Working With Clients

The word “free” may be the root of the word “freelancer” but don’t be mistaken, you are never completely free. Yes, you are free from a stringent 8-to-5 lifestyle and you are free from one boss hoarding over you however, now you just have multiple clients which means you have multiple people who are your boss.

I have been working with clients, board members and committees for close to 15 years now. I’vefound if you make sure to always take care of a couple of basics, working with clients goes a lot smoother.

Here are some highlights on how I keep my “bosses” in line.

  • The Relationship Matters – If you work with a client long enough it is inevitable: something will go wrong. It’s like the saying “sh*t happens.” Things won’t always go according to plan, middle-men will make mistakes, and well, so will you. It happens, and it happens to the best consultants and freelancers out there. When this happens, when there are no excuses, all you will have left to fall back on is your relationship – so make sure it is a strong one.

    If you have been always been honest and fair, if you have always given your clients a sense of security, your client will forgive you and you will be able to move past whatever atrocity has occurred.

  • Anticipate – My very first job was as an event planner. I planned parades, auctions, pub crawls, you name it. Since then I have planned my fair share of press conferences, trade show events, grand opening and more. I have learned that anticipating everything that can happen is the best way to run a successful event and a successful relationship with a client.

    It seems a simple mantra “be prepared.” But, you will not believe how many times I’vehad people on my teams say, “but that wasn’t supposed to happen.” Well, it did. And, those of you who at least gave some thought to a contingency plan will be better off.

    At an event it may be as simple as having a box full of tape, a stapler, scissors and Sharpies. For a freelance writer it may be ready for a client to say they don’t want to pay because they are not happy, or surprising you by asking if you will co-write something with a writer you have never met. If you think about it, you can most likely guess what different clients might do.

  • It’s in the Details – It’s expected that the freelancer or consultant pay attention to the little things. After all they are paying and, in our society that means they expect to be treated a particular way. Organization on the part of the freelancer puts a clients mind at ease, and makes them feel secure and confident. Be organized by asking questions, e.g., when is the deadline, is there a particular tone you are trying to strike, etc. Lay out your work process and your timing. Also, be diligent. If you said you will call at a certain time, do so. If the client was going to email you information and hasn’t, you follow up with the client.
  • No Surprises – Much like Wall Street for the most part clients don’t want to be surprised. They want to understand what they are paying for and know what they are getting. Talk them through situations, processes and give them lots of examples. You are providing an intangible product to them – your writing – make them feel confident in what they are likely to receive from you.

    Again, questions play a key role for example, discuss how many words they want in a piece. It’s also always good to follow up with an email detailing what you discussed, who will be responsible for what tasks and the timing of each action item. This way it will all be crystal clear and you will have a happy client who expects what you are planning to deliver!