When turning to other freelancers for advice on the sometimes tricky area of client management, common advice includes limiting yourself to dedicated consultation hours, or learning to say “no” when relations between you and the client have deteriorated. These typical solutions, however, come from a negative perspective—preventing or dealing with problems by putting checks and balances in place.
I prefer to accentuate the positive: The best way to achieve an effective and pleasant working relationship with your client is to focus on your qualities as a freelancer. Superior client relationships come from controlling what you can—being the best freelancer and partner that you can be.
Be appreciative and professional
From initial bid to successful conclusion, you should be completely professional both in your approach to the project and to the client themselves. Make it clear from the outset that you’re passionate about their project, and that you are willing to commit your considerable experience and insights to the successful realization of the job. Because freelance jobs can be hard to come by, you need to view every project as an opportunity to gain experience and learn from new challenges. Respect your client’s wishes and do your utmost to meet their expectations professionally, on time and within budget. That includes thanking the customer after the fact for placing their trust in you! It’s a simple but important step toward a productive business relationship.
Be open to feedback and give your own
You can never foresee every complication and hiccup that might crop up on a project. Yet, if you view your working relationship as a partnership between the dreams of your client and your experience, it goes a long way toward resolving issues when they arise. If you feel some aspects of the project are spinning out of control, it’s time for a frank, polite assessment of the issue—paired with honest and well-thought-out, viable solutions. That also means being open to feedback—never forget that the client is footing the bill for your work—and actively seeking their opinions on how the work is progressing, and being responsive to their suggestions.
From the client’s perspective, the project that you are working on at that time is their “baby” and the website, logo or other such task needs to meet their expectations. They get the final say on how the product should look, and the task is for you to advise the customer on the best course of action for the project—but ultimately heed their requests even if they’re not precisely what you recommend or think is best. You need to be the voice of reason and authority, but in a patient, problem-solving manner that serves to calm the fears of a customer.
Be the best freelancer you can be
Most of us love the work that we do. (If you don’t, why not?) Ultimately, you need to tap into your ability for formulating strategies and taking a client’s projects from the birth to the successful end. Keeping in touch with clients once the project is over can lead to further projects down the line, from both your previous clients and from others to whom they recommend your services. If you can combine your passion for your field with a passion for keeping clients satisfied with your work, you’ve built a strong foundation for more effective and positive client management.
In the comments: What’s your best tip for positive client management?
About today’s guest post author: David Sumner works for twago, Europe’s leading platform for web designers, programmers and graphic design freelancers. He’s passionate about freelancing and the opportunities that it brings in facilitating closer co-operation between people from across the globe.