You know what’s better than new clients? Return clients!
We’re all familiar with the arduous process of seeking out new clients. It’s important for all of us to experience: You find your networking style, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and maybe develop a bit more patience. The problem is that it takes up so much time.
But whether you want to keep a current client or impress a new one, here are three fundamental things every freelancer must do to make their clients happy:
1. Budget your time...like a boss!
The best possible way to keep your client happy is to be on time.
- Ideally, you’ll never have to cancel an appointment with a client. Sometimes you will, and that’s ok, but be sure to cancel gracefully. Call them personally, apologize for having to reschedule, and suggest a new time. The important thing is not to be cavalier about rescheduling appointments. If possible, let them know a few days in advance. Also, if you know that you’re running late, send them a text to give them a heads up.
- When you provide your client with a timeline for your project, abide by it. If you complete the project early, that’s fine, but delivering a project late is the quickest way to get on a client’s bad side. Before presenting anything to your client, draw up a realistic timeline so that you can monitor yourself throughout the life of the project.
- Just as you’d like clients to respect your time, you need to respect theirs. If you know that they have another call at a certain time and the clock is ticking closer, just give them a kind reminder. Something like, “I know you’ve got another call in 20 minutes, I’ve just got one more question and we’ll wrap up” will do just fine.
2. If you want love from them, they’ll need love from you
Clients want to know that they’re being taken care of and that you’re investing time and effort into their project. Even if their project is the last on your list, make them feel like it’s your first priority.
- Have you checked their website recently? Done any further reading on their blog or followed them on social media? Reviewed your notes from previous projects? Read their latest book? Particularly if you haven’t worked with the client in a long time, make sure that you have a good idea of who they are and what they’re up to before you get started.
- When you’re with your client, give yourself to them entirely. If you’re on a call with them, don’t multitask. If you’re in a meeting with them, don’t take other calls. Think about it like dating: They know you’re seeing other people, but they don’t need to be reminded of it.
- There’s a big difference between always being there for your client and making them feel like you’re always there. If your client calls and wants to speak with you, politely respond with something like, “I’d really love to talk to you about this. Can we set up a time? Does tomorrow morning work for you?” They feel cared for and attended to, you haven’t interrupted your work flow, and everyone’s happy!
3. Communicate regularly, effectively and genuinely
Regular, effective communication is an easy, painless way to get your client all lovey-dovey.
- When speaking with your client, let them know what you can do, not what you can’t do. In The Freelancer’s Bible, Sara Horowitz compares the “I can’t” statement to the “I can” statement. Here are a few examples:
- Rather than saying “I can’t do a call until 3pm,” say, “I’m here from 3pm until 5pm. When would be a good time?”
- Rather than saying “I can’t start for 3 months,” say “I’d love to work with you, if we can start in June.”
- Rather than saying “I can’t start until I receive the initial payment,” say “I look forward to starting work after receipt of the initial payment.”
- Stay in touch! Whether you’re currently working with a client or not, if something reminds you of them be sure to shoot them a friendly text or email. Did you see them post something new to their blog the other day? Shoot a text that says, “hey, great blog post yesterday! I shared the link.” Even less involved messages for their birthday or holidays are nice too. It takes minimal effort on your part and will often yield surprising, long-term results.
- Once you’ve finished your project, follow up with them. It can be a friendly phone call, an email, or (if you REALLY want them to love you) an actual, handwritten thank you card. Be sure to ask them if they’re happy with the outcome of the project, and if not what they would recommend for future projects. Remember, real creative criticism can be great for your business.