When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to feel like you’re being pulled in all directions: most of us juggle multiple clients and struggle to meet all of our deadlines, much less give each a personalized experience. With that being said, a client who feels valued is a repeat client! It’s important for even the busiest freelancer to make sure that each client feels specifically appreciated.
I’m assuming you already turn out a quality product or service: that’s the #1 way to keep your clients happy! But there are a few, small, relatively painless tips that’ll make every client feel valued… without costing you much effort.
1. Give attention to detail
There’s a reason why the fancy-shmanciest restaurants put such an emphasis on seemingly-small details: the texture of tablecloths, the exact timing of service, the shape of a glass. Details take work from “good” to “superb”, and make for very satisfied customers.
Next time you’re about to turn in a project or meet a deadline, run an eye over your work and ask yourself if there are any minor details you can touch up. Can you give any finishing touches in the presentation of your piece, add any fine points to the content?
Attention to detail is also key when developing (and growing) relationship with your clients. Everybody likes to feel they’re being heard! Take note of small specifications and tonal requests. Follow up on questions and comments. Respond quickly to emails and phone calls, whenever possible. Catching minor details in any communication medium is a great way to make sure your client feels heard and specifically valued.
2. Build connection
It’s easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that your clients are just, well… clients – professional entities, instead of real people with lives of their own.
You don’t have to be BFFs with clients, but friendliness and focused attention goes a long way. Learn a little bit about new clients’ lives, and ask how they are when you speak to them. If they’re a bit closed off (that’s okay!) even a friendly how are you, have you been enjoying the weather, is fine.
When you’re giving a client your time in a meeting or a phone call, really GIVE them your time: don’t multitask or rush. It’s easy to feel like time is money, and subconsciously short a client when you’re overworked. But it’s deeply important to connect with the people you work with. You can be cordial and interested in other peoples’ lives without sacrificing professionalism.
While you’re at it (and I shouldn’t have to say this, but it does come up), a pressurized work schedule doesn’t mean you should ever sacrifice courtesy. Say things like “please” and “thank you” – they go a long way. Respect the boundaries of colleagues: you don’t get to demand a freelance schedule from salaried worker, and emergency work calls should really be reserved only for… emergencies. Treat members of your team with gratitude and respect, no matter what their jobs are: you’ll build stronger connections, and it’s the right thing to do!
3. Emphasize long-term relationship-building
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of freelancing, it’s that people reappear in your life when you least expect it… and you never know what a theoretically “short-term” gig will blossom into years of work.
Don’t burn bridges, and keep your commitments whenever possible. Don’t dismiss clients because you have newer, bigger clients popping up on the horizon. Short-term bad behavior can sometimes seem justifiable when we’re overstressed or upset, but take the long-term view. Resist sending that terse, unfair email or dropping that small client like a hot potato. When you’re in a tough spot, don’t look first for who to blame – think of solutions, and try to be fair to others. This is not only the right thing to do morally, but it’s smart business.
Some of our best resources in this world are relationships, and people who consistently build deep, strong relationships often get great opportunities because of it. Value people, and they’ll often value you back – and that’s the kind of personalized, genuine attention that both you AND your clients want!
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.