Earlier this fall, a reader asked, “Should freelancers bring a gift to a first client meeting?” Now that we’re in the holiday season, client gifts are top of mind…so what’s the savvy freelancer to do?
When I was first starting out in the business, back in the 1900s (I love saying that), my then-toddlers came with me (my daughter sporting a Santa hat) as we made a circuitous route around town to visit each client and drop off a small gift.
As a side benefit, it gave me a chance to explain to the kids what each client’s business was and the fact that our nice standard of living was due to these nice folks — and, of course, the importance of looking someone in the eye and a firm handshake. Eventually my kids were in school and my client base grew too big to make in-person deliveries feasible; but even though I do everything by mail now, the kids still help pack and label the boxes.
So, here are couple of thoughts on the gift-giving process, based on my own anecdotal experience:
- It truly is the thought that counts. The first few years, when money was tight, my wife helped me pick out stuff from the local swap meet that could be personalized with a little TLC. One year, it was tiny Mexican clay chimineas packed with incense cubes; another, it was craftsy-funky desk clocks. Total cost was under $5 each.
- Shareables are always popular. Particularly for clients who are in an office environment, it’s nice to have something that can be shared. Far and away the most popular item I ever sent out (resulting in 100% of clients responding to my thank you with a thank you) was an assortment of flavored coffees. This year, I might experiment with tea as well as java.
- Reader ideas. In response to my original “freelance client gifts” post, Cathy Miller of Simply Stated Business mentioned how well fruit baskets work, while Justin Katz of Flock Of Pixels suggested the offbeat wares of Etsy and ThinkGeek. I remember one Facebook respondent talking about gift cards tailored to client tastes — another great idea.
- Who makes the cut? My methodology has always been to do a quick look at the total annual billing and pick a number — keeping in mind that I’ll bend the rules for promising clients that came in late in the year, or for good longtime clients who may have just had a slow year. The gifts aren’t extravagant (and let’s face it, they are a tax-deductible business investment), so I tend to err on the side of inclusiveness.
- Make sure you include a personalized, heartfelt, handwritten note. Seriously, this is the most important part of the exercise.
- Don’t forget your key vendors and subcontractors! But you already knew that, right?
Do you have other ideas on client gifts that keep on giving? Please share your experiences in the comments!