Whether you’re a freelancer or full time employee, part-time worker or business owner, building and maintaining client relationships is essential for growth and success. Fostering strong relationships with your clients not only opens the door for business ventures with that client in the future, but it welcomes other opportunities through their recommendations and connections as well.
When it comes to client relationships, creating open lines of communication and strong rapport are essential. When both you and the client are on the same page, the project or work gets done more efficiently, and both parties are satisfied with the result. There is also a back and forth when ideas are changed or revisions come, which helps to create a positive end result.
But how do you create these strong client relationships, and where do you start? (PS: If you haven’t landed your first client, read this.) First, you want to create an environment and attitude of service. You want to think about how you can prioritize that client or fill some need that they may have. Then, you want to present your best, authentic self and encourage communication in order to build a relationship from the start.
Whether you’re an experienced business owner looking for a quick refresher on how to connect with clients, a freelancer just getting started, or somewhere in-between, building and maintaining strong client relationships will drive the success of you or your business. And here’s how to get started.
1. Remember the client first mentality.
No matter your experience, level, or status in your industry, your client comes first. What this means is that your duty as a potential employee or independent contractor for said client is to a) fill a need they may have, or b) offer a service that is essential to their life or company.
Since you play such a crucial role, it’s important to value the connection between yourself and them. They aren’t just paying you, you’re creating a bond that can lead to future projects, connections, or future recommendations and referrals. Keep in mind that these things will help to grow you and your business tremendously.
From the start, adapt a mindset of client-first. You’ll want to shift things like your proposal, outline, and work product to their liking. That isn’t to say you don’t have autonomy, but that you’re considerate of how the client feels and what he or she desires for said job or project.
2. Respond in a timely manner.
When working with a client, consistency is key—not only in the beginning stages, but throughout the entire process. You want to show the person you’re working with that you can be trusted, you are dependable, and you do things when you say you will. This will give them the confidence to work with you, as well as return to your services if the opportunity arises in the future.
3. Collaborate and communicate.
It goes without saying that having strong communication is necessary for building and maintaining client relationships (see above), but in addition to a positive back-and-forth, you’ll also want to create an environment that supports collaboration.
Depending on your industry and scope of the project working together might not be completely feasible. Your client may not even prefer it (Ex: You’ve been hired as a content creator and required to come up with your own ideas, rather than working with the client to create them). Make sure you feel out your situation and circumstances before engaging in total collaboration, but don’t shy away from it! Even something as simple as asking a client, ‘What would you prefer?’ or ‘What do you think?’ can shift the direction of your communication to more collaborative and healthy for both parties.
4. Stay consistent.
Don’t go back on your word, don’t quote different prices each time, and don’t ghost your (potential) client. If things aren’t going the way you planned, feel empowered to express that in a healthy way. Alternatively, if prices need adjusting based upon additional requirements, open this conversation rather than shifting prices without informing the client. Also, if things aren’t working out, or if you’ve realized the client is not a good fit, don’t—I repeat, don’t—ghost your client. There is nothing worse, or more unprofessional than to simply stop responding. Even if it feels awkward or confrontational, it’s better to address issues than to leave them open-ended and uncomfortable.
5. Check in, even after the project completion.
I can’t tell you how beneficial this has been to me/my business! When you follow up with clients, it shows that you care not only about the work, but about them/their organization. This is also a present reminder that you are available for any current projects they might be working on. Who knows, you mind land yourself another job just by extending a thoughtful email or call.
6. Build a network and seek + give referrals.
One of the best practices for building and maintaining client relationships is easy when you focus on networking. This isn’t just about finding jobs, either. Connect with people in your industry, connect with competitors, and connect with people whose work you find interesting (even if it doesn’t appear to relate to yours at first glance). You never know what kind of opportunities can come up.
Plus, be open to giving and requesting referrals. People you know, know people. Everyone you encounter can be an open door.
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