Communicating with clients
As we've already discussed in this section, existing clients are much more likely to give you more work and indeed recommend you to colleagues and even friends. You're a known quantity to that client, therefore, you understand their business to a certain level. Also, you have delivered well in the past so the 80/20 rule fits nicely here, whereby 80 percent of your sales come from just 20 percent of your customer base.
How do you develop client relationships to the point where you're the first person that springs to mind when they've got a new project coming up?
Regular communication is always key, but this comes in many formats.
Ask for feedback
A client questionnaire shows you are committed to giving your clients the best service possible. It also shows you value their opinion.
Not only that but it gives you a valuable opportunity to notice any problems, either with that client or with all clients, before those clients go elsewhere. A short, easy questionnaire that can be completed online or via email is essential. You will need to take up as little time of your clients as possible. Having them complete the survey online will ensure that they can be honest without having to give negative feedback face to face.
Only ask questions on aspects of your service that you can (or are willing to) change though. If you aren't willing to lower your rate you could re-phrase a question on whether your rate is favourable to that of offering good value. This insight could give you an opportunity to explain what you do 'behind the scenes' for the rate that the client may not be aware of. Questions you should be asking are whether you delivered to their expectation (or better still, more than they expected) if your service met their needs and the quality of your work. Additional questions on whether your communication was clear, would the client recommend you to others, and how could your service be improved upon will also help you 'fine tune' your business.
A simple Word form with a rating for each question may show up some patterns over time that will allow you to adapt your service as necessary.
If a client gives you negative feedback then be upfront about it; say what you're prepared to do to put the problem right (either for that client and/or changing how you carry out your services generally). Most clients will acknowledge that errors will happen, it's your actions afterwards to rectify it that will count. If you handle the situation well, you should be able to turn such an incident around, resulting in a loyal client gained. Therefore, don't take it personally, see it as a positive to improve what you do.
If you regularly work for a client you need only ask twice a year unless you feel a particular project didn't run smoothly and you're unsure why.
Follow up after delivery
It's all too easy to move on to the next project once your work for a client is signed, sealed and delivered. However, a telephone call inquiring as to the success of your last project will demonstrate your interest and ongoing commitment to your client. Does the website need adapting/updating/maintaining? Has the PR opened up new opportunities that need to be acted upon? Throughout Freelance UK we always say that you should maintain a simple database of client contact details and a record of each project. You might also want to keep any other relevant information that will help you build a better working relationship. You can schedule dates and notes to help you be more creative and relevant to what you put in that message.
Keeping in touch
Knowing the dates of forthcoming events for your client gives you the opportunity to drop them a 'Good luck' email, a card at the end of the year thanking them for their continued support throughout the year, a thank you letter after project completion, postcards thanking clients for their payment or client newsletters where you link to your latest portfolio. Perhaps send them a link to an article they might find of interest. A telephone call to see if there's anything you can be helping them with twice a year will go much further than an email when keeping you fresh in a client's busy mind too.
The above communication should contribute to building a lasting, profitable relationship with your clients.
More on dealing with clients as a freelancer.