A Freelancer's Guide to Building Strong Client Relationships

The cornerstone of a successful freelance career begins with strong client relationships – they are the heart and soul of your freelance business. Without clients, you have no business. In order to be a successful freelancer, it’s imperative that you manage expectations, not just of yourself, but also of your clients. Consider the following when developing your freelance business and developing client relationships.

Determine Your Ideal Client

At the start of your freelance career, you may have the tendency to take on any and every client that needs your services. However, saying “yes” to every project that falls in your lap can come with its headaches and frustrations, as no two clients or projects are the same. The first step in maintaining a successful freelance business is to take on clients and projects that you want to work with and that will help you grow as a freelance professional. To do this, determine who your ideal client is and what type of projects you like to work on. You can start by listing out the technologies you are most comfortable with and the industries you’d like to work in. When an opportunity presents itself, determine if the project and the client align with your desired characteristics. Understand that the potential for frustration exists even in the most ideal situations. Having patience as a freelancer can go a long way, as many clients see this as a strong quality.

Client Onboarding

Once you’ve been presented with an opportunity that aligns with your skill set, it’s time to vet the client and the project. To do this, we recommend that you develop an onboarding process that you can use for all of your clients. Your onboarding process should allow you to qualify clients and understand their goals before taking on the project. This onboarding process is really meant to establish the scope of work, the client’s expected outcomes, and the deadlines you may need to adhere to. As a starting point, your onboarding procedure should touch on each of the following points:
  1. Scope of work required to complete the project.
  2. Technologies needed.
  3. What are the goals that my client wants to achieve?
  4. Timeline to complete the project?
It’s also a good idea to research potential clients by browsing their website and checking out their LinkedIn and Glassdoor profiles as well. Understanding who your client is, what their needs are, and when they expect a final product can help you manage expectations and develop lasting relationships with your clients.

Establishing Trust Through Transparency & Communication

For many businesses, looking for external support in the form of a freelancer can be a risky endeavour. For this reason, you, as a freelancer, must go out of your way to instil a level of trust in your clients. After all, you want your clients to feel comfortable working with you and to have confidence in your work. Once you’ve reached a level of comfort working with one another, the stronger your relationship becomes. In order to establish trust with your client, it is essential that you exercise transparency in your client relationships and have open lines of communication. Transparency is just another way of saying “be honest.” Be transparent with your clients from the very beginning. Avoid surprising them at all costs. If you can’t complete a project by a specified time, let the client know as soon as you can. If you are not well versed in a particular technology or programming language, then be honest with your client about your abilities and skill set. There is nothing worse than disappointing your client halfway through a project. Remember, time is money. In line with transparency is the need for communication. Having great communication skills makes the task of building strong client relationships and managing expectations much easier. If possible, establish multiple lines of communication, such as email, phone, or Slack. Allow the client to feel comfortable communicating with you. And, communicate with your clients often. Better communication leads to better client relationships.

Deliver Quality Work

You don’t have to be the world’s greatest JavaScript developer. But, as a freelancer, you may have heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for.” Typically, this is used when a freelancer feels as though they are not being paid enough for the work that is being asked of them. This results in low quality work. If you adhere to this standard, you and your client will both end up dissatisfied with the relationship. Assuming that you’ve qualified your client through your onboarding process and have established trust with your client, there is no reason that you should not make every effort to produce stellar work for your client. Every project you work on should be an opportunity for you to put your skills to the test and create portfolio-worthy work.

Go Above & Beyond

Sometimes, the quality of your work can only take you so far. Your client relationships can make or break your freelance business. When the ideal client comes along, put in a little extra effort to “wow” your client. Take initiative, suggest new ideas, and go above and beyond for your client. Doing so will strengthen your freelancer-client relationship and lead to more work in the future.

Concluding Thoughts

While becoming a freelancer is as simple as leaving your 9 to 5 and building up your client list. It’s important to remember that maintaining a successful freelance career requires a certain level of initiative and patience. Understand that each client is going to be different from the next, and your ability to cater to each individual client’s needs will dictate your success as a freelancer. When building your clientele, take a “quality over quantity” approach. Find clients that you genuinely want to work with, and put in a little extra effort to nurture those client relationships.
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