5 Ways to Build Amazing Client Karma (And Boost Your Business)
Client relationships are perhaps the most important aspect of your business. Clients pay your bills, refer you to other potential clients, open up opportunities, and help your business grow. Your success in both the present and the future is directly tied to the amount of love and loyalty you get from your clients. So learn to treat these relationships with care, and consider these 5 ways to build amazing client karma:
1) Add Project Value (Even On Your Own Dollar)
Rarely do clients have the budget for you to get their project as “perfect” as it can be. Sometimes, they have to cut back on design elements, content, or back-end functionality. With that in mind, be willing to give a certain amount of extra value even after their budget ends. It doesn’t have to be a great amount, or even for every project, but allow yourself an hour or two beyond the project cutoff to get it just right. Most clients will notice and you’ll set yourself apart from the typical freelancer who doesn’t work one second past the budget.
2) Take Interest in Their Success (Without the Upsell)
Beware of the attitude that pits “your business” against “their business,” because simple economics shows that as their business grows, yours should as well. So if you have skills or know people that would boost your client’s project beyond what you’re contracted for, try helping them out. Furthermore, take time to understand what they’re trying to do and follow up on their success, seeing what you can do to help. Because let’s be honest — there will always be someone who can do parts of your job for less money. The problem is that such people only give the bare minimum. Build “caring consultancy” into your projects and your clients will see you as more of a partner than a contractor.
3) Thank Them (With More Than an Email)
Many freelancers feel that their clients have more complaints than compliments. However, this lack of appreciation goes both ways. I’ve spoken to many clients who wonder if their contractors hate them, and thus, such clients are more reticent to bring up tentative plans or potential ideas with these contractors. Instead, thank your clients with periodic thank-you cards (the written kind) and occasional gifts (and make sure the gifts are actually something cool — belt buckles and tee shirts, not mugs and pens). If your clients know that you appreciate them and the business they send, they’ll be more likely to think about you for new projects. People like helping out others who show them appreciation.
4) Hit Deadlines (No Matter What)
I know freelancers who would probably be considered “mediocre” skill-wise, but make very good money, much more than most. Their secret is that they always hit their deadlines, having found that many larger clients value this more than anything else. I’ve even had some of my own clients tell me that although they have contractors that work cheaper than I do, they know that I keep all my deadline promises. Utilizing good planning and the willingness to drink large amounts of caffeine when necessary, you should strive to become one of the few freelancers (and yes, there are few) who always hit their deadlines.
5) Communicate Promptly (Even On the Weekend)
Along with #4, prompt communication is often lacking in the client-freelancer relationship (and this lack of communication is the top complaint I hear from clients about their contractors). Even if you can’t solve their problem that moment, email them back anyways — they’ll appreciate the quick response time and you’ll be tagged as the freelancer who takes their business seriously. Remember, many of your clients know very little about what they hired you to do, and often feel helpless when their contractors aren’t answering emails. And considering it only takes a minute to answer most of their emails, prompt communication may be the easiest way to set yourself up as their “top” freelancer.
Of course, you may be thinking, “What about clients that will just take advantage of these, constantly expecting free work and weekend meetings?” Well, this list presupposes that (a) your clients are people that you trust, and (b) they are clients with whom you are looking to build a long business relationship. If you consistently provide the kind of value in the five points above to your clients, you’ll soon find them returning the favor with loyalty, greater appreciation, better work, and more referrals.