As a freelancer, you are your brand. If people like you, you stand a much better chance of being successful. If they dislike or distrust you, then you’re going to struggle to carve out a profitable business. With that being said, healthy client relationships need to be a priority for you.
5 Steps for Superior Client Relationships
When it comes to a service business, you and your product are essentially the same. In order to win over business (and hang on to it), you have to sell yourself as reliable, trustworthy, friendly, informed, (or whatever other characteristic your clients find appealing).
Winning over customers is one thing. But if you want to build a successful and sustainable business that’s profitable for years to come, you must maintain healthy client relationships throughout many years. This requires an investment of your time, money, and emotions. And here are some tips to help you along:
- Stop Trying to Sell
In the sales world, people like to toss around the acronym ABC, which stands for Always Be Closing. But if we’re honest, this is outdated advice that rarely works in today’s marketplace.
Gone are the days when people responded to in-your-face sales tactics and aggressive closing strategies. Today, customers have a wealth of information and options at their fingertips and know that it pays to be patient. A salesperson who is always trying to close a deal will turn people away. As a freelancer, your best strategy is to stop selling and start helping.
“Selling to poor-fit customers is a stopgap solution that will result in customer turnover, lost income in the form of clawback penalties, and in the most dramatic cases even shutter a business if churn gets too high,” sales expert Dan Tyre writes. “On a less concrete scale, Always Be Closing tactics also hurt the brand. As soon your company gains a reputation for having aggressive and selfish salespeople, it’ll be much harder to gain customers in the future — even ones you actually could have helped.”
By helping your clients and genuinely serving their interests, you build a strong foundation for future growth. People trust that you want what’s best for them. It’s a game-changer.
- Be Professional
As a freelancer, your size is both your greatest advantage and weakness. The fact that you’re small means you have to prove your credibility and reliability to customers – every step of the way.
Professionalism comes off in both the big and small areas of your client interactions. Pay attention to how you invoice, how you handle customer service issues, and even how you answer your phone.
- Go Beyond Business
As you become more acquainted with your clients, try to get to know them on a personal level (as appropriate). Learn the names of their spouses and children. Find out what they like to do in their free time. Have conversations that have nothing to do with work. The more you strengthen your relationship outside of business, the closer you’ll become.
- Be Forthcoming
Trust is a huge factor in any relationship – particularly a business relationship between freelancer and client.
“We want clients to feel absolutely safe in challenging us, asking questions, and requesting our input,” entrepreneur Dan McIvor says. “But at the same time, we want to be free to express when we think clients are missing an opportunity. You need trust for this to work well, and the process of building trust usually starts off with discussing little things and then moving on to larger opportunities.”
Be forthcoming when you interact with clients. Show off transparency, and you’ll usually get some transparency in return.
- Be Responsive
The fact that you’re a living, breathing person is highly appealing to clients who are tired of talking to automated voice answering machines. When a client calls you, pick up the phone and interact with them. Responsiveness will help you earn and keep business.
Put People First
Never underestimate or overlook the importance of developing relationships. People are the key to success in business, and you’ll never realize your potential until you learn to put your clients first.
Whether it’s a client you’ve had for six months or six years, an investment in relational capital and positive rapport will never be returned empty-handed. Stay focused and commit to being excellent in this area.