Starting a small business of any type, and in any field, is always a difficult process, and it only gets more difficult if you don’t know how to develop a relationship and a great rapport with your clients.
There are many complicated and complex steps to owning and operating a small business, and many of these steps can break down and become headache inducing if communication between business owners and clients is not properly managed.
Owners and freelancers alike are often so focused on their creative output that they don’t have time to stop and consider their relationships with the clients that are asking for that creative output.
If you develop and design websites, the clients you interact with won’t care nearly as much about your technical and design acumen as they do about your ability to help them reach and maintain quality, as well as speak and work with them in a way which conveys your professionalism and experience.
Here are some tips to help you build lasting relationships with clients in the website design field.
- Be able to make and receive payments without delay
- Take a personal and long-term interest in your clients
- Always be building toward something greater for your business
Create A Process And Stick To It
Beginning freelancers often make the mistake of starting their new business without a contract or steps to take payments. This is a fairly large mistake, as without a structure in place to make and receive payments, many freelancers find themselves stiffed for a job well done. A recent study has shown that nearly sixty percent of freelancers have not been paid for a job at some point in their career.
Developing a payment method greatly reduces the risk of getting stiffed, and helps you create a routine which is easy to follow for both yourself and the clients you work with. In addition, clients who see you don’t have a payment structure in place will be fare more likely to take advantage of you and take your skills and business methods less seriously.
This is a poor first impression on clients and only erodes the value of the work you’ll do for them in the present and future.
Face Your Speaking Fears
Another common mistake freelancers make is hiding behind their e-mail in the hopes of not having to talk directly with clients. This is an understandable fear; after all, public speaking (and we can safely assume public speaking extends to interactions with new clients) is the number one fear in the country, ahead of even death.
Although this is a common fear, you’ll need to overcome it if you plan on being an effective and successful freelancer.
The face-to-face meeting, even in this time of digital communication and lockdowns, is one of the most fundamental and important characteristics of the business world, and you’ll need to know how and when to address clients directly.
Digital communications are great when everyone is on the same page, but when you need to ask a question or solve a problem for your clients, they’ll most likely want to sit down and talk it out in person. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this. You must talk physically to clients from time to time.
Understand Your Clients
Obviously, you should know the business needs of clients. Why they’re coming to you rather than a competitor, what exactly they’re looking for from your skill set, and any specific demands for each individual project. But you’re your own boss now, and as such, it’s your responsibility to know clients on a deeper level than this.
Clients are people, and people enjoy being listened to and knowing that the person on the other end of the table is taking their problems seriously and can reciprocate warmth and empathy.
This is another counter intuitive step for many young freelancers, as the decision to jump into business for themselves dictates a no-holds-barred, everyone for themselves mentality at the outset.
While this mentality can be helpful for keeping yourself safe, productive, and innovative in the business landscape, its more often than not the wrong approach to take directly when dealing with clients and their concerns.
Take some time out of your day to speak to your clients about their home lives and any personal issues they might be having. Shed a layer or two of your business persona and connect with them on a human level.
This is can feel like a small, insignificant step, but it speaks volumes about your character and your commitment to keeping them satisfied and taken care of in a professional setting.
Think Long Term
A similar but crucial piece of advice for young freelancers is to start thinking about your clients in the long-term. As an employee of an established business, you rarely need to think about what it takes to keep clients onboard, but when you work for yourself, this should be one of the pressing concerns in your day to day activities.
Competition does exist, and you’ll need to understand why your clients are sticking with you and what you can do to keep them in this state of pleasant satisfaction for years down the road.
How else can you help them with their needs? What other relevant steps can you take to ensure they don’t run off to a competitor the second they lower their prices or come out with a new product or service you don’t have? Asking yourself these questions daily is a great step to keep your clients happy and satisfied with your service and keep them under your wing for the foreseeable future.
When running a freelancing operation, it’s not about accumulating the highest number of clients, but keeping existing clients with your service and coming back for more on a consistent basis.
Always Be Developing
You should always be developing, and not just developing websites. When you work for yourself, you need to take every opportunity to question and learn, practicing what you do well and improving on those things you don’t. Great businesses are always innovating and rarely, if ever, rest on their laurels.
The same should go for your small business or freelance operation; don’t ask yourself how you can keep yourself comfortable and able to kick back and relax. Instead, ask yourself what you’re not currently doing that you should be, in terms of keeping current clients happy and attracting new ones to the best of your ability.