How to build successful client relationships

Finishing up a meeting.

Building client relationships is an essential part of freelancing.

You might think your work stands for itself but in a competitive market that final decision might come down to how much a client likes you. Read our top tips to building successful client relationships…

Clients. Not only do they pay your bills, they’re also the word of mouth you need to build up your business, the source of feedback you need to keep improving – and if you’re working from home, they might be the only people you speak to all day.

Your business is only as strong as the relationships you can build up with your clients. But how exactly do you build up a successful relationship with your clients? Read our top tips to find out…

Get as detailed a brief as you can
Sometimes clients just don’t know what they want. They have an idea – or a glimpse of an idea – but it’s so vague you feel none the wiser after reading the brief.

It’s a quandary. You don’t want to pester the client for more information but the more detail you have the more chances you have of getting it right.

Make it as easy for them as possible. Having a briefing form template ready to send to clients to fill in with the information you need can be useful. If they don’t fill it in at least you can honestly say you tried your best.

Business people colleagues shaking hands meeting Planning Strategy Analysis Concept

Take the time to understand your clients
What are they about as a company? What is their ethos? What are their long-term goals? And, most importantly, what are they trying to achieve with this project? If you understand the motivation behind the brief you’re more likely to give the client what they need.

Make a clear project plan
Establishing a clear outline for the client will not only help you plan ahead, it can solidify the client’s expectations of what they want.

Once this outline is established you can work out timelines for delivery and build this into a proposal for the client with a realistic quote.

Be honest with yourself about your capabilities
Don’t write cheques your body can’t cash, as they say. It’s important to be realistic with yourself and honest with the client about what you can reasonably get done. You want expectations to be exceeded, not disappointed. And if you don’t have the resource available or requisite skills you won’t do anyone any favours by pretending you do.

Get everything signed off before you start work!
Sometimes the people briefing the work aren’t the people holding the purse strings: your contact might be wildly enthusiastic about your idea and itching to get started but until you have a signed proposal in place, keep it on the back burner.

Keep the lines of communication open
Establish how you’re going to keep in touch with the client – whether that’s email, regular calls, a messaging app or all of the above. Send regular updates and be responsive to any client questions or queries. If you’re going to be out of contact for a chunk of time during normal office hours it’s best to let them know.

Don’t try to impress clients with technical jargon or industry terms they don’t understand – be clear, straightforward and concise.

Take an interest
Remember that it’s good to have a friendly relationship with your clients (they’re people, not monsters) – ask them about their holiday, their weekend plans etc. If you forge a bond with your client beyond just perfunctory work updates it can lead to repeat business and help with networking.

You need to respect the boundaries though – this is primarily your client, not your friend – by always remaining polite and helpful.

Add value
If you’ve set realistic expectations, now is the time to exceed them. Look for creative ways you can go the extra mile and stay tuned in for any opportunities there are to expand your work within that company.

Meet your deadlines
This goes to the core of a successful client relationship. If the client perceives you to be unreliable then they are unlikely to want to work with you again, even if the end result is good.

If something goes wrong admit it
Sometimes things go wrong. It’s much better to be upfront and honest about any arising problems and deal with them head on than to try and cover them up and end up dropping the ball completely. Admitting where things aren’t working also gives you the opportunity to pre-emptively present a solution.

Sometimes the answer is no
Pushing back is hard but sometimes it’s necessary. You want to work hard for the client, you want to impress them, you want to go above and beyond to produce something you’re proud of… but if the client is consistently making unreasonable requests and taking advantage then you need to politely say no.


Posted by The Secret Businessman