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How freelancers can build long-lasting relationships with clients

Freelancing Aug 30, 2022

When you start out as a freelancer, landing a new gig can take time. For every job landed, you often must spend various hours applying to, and scouting through opportunities.

One way to save yourself some time is by building long-term relationships with both existing and new clients. Long-term relationships can give you peace of mind by providing you with a financial buffer for your client acquisition efforts. Further, being able to work with the same clients allows you to cut down on the amount of time you spend on admin tasks, so you can focus on the quality of your work.

So here are our top 10 tips that you can use to build long-lasting relationships with your clients.

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1. Focus On Your Communication Skills

Communication is key. Focus on quick response times and don’t let your client wait around for an answer. Following up on client requests and emails in a timely manner shows that you’re reliable and that the client is a high priority to you.

Generally, it is important to work on your ability to listen to your clients’ needs and especially to “read between the lines”. You are hired to help your clients define the problems they are facing and to communicate a structured solution. This part can at times be difficult, so stay patient and don’t get irritated when the client is still trying to figure out what they actually want from you.

Note: It is super important to stay away from robotic, canned and generalized messages. Make your clients feel important and personalize the messages you send to them. A good way to really leave an impression is to remember important dates like their birthdays. This shows your client that you’re really invested in their project and that it’s not just another job for you.

2. Have A System in Place

Before starting a new project, you should already have a system in place that keeps you organized and that helps you ensure that everything will go smoothly.

Some people keep handwritten notes of tasks, deliverables, deadlines and work hours. However, most people prefer to use specialized project management software for freelancers.

A popular option is Kosmo, which allows you to keep track of projects, tasks, create an invoice, proposals and everything else needed to run your business.

Using a software like Kosmo allows you to draft professional looking documents and shows your client that you know what you are doing. You can also create an invoice for free.

3. Develop Conflict Management Strategies

No matter how well things are going and how seamlessly your client approves your work, problems will come up. Usually, sooner than later, you will run into disagreements. Your client will reject some of your work, try to lower your pricing and keep you waiting for deliverables. In situations like that, it is important to stay calm and polite.

More often than not, those issues arise from minor misunderstandings. Try to resolve those problems professionally and without any negative feelings towards your client.

Nevertheless, if you have the feeling that you’re being treated unfairly, you need to stand up for yourself. In those cases, be firm but still try to stay as polite as you can. In most cases, there is a way to move forward in mutual agreement.

4. Really Understand Your Client’s Needs

I cannot stress this enough, delivering a successful project is based on truly understanding your client’s needs.

Before you get to work, make sure you have a clear picture of what the client is trying to accomplish. Ask them about their overall goals for their business and find ways the project you’re working on can bring them a step closer to achieving their goal.

Find out who their target market is and keep the findings in mind as you’re working on their project. Having a clear understanding of the business’ goal and target audience will reflect in your work. The result will show that you care about the success of your client’s business.

If the client has worked with freelancers in the past, ask your client what has worked or what didn’t work previously. Basically, try to avoid the mistakes others have made before you.

5. Be Appreciative

Landing a gig is difficult. Your client might not realize how much effort it takes to create proposals and endure rejections. While you worked hard to land this job and deserve it, keep in mind that the client chose to work with you instead of all the other freelancers that they could have chosen instead.

Be thankful for their business and for the opportunity to gain more work experience. The same holds true in cases where your client refers you to someone else. Follow-up with the referral and make sure to write your client a thank-you note.

6. Make Sure They Can Rely On You

Some of your clients might have had a bad experience with a freelancer in the past. You want to show that you are different. As a freelancer, you never want to keep your client in the dark about when they can expect to receive the next update.

Always keep your client in the loop of how the project is going and communicate bottlenecks or issues before they become a problem. Usually, it is also good to set expectations by establishing a project timeline before you start working on the project.

As the project progresses, make sure to abide by your timelines and explain delays. It is usually not a big problem to run a little late on a deliverable, but your client will appreciate a quick update.

7. Always Be Honest

Sometimes, you might run into an issue that you can’t solve as quickly as you thought, or in the worst-case scenario, can’t solve at all. Instead of hiding this from the client, be transparent and explain the problem. Preferably, you can already offer them an alternative solution.

There is often more than one solution to a problem and your client might have valuable, industry specific, insights that can help you.

Your client will appreciate your honesty and in most cases be understanding. Things like this happen all the time, and it’s not a big deal if communicated openly.

8. Connect On A More Personal Level

Your client is a real person that often enjoys a personal connection as much as you do. While keeping things professional, feel free to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter.

It is okay to share some personal information and learn more about your client (if they are open to connecting). See what things you have in common. You’ll be surprised about how many interesting people you can meet online.

9. Own Up to Mistakes

This hopefully needs no explanation, if you do something wrong, then own up to your mistakes.

Sometimes, things unexpectedly go wrong. Maybe your design style doesn’t fit what your client imagined, your ad spend runs higher than anticipated, or your published article still has a few typos. Don’t try to argue your way around it. Instead, own up to your mistakes, apologize and offer a solution to fix it.

Your client will understand that they can come to you when they notice something is wrong without having to worry that you’ll make a big deal out of it.

10. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Face-to-Face Interactions

Most freelancers work remotely and all communication with clients is usually done online. Especially, chat solutions like Slack helped reduce the amount of long phone calls and in-person meetings for minor details. Chat tools are a great option if you just need a quick response.

However, allowing your client to see you in person can help to establish trust in the beginning of an engagement. If you live in the same city, consider doing your client onboarding in person during a coffee meeting. In cases where that is not an option, offer to do a Zoom or Skype video call.

Showing your client who is behind the work and sharing your personality will make you more trustworthy.

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Building long-lasting relationships with your clients is a lot of work. It takes time to master the skills listed above and to apply them naturally.

The good news is that it will get easier as you gain more work experience. Just start working on your relationships as soon as you get hired. Keep a note of what went wrong with previous clients and learn from your mistakes.


Zoi Kotsou

Copywriter - Content writer - Content Creator - Columnist

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