How to make your clients fall in love with you
The client/freelancer relationship should be a delightful dance of give and take. Two opposites attracting and making sweet music together. If it isn’t, chances are you’re not following the Golden Rules*. Read on, and let’s dance:
1) Hit those deadlines
Don’t you just hate it when your train’s delayed. Exactly.
Rain, shine, sickness or family crisis, a deadline’s a deadline and as a professional, you have to take it seriously. But the great news is, as a freelancer, you have a right to say, “that’s not realistic, I’ll need another couple of days”. If, for whatever reason, you’re part way through a job and you simply can’t meet the deadline, you’d better let the client know as soon as possible (and don’t make a habit of it).
2) Ask questions
If something isn’t clear, ask. Even if you think it might make you look stupid, ask. The client knows more about their business than you do, so ask away. However, learn when to ask and how many questions need to be asked at once. Clients, like you, are busy. A barrage of questions squeezed into one massive email may be too much. Schedule a call, explain that you will need 15 minutes of their time. Or send them a questionnaire with a clear deadline (clients need to hit deadlines too).
3) Keep in touch
Keep clients in the picture about how their project’s coming along. Let them know when you’re going on holiday. Keep them in the loop (well in advance) about day rate increases. Just enough to keep yourself in their subconscious; not so much that you come across like a stalker.
4) Be nice
Manners go a long way. Manage awkward conversations respectfully. If you disagree with client feedback, explain yourself – without your fragile creative ego getting in the way. Clients are human too, and just like you, they respond to a bit of loving kindness. There’s nowt wrong with being nice.
5) Be firm
Being nice doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. Respect should be a two-way affair (three ways when you include self-respect). Have the courage to stand by your creative decisions. Be confident in the rates you charge. Believe in the work you produce. Let people know you’re a pro not a dabbler. Decent clients don’t mind you challenging their feedback. They hire you for your opinion, just as much as for your craft.
6) Push the brief further
By all means, give the client what they ask for, but whenever possible (which is nearly always), push the boundaries as far as you dare. Give them something to get excited about. They may not buy it every time, but they’ll see you as more than a supplier. They’ll start coming to you when they want that little bit extra.
7) Admit mistakes
It happens. We cock up now and again. Best you admit to making a mistake asap, but then find a way of rectifying it. If anything, a mistake is an opportunity to show how much you care. Like when the waiter delivers a bottle of wine “on the house”, for getting an order wrong. All of a sudden, they’re the good guy.
8) Do what you say you will
My first ever ‘Salt ‘n’ Shake’ bag of crisps didn’t have a sachet of salt in it. There was no salting or shaking that day, just a great big bag of disappointment. Empty promises are a great way to lose a client. Always deliver, and if possible, always deliver more than they were hoping for.
9) Don’t be arsey
My best client came to me because their previous Freelance Copywriter was a pain in the arse. Firmness (see above) is one thing, but a prima donna attitude is another thing all together. There are plenty of decent writers out there who are talented AND respectful – be one of them.
Most people find listening, really listening, difficult. It’s tempting to pre-guess where a client is going with their thread, to structure your response in your mind before they’ve finished talking. Stop it. Especially at the briefing and feedback stages. Just listen. Make notes, read between the lines, think about hidden meanings and what the client really needs. Listening is just as important as writing.
11) Explain yourself
Mostly, your writing will (or should) be self-explanatory. But sometimes you need to back up your thinking with rationale. If a client doesn’t ‘get it’, maybe you need to talk about context – the images that go with your words, the space your words will be seen in etc. If there’s a valid reason for why your copy works (boy, there’d better be), you need to make sure you can articulate it. There are a million and one ways to tackle a brief, your client will want to know why the one you’re presenting hits the spot.
12) Leave the door open
Not every proposal gets bought. Not every estimate comes in on budget. But you can still leave clients wanting to come back to you when the time’s right. Be helpful, be respectful (there’s that respect thing again), be the kind of Copywriter they wish they could work with – next time.
13) Be a grown up
Just because you’re a ‘creative-type’ doesn’t mean you can’t be the grown up in the room. Let people know that not only are you playful and artistic, but they can trust you to do the job, to do the right thing by them. As a Freelance Copywriter, you are a little cog in their business machine. Your work helps your client (and you) put food on the table. Take your responsibilities seriously, but make sure you have fun with them.
14) Treat everyone equally
From the Junior Junior Account Handler, to the CEO, everyone’s important. They all have feelings. And we’re all in this together. Show everyone the best side of yourself. This seems like common sense and pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how many people I’ve seen who seem to get a kick from stomping on the little guy. Never forget, that little guy will one day be the big guy and he/she may come after you with his/her size 15 stompers on.
15) Be yourself
Learn from everyone you meet. Learn from the best in the business. But also listen to yourself and be the best possible version of you that you can. People are hiring you, not a pale imitation of someone else. Fill your boots the way that only you can.
This freelance copywriting lark is a tough and competitive one. But if you look after your clients, they’ll (mostly) look after you. Now, get out there and start that love affair, you sexy beast.
Love and patience.
*These aren’t the Golden rules. They’re just common sensicals, acquired from decades in the business. You need to make your own rules, but the above should give you a nudge in the right direction.