When building client relationships as a Catholic freelancer, as much as your endgame may be to make profits, you have to ask yourself if you’re delivering value to your clients. Freelancing, just like any other commercial venture, requires a level of engagement that focuses on client relationships. When you are communicating with your clients you need to dig deeper and find out some of their specific needs which will aid in creating better working client relationships. These few tips will help you foster healthy client relationships as a freelancing contractor.
Before you start working on any project it is important to discuss the finer details of the undertaking which ultimately define the level of engagement. A meeting is recommended at this point so that you can understand what is required of you as a freelancer and also your expectations of your client relationships. Understanding each other’s objectives and standpoints on a project will make it easier to achieve all the expected objectives.
At this foundational stage, you should define the timeframe of the entire project and the expected date of completion. Making this clear will help iron out any issues and keep you and your client on the same page. After defining the terms of engagement you can decide to draw up a contract or agreement that will hold you both accountable.
This initial stage will focus on the manner and method of engagement, with the main goal being client satisfaction.
Many clients seeking the services of freelancers are often afraid that their deadlines will not be adhered to. Sometimes freelancers, for one reason or another, become unresponsive or fail to report on the progress of assigned projects. This is very frustrating for the client. As a freelancer, you can alleviate a client’s worries by always keeping them in the loop. A simple email detailing the work you have done and the expected time of completion will give the client confidence that the project is progressing well.
Apart from issuing regular progress reports, it is also important to let your client know when you are available to discuss any issues regarding the ongoing work. Always provide your contact information and the specific hours when you are available. This is crucial especially when you are working with international clients who are in different time zones. Communication tools such as email, video calls, and instant messaging services make it easy to keep in touch, so use them wisely.
If you ever encounter a problem when working on a client’s project, keep them informed and mention all the steps you’re taking to correct the situation. Many issue end up being simple miscommunications and are cleared up with proper communication.
The nature of client engagement has become less formal over time. Formal business communication has evolved to friendly, less business-like communication. However, as a freelancer, you should always strive to keep all your interactions respectful and professional. You can add some pleasantries in your emails but ensure that you still maintain a respectable professional distance. Getting too personal with your client is likely to setback any gains you’ve made at maintaining a business relationship.
The gig economy is growing fast and there seems to be an obsession with growing your network. While this is true, it’s also just as important to nurture your ongoing client relationships. Always give your best to your existing clients and they will surely notice your dedication.
In business (and this includes freelancing too) it takes more effort and resources to seek new customers than maintaining your current clientele and keeping them happy. Statistics on customer retention show that approximately 65% of business income comes from repeat customers. This ‘Bird in Hand’ concept is valuable if you are looking to cultivate long term professional client relationships. So, even as you look for new opportunities elsewhere, make sure that your current clients are happy and well cared for.
And maybe it goes without saying, that it’s almost easier to network, by letting your happy clients share about the successes you’ve had together.
I know I mentioned earlier the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor when interacting with clients, but it is sometimes okay to build an interpersonal rapport. For instance, you can wish them a happy birthday or ask how their family is doing. If, for instance, the client hits a major milestone in their life, you can go ahead and congratulate them. Some of these thoughtful gestures help in creating a healthy professional relationship that is not only about work.
You can note down important dates or events in your calendar and reach out to them when it counts. You could also set Google alerts for any relevant info that will help in your future discussions.
Please note that this does not apply to all clients. It is important to follow the lead of the client. Take cues from your interactions to find out if your client is comfortable engaging in friendly banter from time-to-time.
Show gratitude for your client’s loyalty by offering some tokens of appreciation. You could give some discounts to your long-term clients or those who always pay for your services promptly. You could also offer a referral discount if your services are recommended to new clients. By doing this, you are showing your appreciation and at the same time building brand loyalty. Everyone loves a discount, don’t you think?
Whenever you’re in doubt, never hesitate to ask questions. Never assume that your clients’ expectations will always align with your viewpoint, especially if you are not clear about a particular issue. Some clients may have some reservations about certain topics so before you use your initiative to complete a task, always ask for direction or consent.
Make it a point to specify all the payment methods from the start to avoid future disagreements. This should include issues such as up-front payments, payment deadlines, extra fees or surcharges, invoices, and how to deal with late payments. Ensure the invoicing process is consistent as well to ensure that your business processes are as reliable as possible.
Some payment gateways have invoicing features as well as automated payment requests to make funds disbursement easier.
It’s not enough to give minimal effort to your client’s work. Always strive to add value to everything you do. For instance, if you’re a freelance writer you can increase your word count, add infographics, and even search for appropriate images even if the client had not requested this. It will prove your dedication to your work and endear you to the client.
Try as much as possible to make suggestions that will improve the client’s work and make it stand out from the rest.
For example, if you’re a web designer, always make it a point to highlight some of the new trends and improvements that would enhance your client’s website. Remember, it doesn’t cost much to over-deliver and the returns are likely to be much greater than you can imagine.
As your freelancing career grows, you’ll get better at implementing these strategies and you will execute some better than others. These concepts may take you out of your comfort zone and it’s a good thing because this is the only way to improve your craft and grow your business.
Be mindful of your client’s needs. Always keep this in mind; the more challenging the task, the greater the reward. It doesn’t matter what the business is, people will always matter most. Seek to provide value first and the benefits will always follow.
Submitted by the Editor