Relationships are the bedrock upon which the success of any business venture lies. In business, there are producers, retailers, and then consumers; the relationship between these partners in business goes a long way in determining the success of the company. A break in the connection between these partners can lead to a complete collapse of the system.
In this chapter, we will take on the crucial role that relationships play in the freelancing world and how you can build stronger relationships with clients.
No freelance business can survive without good relations; a study of behavioural conditioning advanced by the American psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike at the beginning of the twentieth century lead him to state the “Law of Effect” which is a psychological principle that stipulates that “responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation”, so that means that any relationship nurtured with positivity will likely develop a recurring behavior that in the particular case of freelancing businesses will be beneficial to the parties involved.
As a freelancer, your most important relationship is the one you’ve got with clients. Without your clients, there will be no business, so if that relationship is built up well enough, there will be an assurance of continuous gigs from the clients to your Freelancer account.
However, some freelancers believe so much in their skills that they forget the role people play in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t enough for you to be extremely skillful; skillsets without people wouldn’t make the dream work.
You need to make the profit with this business, and the connection between you and your desired level of benefit is the people and relationships you leverage on. The links you build are a connection between your skill and your profit, think about this process like you would do with a bridge. Without people, you cannot contact your desired goals.
More importantly, when you think about relationships, ensure that you are doing the most to build a long-term partnership with your client. It is possible that the same client will require your services or products more than once. If you don’t create a great impression or sustain the relationship for the long haul, you will miss out on such long-term opportunities.
There are five key strategies you can employ as a freelancer that will help you build and sustain the right relationships. These five strategies will act as the tools you will use to strengthen the bond you’ve got with your clients such that the links are sustainable enough always to yield positive results now and in the future.
How to develop long-term relationships
1. Be professional
This is very important if you are going to build any business relationship. It isokay to be cool, fun, and calm, but you must remember that you are operating a business as such being professional is not negotiable. When presenting your services and products to the clients and when deciding on the amount to receive as payment, make sure you are licensed.
Even if you are familiar with the client, maintain a culture of professionalism that insist on being firm with how you handle your business and not allowing familiarity to breed incompetence and mediocrity. Always Focus on getting the job done and make sure you are putting in your best as well.
Professional freelancers only discuss the job; your client isn’t your colleague neither is him/her your best pal. So, unless the client starts to exhibit friendly gestures (Which you should be mindful of) hold your peace by being professional enough to consider only the job at hand and how to execute it successfully.
Always seek ways of getting better professionally with the way you communicate with clients as the next point takes you through the process of building stronger communication channels.
2. Build strong communication channels
Sometimes if you sit still and trace the reason for the problems you have with clients on your freelance journey, you will discover that is usually because of a breach in communication or a gap in communication that makes things unclear to both of you.
For you to avoid such communication gaps, you must be keen on interacting with the client(s) clearly through channels that are without communication barriers. You must make it your number one priority to always clarify on issues, comments, and remarks about the way you work. Do not allow the client to assume anything; let your communication channel be so secure that no problems are arising from the conversation with them.
In a bid to be clear on what the client wants, you may have to ask multiple questions. Ask all the items you wish to because it is better for you to ask than assume and make mistakes. A proper communication channel also portrays you as a freelancer who is concerned with details, and this is a trait client look out for.
Speak or chat with the client in clear terms, avoid verbose words, and provide direct answers to questions asked. These are some of the things you can do to strengthen your communication channel.
3. Provide outstanding customer service
As you communicate excellently, ensure that your customer service is also impeccable. A large percentage of business growth is determined by customer care service; clients will decide if they are going to come back for your service or not based on how you treated them. So if you are unsure about your customer service, go back now and have a review so you can make it better for the long-term plans.
The client is the customer, and if he/she isn’t satisfied with the kind of service you offered, there will be problems. Long-term relationships such as the ones you want to have with clients must be built on the foundation of satisfaction for both parties. However, you are the freelancer looking jobs and wanting to connect so you should be more concerned about how the client feels about you.
Request for feedback, ask questions on how you can make the experience better for them, and always reply messages and inquiries with a pleasant disposition. Customer service goes a very long way with clients; don’t take it lightly.
4. Be reliable
One of the hallmarks of excellent customer service is being trustworthy. You can build a great relationship with clients when they know that you are a reliable freelancer. Make no mistakes about this, being reliable is a virtue that is gradually becoming eroded because so many freelancers are fixated on the money and not on impact anymore.
When you tell a client that him/her will get the job you are working on at a specific time, do everything within your power to make that time a reality.
Avoid the “Disappointment” thread that involves freelancers delivering jobs late and, in some cases, not delivering at all.
A reliable freelancer is an asset to clients because they are aware that whatever is given to such a freelancer will be handled excellently. So, make up your mind to be reliable today. Give realistic deadlines, be clear about changes with content, and if there will be delays communicate expressly to the client.
We live in a time where it seems like some work values are beginning to fade away and the only to reinstate these values is to uphold them daily continually. Be reliable, and you wouldn’t have to look for clients; they will come running to you because excellence is an attractive force that pulls the right people to you.
5. Be humane
As you build and sustain reliability remember to be sympathetic in all your affairs. Clients will always be connected to a freelancer who is extremely skillful and compassionate. Avoid being harsh on the client when there are mistakes from his/her briefs. Be clear about how the work will be delivered and always reach out when you encounter issues.
By being humane, I am talking about being conscious of the fact that you are dealing with a human being as well. The way you speak, act, and relate to the client should be done sweetly enough to spark a feeling of satisfaction in the client.
Being humane doesn’t mean you should give unrealistic flattery or expectations. It just means you should communicate with the client as you would do to your friend while maintaining a very professional approach.
Your ability to combine being humane and being professional while producing excellent results is what makes you stand out.
A freelancer who is humane will have clients coming back to him/her because aside from skills, people are also in search of a pleasant experience; give them the best experience they’ve ever had, and you will have their loyalty for a long time.
When we get to the chapter on “Reliability,” you will gain further insight into how vital relationships are but until we get there to utilize these strategies most effectively by ensuring that the links you nurture are built to last for the long haul.
Now you may start with just one client, in the beginning, ensure that this one client remains loyal to you by using the strategies in this book. Don’t wait until you’ve got so many clients before going ahead to utilize these steps.
Be the most professional, reliable, humane, outstanding freelancer clients will ever meet and then finish it all up with excellent communication channels.
You will be able to leverage these relationships in the future and count on the clients to bring in a lot of referrals that increase your visibility and bring more jobs your way. With long-term relationships; it is a win-win situation for everyone.
In the next chapter, we will delve into the concept of value and how a freelancer should utilize value as a tool to succeed in the freelance sector.
Value is always so crucial, especially in the world of business, so head over to that chapter and do enjoy the read.