Have you ever lost a client, but didn’t fully understand what happened? Maybe it seemed as if they had a change of heart overnight. Unfortunately, more often than not, that’s rarely the case.
If you want to build lasting client relationships, you’ve come to the right place.
In fact, when you give clients the attention they deserve, it’s can become easy to feel when they’re unhappy about something (even if you don’t know what that is). How? By building and maintaining relationships with your clients.
It’s a central part of freelancing. And while it would be nice if your work could just speak for itself, that’s rarely the case. It takes a relationship.
In today’s post, you’ll learn how to go beyond the basics of freelance deliverables and into a deeper level of things like:
- learning about your clients
- teaching them valuable skills
- sharing your knowledge
- creating a larger network
This post outlines six steps to maintaining lasting relationships with your clients; simple yet powerful ideas that help everyone involved enjoy the best rewards.
Clearly Plan Projects
When you receive a brief or are asked to draw up a quote, it is crucial that you prepare a clear outline of the project. Maybe your client will provide an accurate and detailed set of specifications, or perhaps they will be a little vague in what they actually expect as a project outcome.
Whatever the case, the sooner you establish a project outline the sooner both parties can see how the work will unfold.
A project plan should be framed around:
- clear objectives
- the end product your client expects on delivery
Once you have established what needs to be produced you can work out a detailed timeline and agree on a deadline.
This is also the time to offer a quote and settle on how much you’ll get paid; along as this is agreed from the outset there shouldn’t be any awkward disputes further down the line. Throughout project planning and price negotiations you and your client should be friendly and open to communication. This leads on to our next tip.
Communicate Openly and Effectively
Communication is essential in every part of our lives, not least in our work and business relations.
In today’s world of mass communication there is a huge variety of ways to keep in contact with your clients, from email and social media, to phone calls or even old-fashioned paper mail. You should make yourself as available as possible for clients to get in contact, and reply promptly and politely to any enquiries.
Regular updates on project progress ensure smooth development and helps iron out any problems as soon as they arise.
Freelancers sometimes keep a rather more erratic work schedule than regular nine-to-fivers, and days off don’t necessarily fall on the weekend. When you know you’re going to be offline for a day or two, it’s a good idea to let your clients know in a friendly note, so avoiding any mysterious absences when they try to get in contact.
Share Your Knowledge
Generally, your clients come to you for a specific service or product, but you undoubtedly have a variety of skills and breadth of knowledge beyond the work you are asked to deliver.
As you get to know your clients better you may discover other areas you can help out with, share your knowledge and apply your skills to a wider range of problems than your client expected you capable of. In sharing your wisdom you go beyond being simply a service provider and become a teacher. By doing this for free you will boost your client’s confidence, potentially leading to a wider scope of projects, extra work and extra pay.
Give Them Access to Your Network
In addition to sharing your skills and knowledge with clients, it also helps to share contacts from your address book.
Your clients probably commissions work from various vendors for different services; if you can link them up with trusted and powerful contacts to provide these services, your clients will develop confidence in your advice.
This networking may also be reciprocated: when your client links you up with their own contacts a web of rewarding relationships can grow.
Manage Time and Meet Deadlines
Getting work completed well and on time is essential to maintain client relationships. If you have planned the project timeline clearly and realistically, fitting it into your overall work and life schedule, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
There are numerous software packages and applications available to help with time tracking, and good old-fashioned calendars and diaries are great for planning your work and seeing how it relates to your other commitments.
When you set out your original plan and quote a delivery date, it is much better to over-estimate than give yourself too little time.
By allowing extra time you open the possibility of delivering early, which is bound to make your client happy and pleased with your efficiency. If things go wrong and you think you’re not going to meet the deadline it’s best to let you client know as soon as possible to avoid any nasty surprises.
This leads to our final tip…
Be Honest and Be Yourself
All human relationships work best when both parties are open and honest, including our relationships with the people we interact with through our work.
Be honest about your capabilities, how long it takes you to get things done and exactly what skills you have. If you mislead your clients about what you can provide then there will be disappointment all round, the relationship will fail and you will lose work.
If, however, your clients know what to expect from you then they can build trust in your work and you abilities to deliver.
It’s also important to be yourself, don’t pretend to be a bigger operator than you really are. Freelancers, while working on a smaller scale, do have many advantages over bigger businesses by being flexible and personal in their work relationships. By recognizing these advantages you can get to know clients as people and friends, and so develop strong and rewarding relationships.
about the author
This is a guest post for the FreshBooks blog. FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.