Freelancing is an amazing opportunity to do what you love and get paid to do it.
However, a freelancer’s success lies in the hands of those who are willing to hire them.
[S]tability in freelancing depends on building strong relationships with clients.
Many freelancers do well making money on a project-to-project basis, taking on small jobs from a variety of clients.
Yet stability in freelancing depends on building strong relationships with clients.
If you can have a good relationship with your client, you’re more likely to land long-term work from them.
Building this sort of relationship requires more than simply fulfilling your responsibilities. It takes nurturing and respect.
If you’re interested in how to build relationships with clients, and how to fix relationships gone sour, keep reading to find out more!
Why Should You Worry About Building Relationships With Your Clients?
Remote work, such as freelancing, creates a unique experience where you can connect with clients from all over the world without ever meeting them face-to-face.
This makes it easy to forget that behind every email or request for services is a human being running a business.
And this human being has the potential to earn you more money!
Before we look at exactly how you can build strong client relationships, here are some reasons how doing so can benefit you and your freelancing business.
Client Relationships Create Stable Income
When you’re a freelancer, you know that your income is not going to be as stable as having a traditional job. This can be especially stressful for freelancers just starting out who aren’t sure how much money they’re going to make each month.
This is one reason why building a relationship with your clients is important – the stronger the relationship, the more likely that client will give you regular work.
Regular work will give you a better idea of how much money you will make each month.
Plus, the more stability you have with a client, the less (unpaid) time you will spend looking for new clients.
Client Relationships Create Trust With Other Clients
Obviously having a good relationship with your client creates a sense of trust but it also shows other clients that you can be trusted to get the work done.
When you commit to working for one client, you portray a sense of stability.
Other businesses are more likely to hire a freelancer with a strong foundation of experience and commitment.
Plus, when you build a relationship with one client, it proves that your work is high-quality. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t keep giving you work, would they?
Client Relationships Increase Referrals
So not only can you use your relationship with your client to reach out to other potential clients but your client is more likely to recommend your services to other businesses!
In business, reputation is everything, so your client is not going to refer you to another business if they don’t trust you and your work.
Building relationships with your clients is key not only in continuing to receive work but also to expand your client base.
How to Build Your Client Relationships
Building a relationship with your clients may only require some common sense in the way you communicate with them and conduct business, but there are steps you can take to make this relationship strong and stand out from the crowd.
1. Create a Contract
The first thing you should do with any freelancing client is to create a contract that outlines the project details and expectations.
This will help prevent any disagreements over discrepancies and miscommunications. When you clearly lay out the terms of the project, everyone has a clear idea of what needs to be done.
Your contract should include the details of the project (topic, word count, format, etc.) as well as the due date, cost and method of payment.
This is a crucial building block in creating a relationship with your client. Not only will it keep everyone on the same page, but it also opens the door for collaboration with your client as you sort out the details of your contract.
2. Be Consistent With Communication
Another aspect of your relationship with your client that you should establish early on is how your client prefers to communicate.
Do they Skype or video chat? Email? Send assignments through Google Docs?
Clients want to stay in the loop so having a consistent means of communication is important. Be sure to either set up a check-in schedule with your client (such as emailing each other once a week) or be prompt when responding to them.
Always let your client know when you have received correspondence from them, even if you don’t have the time to address their questions or provide information. This will keep them from feeling ignored.
3. Always Provide High-Quality Work
Just because you enter a contract with a client for one project does not always guarantee that more work is coming.
In order to build a relationship with your client, and keep them coming back for more, you have to deliver high-quality work.
That means providing a consistently high standard of work to show your clients that you are serious about what you do. When you deliver good content on time, you are creating value with your client and they will be less likely to seek the services of another freelancer.
4. Understand Your Client’s Needs and Offer Your Own Ideas
One way to get your foot in the door when it comes to freelancing is to anticipate your potential client’s needs and present them with the ways you can fulfill them.
Getting hired, however, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to still take your client’s needs into consideration. A great way to build lasting relationships with your clients is to identify what they may need from you in the future.
To turn clients into long-term clients, you want to create the sense that you are a team.
Because you have established an understanding of the client’s needs, you want to be able to suggest fresh ideas and expert opinion as a freelancer.
For example, if you are creating content for your client’s blog, you can suggest article topics or additions they can make to their blog to improve SEO.
Providing your input, in a constructive way, shows your level of expertise and your commitment to the client.
5. Be Yourself While Being Professional
Just like your clients are human beings on the other end, you want them to be aware that you are a human being too.
This doesn’t mean sharing your life story or chatting to them as you would a friend – you still want to maintain a certain level of professionalism.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t wish them a happy weekend or ask them how the weather is. Injecting small conversation starters is a great way to potentially learn more about your client and connect with them on a deeper level.
Do they have kids? Do you have similar hobbies?
Again, you don’t want your correspondence to stray away from business, and you want to keep it concise, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a little personal touch.
6. Be Grateful for the Opportunity
When it comes to hiring freelancers, clients and businesses have a huge pool of individuals to choose from. You should always be grateful that they have chosen you.
That being said, you are allowed to feel proud and valued that you are the freelancer they have decided to go with and pay.
Freelancing is a competitive market and landing jobs should reflective positively on you and your skills.
However, when you show your gratitude to your clients, you don’t have to grovel at their feet.
You can be thankful to clients through your communication with them, using a simple “Thank You” at the end of your emails or calls.
Even promoting their business on your social media accounts, or liking their posts and updates, can show your client that you appreciate their business.
How to Fix a Bad Relationship with a Client
Not every relationship between a freelancer and client gets off on the right foot but that doesn’t mean you should give up and move on.
Here are some ways you can try to salvage a less-than-optimal relationship with your clients.
Figure Out Where Things Went Wrong
Knowing what you now know about building a strong relationship with your client, is there an aspect of this that isn’t working out?
Perhaps the client is expecting additional services or not prompt in paying you. Or maybe you’ve delivered work late and your client has an issue with this.
Identifying the problem is the first step in working toward fixing it.
Is it a Big Deal?
Nobody is perfect – not you or your client. Before you start addressing the issues you need to figure out if it’s really a big deal.
Do your clients make their payment in the afternoon when you requested mornings? If it’s not imperative that you get paid at a certain time of day, you could probably let it go.
If an issue doesn’t really need to be addressed, you can simply accept it and move forward.
Address the Situation Quickly and Professionally
However, that’s not to say that you should simply ignore glaring issues with your client. If you have to address it, do so quickly and professionally.
Do not contact your client when you are angry and frustrated. Instead, wait until you are calm and send them a professional email detailing the problem.
Give them some insight as to why the problem is a problem – without getting too personal. For instance, if they constantly pay late, explain to them that you depend on their payments as your income and budget your finances based on the payment due date.
Ask Questions to Gain Understanding
Like I’ve mentioned before, everyone in the freelancing game is human. When an issue does arise, it’s important to try and understand the situation from your client’s perspective.
Perhaps there is a simple misunderstanding that can be cleared up by asking questions. It could be that your client was misinformed or confused about some aspect of your agreement.
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Make the effort to dig deeper to see what is really going on.
If All Else Fails…
There’s nothing wrong with dropping a client that causes you grief. Ultimately, when you are seeking long-term clients, you want ones that are pleasant to work with.
If the money is not worth the hassle, it’s okay to end your relationship with a client and move on.
Building Relationships With Your Clients
It’s important to remember that the relationship you build with your client is a two-way street.
When you’re good at freelancing, your client wants to keep you around. You want to do well for your client to ensure the work keeps coming.
By taking the time to nurture your relationship with your client, you are creating a mutually beneficial situation where you keep getting jobs and your client continues to grow their business.
All it takes is respect, professionalism and the want to always do a good job!