What do you do to impress your clients?
Beyond the obvious, of course. You already know to do things like meeting deadlines or answering emails promptly. Everyone does (or should do) those things.
So what do you do when you want to stand out?
It’s so important to make a great impression right from the beginning. After all, unless you’ve got a ground-breaking start-up business that no one has ever done before, there are probably a lot of people out there doing what you do. So what’s going to set you apart?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because January brought three new clients onto my plate, which is awesome, of course! But also a little stressful. I’m a bit Type-A and a bit of a perfectionist, and I want to make sure the people I work with are as excited about working together — and as pleased with the results — as I am.
How do I go above and beyond for my clients?
#1. Don’t try to sell — try to help.
Last month, I was on the phone with a potential client trying to seal the deal. They wanted someone to take over their blog but were unsure about their social media. So they asked if I would want to take over those channels.
Now, I could have said yes and gotten myself an extra chunk of revenue each month. But the truth was, their marketing person was already doing a great job with their social media channels. Could I have done as good a job? Sure. Could I have done way better? Probably not. Trying to upsell them wouldn’t have helped the client out.
So I told them that I’d want to work closely with the person responsible for social media. It would probably be the best use of their resources to focus more on the blog, and the marketing person would continue to handle social media.
The client was blown away that I hadn’t tried to push for more work and incredibly grateful that I had been so honest. The lesson here? Focus on what will genuinely help the client, not you. Then, you’re more likely to land the job.
#2. Let them know your boundaries and ask for theirs.
As a freelance writer, it can be really hard to set boundaries. I work from home, so the office is always there. My work email is always there. I have clients in different time zones and half a dozen deadlines to juggle on any given day.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of working all the time, every chance I can. Being constantly available for any client whenever they need me. But quite honestly, that’s a terrible way to work. It makes me unhappy, it makes the quality of what I produce go down, and it ultimately doesn’t serve me, clients. (Or my husband, who would like it if I paid attention to him occasionally.)
So, along with a contract, I’ve started sending each client a friendly email letting them know how I prefer to work and communicate. I also ask for their preferences. It’s not formal or demanding, but it does include things like,
– I won’t call you unexpectedly if you won’t call me unexpectedly.
– In an attempt to have an actual life outside of work, I try not to respond to emails or phone calls after 6:00 pm EST on weekdays, and I only check my work email 1-2 times on weekends. I think you should do the same! So if I email you on the weekend or at night, please feel free to ignore it until the morning or Monday. Of course, if we have a project deadline over a weekend, this will change. But in general, I think we’ll both be happier if we can have some time to ourselves!
– I always try to work ahead of schedule, but extending a timeline without warning isn’t fair to other clients whose projects I’ve accepted. If you need to move “end” dates upon any specific projects, please let me know promptly.
I was a little nervous to start doing this and uncertain how clients would react. But turns out they appreciate it! Smartphones and the internet have changed the way we communicate so much in the last few years that many people are unsure what’s okay or not. By sending them a few “guidelines,” I not only ensure that they know my boundaries, but I also permit them to set their own.
#3. Ask for their feedback after each project.
I use FreshBooks accounting software, and one of the good ideas those folks have come up with is the option to request feedback from a client after you enter a payment.
I take it a step further, though. Instead of sending a generic template from FreshBooks, I take the time to put together an email of my own. It’s not complicated or long, but it is genuine and usually looks something like this:
Just wanted to send a quick email to let you know that I received your final payment. On behalf of freelancers everywhere, thank you for being so prompt! It is much appreciated.
I also wanted to check in and see if you had any feedback, thoughts, or suggestions about our time working together. I thought it was a great experience (with lots of interesting information for me to learn about!), but of course, I’d love to hear your perspective as well. Also, if there’s anything I could have done to make things go more smoothly for you or make the process more satisfying, I hope you’ll let me know.
Or, if you felt great about working together, I hope you’ll be willing to favor me with a testimonial! Your review would be a great asset to my site, and I’d love to feature it. You can either send me a note by email or leave a testimonial on my LinkedIn page.
Again, thanks so much for the chance to work together. I hope we’re able to do so again soon!
The response to this email is usually a little bit of feedback, occasionally a testimonial, and almost always a big thank you for making the impersonal world of internet collaboration a little friendlier and more pleasant. It leaves me feeling good about my work and my clients thinking positively about our time working together. Win-win.
#4. Say thank you.
You say thank you right after a project. But what about down the road?
Every New Year, I send an e-card to my clients (I use Paperless Post because their designs are so classy), thanking them for the chance to work together in the past year (and reminding them that we could do it again this year!) It’s a great way to check in with clients that might have another project coming up. But more than that, it’s really how I feel.
I love the work I do and the freedom it allows me over my life. But I wouldn’t have any of that without my amazing clients, the people who take a chance on my work. So I must let them know they aren’t just another paid invoice to me.
Make sure your clients know how much you value the chance to work together. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year, of course. You could send a personalized thank you card after every project or after each quarter (or after you pay your taxes!) A little genuine appreciation goes a long way.