Yesterday I talked about the qualities of a dream client. Most client projects are a two-way street, so now I’m going to focus on all you freelancers out there. Here’s a few suggestions for how to make sure every project goes as smoothly as possible. Following these guidelines will also help you gain a great reputation, get good referrals and earn repeat business.
1. It’s not about you, it’s about the client. This should be obvious but its easily forgotten. The client isn’t there for you, you are there for the client. Everything you do needs to be focused on the client’s needs and how you can best serve them. You can’t always please everyone, but you should sure bend over backwards to try. Your goal should be to make the client look good for hiring you.
2. Ask questions and listen carefully. Gather as much information as you can about the project and about the client’s expectations. If you are unsure about something, ask. As the project moves along, keep asking questions. Listen carefully to the answers. Take notes. If you aren’t sure about something, repeat back what you think the client is trying to say so that they can correct any misunderstandings. The more you learn about the client’s needs and expectations, the easier it will be for you to help them.
3. Educate your clients gently and patiently. Clients often have misconceptions and misunderstandings about the creative process. Don’t assume that they understand why you make the decisions that you do. Be ready and willing to explain your reasons and to answer all their questions. Help them understand why your solution is the best one for them.
4. Don’t be a yes-man. If you are really putting the client’s best interests first, you shouldn’t be afraid to let them know if you think they are making a wrong creative decision. After all, you’re the expert. That’s why they hired you. Just be polite, friendly and tactful.
5. Accept compromises gracefully. You are the expert on creative issues, but the client is the expert when it comes to their product and their customers’ needs. Not every suggestion you make can or will be implemented. Sometimes all you can do is politely speak your mind and then roll with the punches. There are a lot of decision makers on most projects and compromise is inevitable. Speak your mind politely and firmly, then then work with the client to find the best solution.
6. Never, ever miss a deadline. Ever. If you sense you are falling behind, for whatever reason, let the client know immediately. If you are honest and upfront about it, most clients will respect you for it and try to work with you. Often a deadline extension can be granted if you just ask. If not, then burn the midnight oil until the deadline is met. If worst comes to worst a client can still print mediocre artwork, but they can’t print a blank page.
7. If the client is going over budget let them know immediately. Often projects evolve, ideas change, and deadlines get pushed up. If the client is asking you for more than you originally agreed to or it looks like the project will cost more than your initial estimate, let them know right away. The last thing any client wants is to be surprised by the invoice. Politely say something like, “That’s a great suggestion and I’m happy to help you out, but it’s more than we originally agreed to and will cost $X more.”
However, if you underestimated your time to begin with don’t say a word. It’s your own fault so just bite the bullet and learn from your mistake. It’s unreasonable (and unprofessional) to raise the client’s fee to compensate for your own poor judgment.
I’m sure there’s more that could be said. Leave a comment and let me know what else, in your opinion, makes a dream freelancer.
Also, for more information on freelancing check out my Recommended Resources page on Amazon.com.