationship is to always deliver value. Get your work done on time, suggest new ideas, write more in depth than they could ever expect and produce high quality work every time. Never adopt a ‘that will do’ attitude, or it will show up in your work. If you can, don’t just deliver, over deliver. Do more work than they expected or deliver ahead of time. This is a sure way to build further career opportunities.
Always make sure you have a good understanding or solid contract in place with detailed expectations, to avoid misunderstandings that could leave a sour taste in the mouth. The key to this is good communication. Respond to emails promptly, answer phone calls, and be clear in letting the client know where you are in the process, what you’re working on, as well as if you run into problems or there are likely to be delays. Don’t be afraid to let them into your network either. Put them in touch with others who can help them out, provide a product or service, do some work for them or anything else useful – think of yourself as a talent management specialist. If you’re generous with your contacts, they’ll appreciate it and be generous with theirs in return.
At the same time though, you need to set boundaries to sustain a good relationship. While honest and frequent communication is vital, you don’t want to stray into the territory of midnight phone calls and seven emails sent on a Sunday night. This will leave one party feeling resentful and the other feeling frustrated, which is not the start of a great relationship!
Finally, remember to follow up. Complete the project and tie up any loose ends, but send a message or set up a meeting later to check how their business is doing, what feedback they have for you, and what they’re working on now. This keeps you at the top of their minds and cements your position as a valuable contact and service provider.