The Customer is always right! This idea can be remarkably frustrating for anyone working within customer service but especially so for freelancers looking to please their clients. In some instances, the concept of providing an exact solution to your client’s requirements can be daunting, but while you will occasionally come across an unreasonable client at some point, there are components which can allow you to build a successful client relationship.
Understand the Client’s Knowledge & Skills
For many freelancers and specialists, it can be very easy to make assumptions about the knowledge of an individual client. These assumptions usually lead us to conclusions about their ability to understand and explore the project possibilities.
Some client stay updated to the latest happenings in their industry, while others don’t have a clue what’s going on. You should always assess clients individually to understand their specific knowledge and be able to tailor your approach accordingly. Failure to do this could confuse some clients while patronizing and alienating others. Neither of these things will be a good start for a successful relationship.
Understand the Client’s Industry
No matter which field you work in, including design, writing or marketing, you must have an understanding of the competition, target audience and client’s industry in order to work effectively. Before beginning to work with a client, you should conduct some basic research to ensure that the wishes of the client are not just possible but will suit their specific goals. Having these insights will supply you with the essential skills to transcend any potential communication barriers such as outside perspective and empathy to save you from making mistakes.
While the knowledge of the client’s background and understanding their industry are important, it is also essential to define the true client requirements for any project outline.
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The number one rule is to take sufficient time to define, reinforce, and finalize the client requirements before undertaking any project. Before beginning even the development stage, it is important to seek early clarification.
This can pay off in the longer term as poorly defined objectives and goals often cause scope creep. While freelancers rarely enjoy boring paperwork, organizing these aspects from the outset is critical to forming a successful client relationship.
Educate Your Client
Many clients believe they are always right, especially if they have some basic knowledge of the industry. However, a client insisting for a project to be created in a certain way may actually impair them.
Educating a client on why their chosen approach is not appropriate in a friendly and tactful way can be essential for a long term working relationship. As freelancers, we are responsible for ensuring that the goods delivered meet our own standard of expectations and the needs of the client. While some mistakes can be easily corrected, others can compromise a project.
Educating a client may be a little challenging, but it is far easier than dealing with an unhappy client about a product which has not worked out as they expected. This can compromise your standard of work and prematurely end a possibly great professional relationship.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Communication is the central component which allows the management and building of a successful client relationship. It can be very easy, once client meetings have finished and project details have been finalized to isolate ourselves in a creative bubble and stop communication with our client.
This is never a good thing and can create problems in the future. Try to keep the lines of communication open and ensure the client is updated as the project is developing. Allow the client to have knowledge and power to be sure that every stage of the creation process is meeting with their requirements.
Keep a balance and never overpower the wishes of your client or allow them to overpower your ideas and methods of working. Communication facilitates a coordination which will allow you to build an effective working relationship.
Value Your Client
This is one of the most commonly overlooked components to building a successful client relationship. You can express your value of your client through thanking them for their business. Take time to call your good clients to thank them and send out greeting cards at the holidays. These are really good ways to show your client you appreciate them.
You can also help them to celebrate their achievements by taking them out for a meal or simply sending a card congratulating them. By valuing your client, you will establish a loyal relationship.
Build a Personal Connection
It is important to remember that your clients are people, not merely invoice numbers. Building a personal connection through knowing the names of their spouse, whether they have children and what hobbies they enjoy can create a strong personal connection which can be the most powerful type of connection in the business world. Take an interest in your client and they will take an interest in you.
That being said, a successful client relationship isn’t built on your friendliness and socializing. It is not even built on your standard of work, although great quality will help. It is usually build on a balance of all the components mentioned above. Take a little time to consider how you engage with your difficult clients. This will improve your quality of work while reducing your stress levels, which is a win-win situation.