When it comes to client relationships and winning ongoing projects, you need to become someone they can trust and rely on.
There are 7 Cs that I’ve found work well for me, and I’ve found that I’m far more likely to rehire freelancers who demonstrate them when working with me too.
So what are they?
- Continual improvement
- PunCtual delivery
- Effective Communication
Let’s drill down a little into what I mean by each.
Your confidence needs to come across in every aspect of a client project. Do you seem confident in your abilities? Are you confident when talking with them? Are you confident about asking questions? Or do you umm and ahh and ehh and “Can I maybe come back to you, maybe?”
It’s ok to not have all the questions and information at hand. What’s not ok is being trepidatious. If you need to look into something, say so. Don’t bluff it or let your nerves at not knowing EVERYTHING come through.
When clients know you’re confident in your ability, they’re going to be much more confident in your ability too.
Leading on from the confidence, clarity is about being clear on what the project is and what your role in it is. As always, if you aren’t sure of something, ask. But also make sure you listen.
You know that old adage, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”?
It’s not technically true. A stupid question is one you ask again and again because you weren’t paying attention (and yes, it happens).
When working with someone new and building up their confidence in you, it can be worthwhile to shoot across an email after a briefing to restate or reframe the ask and ensure you’re on the same page. Be clear on what you’ll deliver, when you’ll deliver it, how and when you’ll check in, and all the things!
It also helps ensure you deliver what they actually need.
Consistency here refers to the consistent quality of your work, but it can also apply to how you show up. When you hire someone, you expect the same, or improving, quality every time. What you don’t want is someone who’s consistently hit and miss.
As a copywriter myself, when I hire other writers I expect the same quality on every project. If one’s good and the next is so far off the mark, I can’t rely on them – I just don’t know what to expect. Will it be good, will it be bad, will it be ok, will it be completely shit? The first project should level-set and every subsequent one should be at least of the same quality, or better.
We don’t need massive improvement on each project, but what we do need to demonstrate is that we’ve taken note of any feedback and revisions on previous projects and incorporated them into the next. Even tiny things, like contractions, matter. If I share revisions that include changing “that is” to “that’s”, I expect that writer to always use “that’s” and not “that is” going forward – unless I’ve specifically called out otherwise.
For a client, every little change adds up. Consistently ignoring even minor feedback adds up in the form of mental and emotional energy drainage. Life’s hard enough so, as copywriters, we should do our bit to make things just a little easier.
I keep all the little nuances between clients in my head (though I really should create a database of them somewhere). One client likes “eCommerce”, another (at the same company!) prefers “e-commerce”. Does it matter to me? Not really. I have my preference, sure, but I’m willing to go with whichever the client wants because it makes their life a little easier.
Yes, yes, I know. This one’s a little cheat on the C theme but it’s still important.
If a client has set a deadline, hit it.
If you can’t meet a deadline, let them know as early as possible.
If you’re not sure of the deadline, ASK!
Making your client sit around waiting for you to deliver or, worse, send you “Hey – is this still coming?” emails is not on.
If you’re not reliable, you’re not repeatable.
You’d think this one’s a given but even professional communicators can fail to communicate.
Unless you have a super-quick project, you should be checking in with your clients on a regular basis. How you do this will depend on the client’s style, how big the project is or how valuable it is to your business.
For some clients, a quick Slack message is enough. For others, I have weekly calls.
These check-ins generally cover:
- Progress updates – what’s going on, what’s been done, where things are at
- Reminders on timelines – when things need to be delivered to me or when I’ll be delivering each asset
- Questions or problems that have arisen
- Updates on any changes in project focus or asset priority
But beyond that, it’s important to be super proactive when things go wrong.
Life happens, and clients get that, but hiding away and hoping you’ll somehow magically hit a deadline that you know is now impossible is not doing you any favours. Regardless the reason, be upfront when things aren’t going to plan and tell clients early. No one wants to hear on the deadline (or worse, after it) that a project is running late. There could be multiple people (like designers, videographers, web devs, and more), relying on you hitting your deadline. If they know a week or even a few days ahead of time, plans can be made.
Clients aren’t friends, but they also kind of are.
At the heart of this one is the realisation that clients are people. You may be hunting a big name business, but it’s the people who’ll be working with you. And people like working with people they like. And that makes connection important.
The connection you have with each of your clients will differ. Some will want to get to know a little about you and your life. Others will want to feel that you get them or want you to be their confidant. A lot of the client relationship comes down to one question:
Do I like this person?
And you should have the same question too, because if you don’t like someone or don’t like working with them, you’re not going to deliver your best and you’re going to bring unnecessary stress to your life and theirs.
That good old saying you hear in movies all the time? “It’s not personal.” That’s a lie. Business is personal because people are personal.
Of course, don’t go and whinge about your partner not doing the dishes and all the stresses in your life. But don’t shut down and block any question about how your weekend was either.
I’d throw in another one about matching a client’s energy for a project (it might seem boring to you, but they’re super excited so you should be too), but I couldn’t find a “C” for that. 😉
So what do you think? Is there anything I’ve missed? Anything you’ve not considered before in managing your client relationships? Comment below and let’s build better client relationships together.