So you’ve launched your freelance career or started your business. You have everything you need to hit the ground running, you feel confident, and you might even have a client base to get you started (yay!). However, you’re not quite sure how to engage with, or develop strong client relationships or what that really means. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone!)
Building strong client relationships might sound considerably less important than branding, updating social media accounts, or creating a website. In fact, your relationship-building has probably taken a back seat in your career/company planning because you have to start the business before you worry about who’s genuinely interested, right?
Though relationship building may have taken a back seat, you must remember that your clients are what will sustain your future and make sure you’re turning a profit. (Which, in other words: your clients are your moneymakers $$). So it’s important, if not essential to learn how to foster and keep these relationships over time.
Regardless of whether you’re a business owner, a full-time freelancer, or someone focused in independent contracting and looking to develop a stronger network, here are tips for building powerful client relationships (and inevitably paving your path to success).
1. Actively engage.
Truthfully, the only way to really get clients is to be someone who’s approachable. Whether you use social media as a tool (side note: it’s great and you should!) or some other means of reaching an audience, make sure you’re reaching out to the people who engage with your content. Comment, reply, and follow other accounts that are connected with you. Don’t just be a passive subscriber, be someone who gets their name out there because that will translate into relationships.
2. Respond (and do so in a timely manner).
Not only does this point relate to engagements on your social media profiles, blogs, posts, or pages, but also your products. If you have an online shop or you sell items/services, make sure that you’re responsive to your customers!
If they have a query, try to be as quick as possible to reply. (Potentially consider a chat or messenger option, if you can!) If there’s a problem a person is having, solve it or come up with an alternative solution. Potentially even offer a discount or refund! By showing that you’re available and willing to really help them when a glitch or issue happens, you’ll show that your customers are your priority. This will keep them coming back because of the positive user experience they had on your site/with your company.
3. Don’t just focus on you.
Yes, relationship-building will grow your business. But that’s not the point. Of course you want to build yourself and grow, but you also want to put your customers first and think about how you can grow them. What can you offer that will not only bring the back to your site, but help them with their own passions? What products do you have to improve their life or well-being, while boosting your sales? What can you genuinely provide—time, resources, community—to let them know your business is a space where they belong?
When you shift the focus away from you and on what you can give your consumers, you’ll be surprised how your business success builds unconsciously.
4. Start a foundation.
Newsflash, it’s not about your social media, rate, skills, or job description. If someone reaches out to you over Instagram, for example, don’t just respond back about what your services cost. Instead start a conversation. Ask them about what they’re looking for or what interests them. Get to know who they are (especially if this is through a screen instead of in person!).
Make it seem like you’re genuinely interested in them and their business (because you should be!). That way this person won’t feel like you’re a) treating them like a number, or b) just trying to get a sale.
5. Be specific, detailed, and engaged.
If and when someone does inquire about specific products or services, make sure you’re as detailed as possible. You don’t want the potential customer to be in the dark about what things entail or cost. You also want to do so in a way that will keep them interested, not bored.
6. Only present your best work.
Put your best face forward. This is a no-brainer, but important to remember when you’re building your client base. Rather than worrying about getting the most clients as fast as you can, take your time. Be attentive to every single consumer (or query).
7. Be flexible.
Sometimes people are picky, and while this can be annoying, it can also be beneficial in terms of teaching you flexibility and showing you how you can adapt for different client requests/needs. When someone has a specific desire for their order or service, try to create a compromise (without changing what you offer, the price, etc.). Find ways to meet your client’s needs so that both parties are satisfied.
8. Follow up.
If you have a great conversation with someone—whether it’s about your business directly or not—follow up. This shows that you care, have an interest in the person, and are consistent. Even if they’re not ready to be a customer or client yet, you following up will keep your business in the forefront of their minds.
9. Stay in communication during + after.
Keeping in contact during a project, service, package, etc. goes without saying, but after it’s over, it’s equally as important to stay in communication. You’re not done when the services are done. Not only can you tap into these clients for future references, reviews, or opportunities, but by being present, you can make sure that they’ll reach out to you if they (or if a friend, family member, colleague, etc.) needs something similar in the future.
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