And here we are – finally – Day 15 of the series! (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Click here to find the rest of the series)
The trick to being a successful freelancer is having clients who come back to you or who recommend you to others.
But how do you make sure that your clients love you – and keep coming back for more?
There are obvious ways to do this – ie do a good job, deliver what you say you will, meet deadlines, deliver work of the highest standard – but I’m going to assume that you do them anyway. These are, after all, the basics in being a good freelancer.
No, this post isn’t about being good. It’s about being exceptional.
It’s about being the freelancer that clients don’t just say ‘oh yes, they did a good job’ when they’re asked about you.
These 5 laws of attraction will mean your client will become a fan. They will proactively promote you to others without being prompted.
‘I worked with her on x and she was fantastic. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough. In fact, let me give you her number’ type of recommendations. You get the picture?
That never happens?
Well, if it’s never happened to you, perhaps you need to study the 5 laws of attraction below because making a client fall in love with you (not literally obviously) isn’t as hard as it would first appear.
Of course, you can’t actually MAKE anyone fall in love with you. They either do or they don’t but – after the initial attraction (i.e. the bit where they’ve been impressed by what you’ve told them about your services or they like your website or someone they trust has recommended you to them) – how do you make that relationship blossom?
Well, it’s a bit like a relationship – actually, it is a relationship – so some of the same rules apply. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy them chocolates or impress their mother).
Talk to Them
As any relationship counselor will tell you, the key to a healthy relationship is communication.
At the very start of a new working relationship, you should agree your terms and conditions.
Yes, you will do this in your contract, but at the very start of a project, before I’ve even put pen to paper or held the first meeting, I go through my contract verbally with clients (because 9 times out of 10, they don’t read it!).
This isn’t me reading my contract out loud. It’s a two-way conversation during which we cover:
what to expect from me in terms of when I will deliver certain aspects of work;
when they should expect reports (I often give weekly email updates depending on the project);
what I need from them in return (e.g. access to key staff, information, payment!)
and how long I’ll take to get back to them with general enquiries e.g. if they call or email (see below).
So we’re both clear on what to expect from each other from the outset. There are no nasty surprises and we both know exactly where we stand.
This is also the conversation where you can clarify or change aspects of your working relationship – and it’s all out in the open.
Rather like those conversations with your other half where you say, ‘I don’t mind doing the cooking, but if you don’t do the dishes, I’m leaving you!’ (Just me? Oh, OK then).
Put Your Clients First
There’s nothing that’s likely to make you feel more loved than having a partner who puts you first.
And it’s the same with clients. Even if you feel like tearing your hair out sometimes, you should never pass that on to them. The customer is always right and all that…
Now let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you answer their calls at midnight or reply to their emails the minute that they pop into your inbox – but you should have a policy of getting back to clients within a reasonable time frame.
Obviously, what’s deemed reasonable will depend on what you’re working on and what else you’ve got on, but personally, I always aim to get back within 24 hours or sooner – except at the weekend. Weekends are non-negotiable for me and my clients know that upfront (see earlier point re Communication).
Even if it’s just a holding email to say ‘thanks, I’m working on it and I’ll get back to you by xx.’ At least they know you’ve read it or listened to your voicemail and you’re not just leaving them hanging. (No ghosting of clients allowed).
Go The Extra Mile
We all like being made to feel special, don’t we?
Now, I’m not suggesting that you send them flowers or serenade them or anything like that. But what can you do to make them feel that they’re getting a really good service that perhaps other freelancers they work with don’t offer?
Is there an aspect of your service that you’d be willing to offer for free?
Don’t go crazy here and put yourself out of business with lots of freebies for high quality work, but consider what you can offer that gives them really good value without costing you too much/anything.
A free initial consultation
Free follow up support to help with implementation e.g. 1 hour Skype session per month for 3 months
Free copies of items that you sell – e.g. if you have an ecourse or ebook that’s relevant to the service you’ve provided them with, give them it for free
Or, you could be a bit more ‘friendly’…
Send a card on their birthday
Send out #FF love on Twitter or recommend them via your social media channels
If you offer a product – yes, I am going to go back to cupcakes – send them a special cupcake on their birthday or their business birthday/anniversary
Send a Christmas card – perhaps with a little gift inside that relates to your business
There are no limits here to your creativity – apart from money. Remember, of value to them while being of little cost to you is the key here.
Keep In Touch
You might not see your best mates as much as you used to but you know they care because they keep in touch, right?
Well, as well as offering a more structured follow up with your clients, you should check in with your clients from time to time to make sure things are going well for them.
If you don’t already have an email newsletter, you might want to think about putting one together that goes out to your clients once a quarter/month or week.
The focus should be on providing them with added value rather than just banging on about how good you are and what they can buy from you. And an email newsletter has the added advantage of keeping you at the forefront of their minds.
I’ve had many previous clients get in touch with me just after I’ve sent out my email newsletter – either to ask me to work with them again on another project, or because they want to recommend me to other people and are checking in to see what current services I offer.
Ask for Testimonials – and Return the Favour
You should always ask clients for testimonials. I ask as soon as I’ve finished working with people – either for a LinkedIn testimonial or for one I can use on my website (in fact, I usually ask for a LinkedIn one and say ‘can I use it on my website too?‘ at the same time).
Sometimes, a client will get back to ask what I want them to say. Rather than write it for them (which can sound a bit stilted), I usually send them a couple of examples I have from other clients and then say something along the lines of ‘it would be good if you could say how I helped you deliver x’ or ‘how I made a difference in terms of y’. That way, you will hopefully, get testimonials for the range of work that you provide and in their own words, rather than them all sounding the same.
However, for a bit of added love, when you’re asking for testimonials also ask if you can recommend your clients to other people too.
N.B. Only do this if you genuinely want to recommend them. If you think they’re best to be avoided, DO NOT RECOMMEND THEM. It will kill your own credibility.
Recommend clients via word of mouth (and ask the person you’ve recommended them to, to say that they heard about your previous client from you). You can also recommend them on social media – or even offer to provide a testimonial if it’s appropriate.
So those are my 5 laws of attraction AKA How to Be a Freelancer Your Clients Will Love.
Anything you’d like to add to the list? How have you made sure that you are the ‘go to’ person in your field that clients come back to and recommend to others?