What Your First Handful Of Clients Teach You About Freelancing
Freelancing is very much a learn-as-you-go type of job. There are no manual instructions on how to win clients, no definitive route to finding success, and no-one else to pass the blame onto for your shortcomings. But one thing that is certain is that your first handful of clients are the ones who teach you the most about the dos and don’ts of the business. So whether you’re just starting out and looking for some pointers, or trying to figure out where you went wrong with a previous client, bear these top tips in mind to ensure your next job goes that tiny bit smoother and more successful!
1. Always keep the lines of communication open
Ensure you are communicating with your client throughout the process. Now that doesn't mean inundating them with messages any time you change the smallest of details with a project. But it’s all too easy to be given a brief, get on your merry way with it, and only reopen the lines of communication when you think it’s done and dusted. That’s a dangerous game to play because nine times out of ten when you talk to the client, it isn’t. Rather, keep your client/s updated on your progress at regular intervals. For example, give an ETA on when the first draft will be ready and with them. Drop them a message if you think there's an alternative route they may not have thought to take their brand. And if there are any significant problems, tell them.
"So as not to get overworked or stressed by the client’s brief, put yourself in charge by letting them know your working hours and how your creative process usually works from the offset."
2. Don’t let yourself get taken for a ride
When it comes to establishing a successful relationship with a new client, it's crucial to put some guidelines and boundaries in place. It's very easy to think of the client as having leverage in the relationship since they are the one paying your invoice at the end of the project. But it’s important that you respect and value yourself as a professional designer (even if you are working from home in your pyjamas!). So as not to get overworked or stressed by the client’s brief, put yourself in charge by letting them know your working hours and how your creative process works from the offset. Be honest about how long certain parts of the design process may take you to complete. Put yourself in the driver’s seat so that you don’t get taken for a ride. For example, it’s a good idea to inform them of the limits for the timeline of the project by setting out a revisions clause in your initial contract agreement. Whatever you do, don’t unbuckle your seatbelt and slide over into the passenger seat!
3. If a client asks for your opinion, don't be afraid to give it
Often smaller clients who, just like you, are also working for themselves may look to you for a second opinion on various aspects of their business. They may have a slightly more left field idea for a logo, or they might ask for tips on marketing their brand if they're just starting out. Seeing as you're a creative professional who's been in a similar position, it's no surprise they might look to you. Take this as a compliment and give the most practical advice you can. Say what you think is working well and offer any suggestions you think will be useful to them. They may just want a little reassurance and encouragement that everything is going to come together so don’t hesitate to give it. This is a perfect opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your client.
"Showing a genuine interest in their business ensures they think of you as being more than just a service."
4. Your invoice may be paid but don’t consider the relationship over
Just because you’ve finished the work and the invoice has been paid, doesn't necessarily mean your relationship with the client is completely over. Instead, treat your client like you would a long-distance friend. Check in again in two weeks time or so and ask them how they’re doing, and how business is going since you worked together on the project. Showing a genuine interest in their business ensures they think of you as being more than just a service. This way they are more likely to do business with you again in the future or recommend you to someone they know. Add them to your mailing list and send them your monthly newsletter!
We hope these tips are useful for any freelancers out there! What are some of your top tips for ensuring a smooth operation when it comes to working with clients? Let us know below!