Have you ever felt a great client relationship decline, and you don’t know why? You win the project and work begins well, but slowly and surely the client becomes distant… and then you break up?
From the moment we start our freelance careers we focus on being the best designer that we can be. Doing so, many of us can forget the business side to our creative profession.
As Jay Z once said: “I’m a business, man”. ‹‹- (Click to Tweet)
To keep client relationships sweet, we need to remember this phrase.
As well as being skilled designers, we need to act like a professional business in all aspects of client communication. Not doing so can result in clients losing faith, trust and satisfaction in our services – even when our work is up to par.
Maybe like me, you have experience with the topic of this article. There are countless ways for a freelancer to lose credibility with (and even worse, lose) clients.
Today we’re going to look at 4 often overlooked areas where this can happen. I hope to see you guys adding more tips in the comments too!
If you have something to add, please leave it in the comments down at the bottom 🙂
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The text below is the transcript of the image guide you can see above. Please don’t hesitate to add your own tips and feedback on this guide in the comments section at the bottom of the page!
1. Using free trial software
Freebies and trial software are a great way to see if a product or service can help you and your business.
However, trying to run your business on free handouts is a bad move for both your business and branding.
High paying clients expect you to act like the professional they hired.
- Actionable Advice:
- Remember that image is everything. As a freelancer, you are your own brand. Everything you do and every interaction you have with a client will be judged.
Avoid free web hosting services. Your website is the first interaction you’ll have with a potential client. Using spammy ad-supported services will ruin your credibility.
If you genuinely can’t afford a premium web service, put your work on a dedicated portfolio site such as Behance.net (though remember this lets your client easily browse other people’s work).
Recommendation: www.dunked.com – $6/m – simple portfolio service for artists with dozens of beautiful templates.
All communication with your client should be as professional as possible. Big businesses spend millions on branded letterheads, paper and envelopes so all communication with customers looks professional. You should do the same.
Throw out your Microsoft word invoices and move to a professional invoicing service such as Freshbooks or Harvest. These services have built in payment methods which make paying easier for your client and you look like a pro.
There’s nothing wrong with using a standard Gmail or Hotmail address, but for extra branding points you can set up your own hosted domain email (eg, firstname.lastname@example.org) using Google Apps for just $5/m.
When working on design projects for your clients, don’t just rely on free templates and resources. Use sites like CreativeMarket to cherry-pick useful addons for your project, then add them to your client’s invoice.
2. Being unsure on your prices
Nothing says “I am inexperienced” quite like being unsure about your prices.
Freelancers who don’t know what to charge or how to quote a job are showing a lack of experience charging clients.
High paying clients want to work with experienced professionals. Stumbling on your prices will cause clients to lose confidence in your abilities.
- Actionable Advice:
Use a freelance hourly rate calculator to work out your ideal hourly wage. Price new jobs by the time they’ll take.
If you are unsure of how long it will take to complete a piece of work, be upfront and explain to the client:
“Sorry, I haven’t taken on many projects like this before. Can you give me more information about the job so I can give you an accurate quote?”
Once you have the full details of the job, overestimate the time it will take to complete.
You will then have more time to work on the project and a high likelihood of coming in under budget, which will score you bonus points with the client.
“I charge $35 an hour. I can’t imagine this work would take longer than 10 hours total to complete, but I would estimate a price of $350 just to be sure”
As a last resort, you can base your pricing on what competitors charge for similar work. However, don’t underprice the job just to score a client.
3. Failing to deliver on time
Deadlines are important. When you fail to deliver design work on time, it’s not just the client’s day that is disrupted.
The whole supply chain is affected – the client, her boss and the people working under her are waiting to move forward with the project that you have.
High paying clients expect you to know this and even more so, expect you to deliver on time.
- Actionable Advice:
When giving your client an estimate, over-estimate how long you think the job will take to complete.
If you think it will take a week, tell them it will take 8-10 days.
Adding a few extra days to the estimate gives you more time to complete the work – but more importantly, less chance of you slipping up and coming in after the deadline.
Likewise, it’ll be easier for you to deliver the work quickly – even days before it is due. This will impress the client and leave you in good favour for future work.
4. Poor social media decisions
A client who’s about to pledge big bucks to a designer she’s only met through online chat is going to do background research first.
Social media can turn friends against one another, get people fired and of course, lose you clients.
If you’re touting freelance services online and attracting international clients, make sure your social media profiles are appropriate and represent you (and your freelance brand) in a good light.
- Actionable Advice:
Remember that not eveyone shares the same opinions as you and your friends, or the same political and religious views.
Your personal actions (as mentioned in point #1) are a direct representation of your freelance brand.
You never know who is looking at (and judging) your public profiles – keep this in mind when you share content on your social media accounts that may offend or anger others.
If you don’t want to censor the content that you share, create custom audiences and block public viewers from seeing your updates. It could be the difference between winning or losing a $10,000 client.