Get 16 simple tactics to provide remarkable service, turn your clients into raving fans and brand ambassadors, and earn more referrals for your freelance business.
If you have been a freelancer for any length of time, you know how difficult it can be to create a constant, steady stream of qualified clients who are happy to pay your worth.
From marketing and social media efforts to networking and advertising to strategic partnerships and public speaking, it takes time, energy, and effort to persuade a stranger to hire you or buy from you. Luckily, it is much easier to sell new projects and more work to existing clients who already love you than it is to sell to strangers, and it’s also easier to provide every client with such remarkable service that they refer you to everyone they know.
Referrals are critical to the success of a service based business, especially if you’re freelancing, and personal referrals from someone a prospect already trusts will help you build trust faster, establish rapport easier, and close sales faster.
Here are 16 simple tactics to provide remarkable service, turn your freelance clients into raving fans and brand ambassadors, and earn more referrals:
01. Answer The Phone
There is a huge number of web designers and web developers that don’t like talking on the phone and don’t want to talk on the phone. They only want to work and communicate by email, through a project management system, or a ticket system. Don’t be one of these people. Don’t sabotage the potential success of your freelance business.
Business is personal. People want to do business with other people, especially people they know, like, and trust, and they want to be able to talk to you. Stand out and be more helpful than the competition by simply answering the phone and being willing to have a conversation.
02. Respond To Email
When you’re up against a deadline and you’ve got more work to do than hours in the day, I know it can be easy to ignore email. I also know that it’s easy to read an email, set the intention to respond later, get busy, and forget, then see it again, intend to respond later, and forget again. Being overworked is no picnic, but paying clients need to hear from you and receive a response to their emails.
Do your best to respond to client emails the same day or at least within 24 hours. If they have a complicated question or their message requires you to do some research or work you don’t have time for at the moment, that’s okay!
Simply respond and say something like:
“Hi! Thanks for reaching out. I’m booked solid on deadline for the next two days, but didn’t want to leave you hanging. I got your message I can definitely look into this on Thursday and get back to you then.”
This quick note ensures that your client receives a positive response, shows that you are on top of things, and demonstrates your commitment to the work you’re hired for.
03. Be Fully Present
When meeting with a client, whether by phone, email, video chat, or in person, be completely present. Leave your phone in the car or in the other room on silent, close your browser, close Slack, close social media, and close email.
Never try to get other things done while interacting one on one with your client. They’ve invested in you and your services and you owe it to them to provide your full attention.
04. Really, Truly Listen
When interacting with your client, listen to everything they say and if possible, communicate in person or through video chat so you can not only hear their voice but see their facial expressions and body language.
As the expert hired and the leader of the project at hand, you need to make sure that you understand their client, what they need, what they say, and what they mean, because what they say and what they mean aren’t always the same thing. By taking the time to listen, you’ll help your client feel valued, cared for, and understood, and you’ll also be more valued and appreciated.
05. Write Things Down
I hate it when I go to a restaurant, place my order with the server, and they don’t write anything down. Unfortunately, due to food allergies and past cancer, we usually have to make some type of modification to what we order, and when the server takes orders for the whole table and writes nothing down, it doesn’t impress. Instead, it causes stress because I know that at least one thing is not going to come out correct and will need to be sent back.
The same thing is true for your client projects. Never assume that you’re going to remember everything, because you’re not, especially if you don’t do the work discussed right away. Write everything down. Get a dedicated notebook to keep all client project notes in, create a folder where all of your project notes and paperwork are stored, or take notes in your project management software during a meeting.
However you do it, just make sure you do it. Taking notes will ensure nothing gets forgotten or falls through the cracks.
06. Communicate Clearly
Chances are, your clients don’t work in your industry. This means your clients don’t do what you do and don’t speak the same language you do. They may not understand the jargon, acronyms, and terms you use, or the process and how things work. And sometimes, even when they say they understand, they don’t or they understand it differently than you do.
Confusion creates frustration and misunderstandings that can negatively impact the experience a client has working with you, so throughout the entire project, communicate clearly and explain everything in detail. The goal should be no confusion and zero misunderstanding.
07. Communicate Often
There is no such thing as too much communication, especially when dealing with something technical like building a website. However, clear communication isn’t enough, you also need regular communication. From start to finish, it is imperative that you communicate with your client every step of the way about what is happening now, what will happen next, and what they can expect, as well as what you are doing and what you need them to do.
08. Show Empathy
The client is going to run into a problem or challenge during your work together. The work you need them to do is going to be too hard, it’s going to take longer than they think, their own work will get in the way or their personal life will get in the way, they may get sick, a family member may get sick, they may get in a car accident or get mugged, their house could catch fire or flood, their car could get stolen, their identity could be stolen, or they could get snowed in on vacation or injured while snowboarding.
In the past thirteen years running my agency Bourn Creative, I have run into every one of these problems and more, and all have delayed projects. While some problems and delays are a result of procrastination and laziness, many problems your clients encounter are out of their control.
When a client is struggling, be understanding and show empathy. Work with them to come up with a solution and plan of action or adjust the project timeline as needed. Remember that you’re working with real people with real feelings and they are at some point going to need extra support beyond technical support.
09. Ask Questions
When a client knows what they want or thinks they know what they want, it can be really easy, especially when you’re really busy, to get lazy and become an implementer instead of a project leader. But be careful just giving the client exactly what they ask for, because they don’t know what they don’t know and what they ask for may not be what’s best. Listen to what your client wants and needs, then dig deeper and ask questions to discover the why behind each requirement.
When you ask the right questions and learn the reasoning behind the client’s actions and desires, you can provide higher quality consulting, make better recommendations and suggestions, and create a better overall product that will help them achieve their goals.
10. Look To The Future
Yes, you need to know the client’s problem, understand the results desired, and create a solution to deliver the desired results. But you can’t just think about what the client wants right now. You also need to investigate what the client plans on doing in the future and what their vision is for their business.
The last thing you want is for a client to invest thousands of dollars to build a website and in a year, when they want to add a new feature, be told they have to start over. By looking to the future early, you can create a solution that not only delivers exactly what the client needs right now but a solution that can grow and evolve with them as their business grows and evolves.
11. Send A Handwritten Note
Bills. Junk. Garbage. Bills. Junk. Bills. Garbage… That’s the experience most people have when going through their mail. But what if you changed that? What if your clients experienced something different? What if the next time they check the mail, they experience: Bills. Junk. Garbage. Bills. Junk. Bills. Oooh! What’s this?!
With so much communication and follow up happening digitally, it’s easy to stand out from the competition by taking the time to send your clients a handwritten note in a real greeting card and a colorful envelope. Thank them for hiring you, welcome them to the project, congratulate them on the launch of their website, or let them know how much you enjoyed working with them.
12. Provide Bonuses
Before beginning your work together, you provided the client a proposal, they read through it, signed it, and paid a deposit. This means that your client knows exactly what they get for the investment made. While delivering everything promised on time, in budget, and error-free will ensure the client is satisfied, providing some surprise bonuses along the way can turn a satisfied client into a true raving fan and brand ambassador.
This is exactly why Profitable Project Plan, my done-for-you client management course, includes several bonus ebooks on topics from website content and SEO to links and email marketing and crafting an elevator pitch. When these ebooks are gifted to clients as bonuses to help them get more out of their website, they are thrilled!
13. Champion The Objectives
It is inevitable that at some point you’re going to have a client who doesn’t agree with your design decisions, wants to make changes you don’t agree with, or second-guesses your work. Instead of getting defensive, take a deep breath and refer back to the objectives outlined at the beginning of the project.
Always put the core objectives and the client’s business first, and make every decision based on the achievement of those objectives and the improvement of their business. This will not only make it easier to get the client on board with your decisions, but they’ll be happier knowing that you’re thinking things through and helping them make the best decisions.
14. Throw In An Extra
If you worry about scope creep and how to best deal with extra requests that are outside a project’s original agreed upon scope of work, you’re not alone. It can be tough to say no to extra requests from clients, especially when in some cases when you give an inch, the client demands a mile. As a freelancer, it can also be tough to talk about change orders, increased fees, extended timelines.
But what’s not very tough is saying yes and telling your client that you are more than happy to take care of that extra request. The key is planning ahead for generosity so your time is still covered. When estimating the project, add in an hour or two of bonus time. This way you have a little wiggle room to be able to accommodate an extra request from your client without working for free. Just make sure you set boundaries on the work.
15. Check In Regularly
Throughout your work together, you will speak with your client about the design, revisions, decisions that need to be made, content, launch planning, and their website training. All of those conversations are centered around specific tasks related to the project deliverables and milestones, which is good, but not enough.
Check in with your client separately from the project-specific communications to see how things are going — and don’t wait until something has gone wrong or there is a problem. Instead, reach out at regular intervals during the project to make sure the client is having a great experience and their expectations are being met or exceeded. Making this practice a habit will help build stronger relationships.
16. Own Mistakes Quickly
If a project does hit a snag, there is a problem, or a mistake is made, address it right away and own it without hesitation. Don’t try to pass the blame, throw someone else under the bus, or deflect. Take ownership of the issue, admit what happened, present the solution, and apologize.
Most clients understand that no one and no company is perfect and that accidents happen, and they are usually open to your solutions. What they won’t understand or tolerate is avoidance, neglect, procrastination, delays, and blame. When things go wrong, it’s not fun for anyone, but when you check your ego at the door and always do what is best for your brand and the project at hand, you can’t go wrong.
Better Client Management Results In More Clients
Those with many years of experience freelancing or running a service-based business will often tell you that while they had to hustle for clients in the early years, the majority of their business now comes from referrals. Imagine that — having other people seek you out because someone they know told them how great you are!
It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon.
My web design agency near Sacramento, California has been serving clients since 2005 and when referrals became our number one source of new business, everything else became easier and less stressful because instead of us searching for new clients, new clients were seeking us out.
There is no secret to turning clients into raving fans and building a successful referral based freelance business.
All you need to do is perform the highest quality of work at all times, put your client’s business needs first, and provide remarkable service that exceeds your clients’ expectations — and with the tips in this post, you’ve got everything you need to make that happen.