Top 5 tips for working with clients

In the highly competitive world of freelancing, keeping clients satisfied is the cornerstone of success. A happy client is more likely to give you work in the future, or recommend your work to others. So, how do you keep your clients happy? Client satisfaction depends not only on what you do, but how you do it; it’s the process of working with your clients, and not just the final product, that counts, and building a good relationship with your clients is key. To help you build that relationship, we have put together a list of our top 5 tips for working with clients: things to do and –  just as important – things not to do.

How do I get the job?

The first thing you need to do is get the job, so you need to persuade the client you are the freelancer they’re looking for. As well as demonstrating that you have the skills and experience, by showing them your portfolio, you need to reassure them that you can meet their needs, including budget demands and time deadlines.

How do I negotiate with the client?

Sometimes getting the job means negotiating with the client. Don’t feel compelled to accept a job straightaway. You could end up biting off more than you can chew. Ask lots of questions; make sure you know exactly what the client needs. This might take more than one e-mail, phone call or meeting. Asking questions, making it clear to the client that you’re not going to take something on before you know exactly what it is, will give them confidence in your knowledge and ability.

Be flexible and be prepared to make concessions. This will show the client that you’re listening to them, and that when you take on the job, you’ll have their needs in mind.  But at the same time, remember that you’re a professional. When negotiating a job with a client, be clear in your mind about the limits of what you’re prepared to take on; this applies not only to the job itself, but also to the cost and time involved in getting the job done.

What should I charge my client?

Agreeing on a price and time for your services is key. Here you need to be realistic. There’s no point in getting a poor deal for yourself for the sake of getting the job. You can’t afford to work at a loss, and you don’t want to work yourself into the ground meeting unrealistic deadlines. It’s better to be upfront with the client at the outset: be clear about the cost involved, and how much time you will need to get the job done. It won’t look good if you have to come back to your client halfway through a job, asking for more money, because you can’t meet costs, or for an extension because you can’t get the job done on time. Firstly, they might not be able to respond to your needs. Secondly, it reflects on your ability to calculate money and time resources and this might cast your professionalism in doubt, in the eyes of the client. Don’t plan to overestimate at the beginning of a job but remember that you can always deliver before the deadline, or charge them less for the final product.

If you find negotiating difficult, or you’re just starting out as a freelancer, practise with a friend. This gives you chance to think about possible pitfalls before going into a meeting with a new client.

How often should I speak to my client?

Check in with your client during the project, by e-mail or phone call. You might want to set up a number of check-in meetings in advance. These let the client know that their project won’t be put on the backburner, and that you’ll remain on top of things by having a schedule in mind at the beginning of a project. Send them the first part or first draft of the product; this gives them an opportunity to see your work, and give you feedback, and for you to make sure you’re on the right track, that the work you’re doing is right for them.

Make yourself available to your client. Let them know they can contact you to discuss the project. But set boundaries as well. It’s a hard fact that for the freelancer it’s difficult to prevent the time spent on a job from encroaching on personal time; it’s important that you set the limits on when they can get in touch. Decide – and let your client know – when you’re available to take calls, or respond to e-mails.

What should I do when I’ve finished the job?

It’s important to get feedback from a client once you’ve finished a job for them. The reason for getting feedback is manifold: it helps you know what you have done well to meet the client’s needs – and this can help you build your confidence – and what you can do to improve client-satisfaction; it makes it clear to the client that want to know that you’ve met their needs, and that you want to develop.

You want to make it easy for your client to give feedback, so make it formal. Build it into your professional approach by giving them a list of questions you want answered about the job – the product and the process of their working with you. You can give them a combination of statements with a ratings scale, and some open questions that allow them to give you more detailed personal feedback.

Once you’ve finished a job for a client, stay in touch with them. You want them to refer you, or to give you more work in the future. While you don’t want to clog up their inbox with unnecessary e-mails, you want to stay on their radar, so that down the line, if they need a job done, you’re the first person on their list.

Make sure there’s a purpose to your e-mail, that it provides potential for them to follow-up with you. One way of doing this might be to e-mail them about products you’re developing or a new kind of job you’re taking on. Keep their needs in mind.