Making the shift to freelance

The 101 On Good Client Relationships

The fundamentals of being a top-notch, hire-worthy professional

Ah, clients! They come in a myriad of different flavours: from the last-minute panickers, to the awkward always-accidentally-on-muters, to the cool, down-to-earth types (best!). 

Whatever your clients are like, they also happen to be your one-way ticket to the finer things in life. Like rent. And toilet paper. And double shot oat milk hazelnut frappuccinos. 

Long story short, it’s well within your interests to ensure that you nurture your professional relationships with them. And yup, we know: people-ing is hard - but lucky for you, a few simple gestures go a long way.

Here are a few of our top tips.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY!

Yes, we did just over-dramatically use an exclamation mark there: because it’s the most important part of any good working relationship. Good or bad communication can make or break the bond between you and a client.

Remember:

  • Ask for help. We promise, your client would much rather assist you now than have to deal with reverts afterwards. 
  • You know how a project is progressing. Your client doesn’t. If you’re worried about an upcoming deadline, let them know as soon as you think it might be an issue. If you tell them that you can’t meet a deadline the night before, after you’ve had a week to work on it, they’ll likely be pretty annoyed. And rightfully so. 
  • If additional work is going to be out of scope, notify them and get their sign off beforehand. There’s nothing worse than receiving an invoice consisting of the amount you were quoted - plus ten extra hours that you didn’t okay first. It’s super unprofessional and definitely won’t leave your client with a smile on their face, no matter how great the work is. Pro tip: don’t forget that your Fundi talent advisor is always here for advice, client communication, or rate re-negotiation.

COVID has made employer-employee communication a lot more fluid. If you have the kind of relationship that allows for it, simply send your clients updates on WhatsApp when needed. It just mitigates the possibility of miscommunication and also ensures that you’re always covered. 

BE RELIABLE

And not just in terms of meeting deadlines and delivering high quality work, but at every point of contact. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it. Respond to emails. Invoice in time. Answer your phone (even though it’s scary). 

The result? You’ll build a reputation as being the go-to guy for getting stuff done, and properly. 

Handy tip: the marketing world is small, so a good reputation is pretty high up on your need-to-have-isms.

JUST BE NICE. DUH. 

If you’re anything like us, post-COVID small talk is #1 on our list of Things We’d Rather Not Be Doing Right Now. But throwing the odd, “Welcome back, Carol! How was your Maldives trip?” into the mix will help to solidify your interpersonal client relationships

We know that unless you’re a comedian, your clients aren’t teeechnically hiring you for your 5-star personality - but it probably makes up for about 75% of their hiring choice, so be lekker. Oh, and don’t be that person who always has their camera off when everyone else's is on. 

TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY

Hate to break it to you, but you’re probably going to screw up at some point: be it by misinterpreting the brief, sending through an old copy deck, missing an important update regarding an active project. It happens.

Apologise, take ownership, and offer a practical solution to the mishap - then fix it as quickly as you can. No biggie. Plus there’s nothing ickier than a defensive, clearly-in-the-wrong freelancer. That being said, sneak a peek at the next point…

HAVE BOUNDARIES

Nicely and professionally, of course.

For example: 

  • Having a contract in place to define payment and working terms upfront
  • Asking for a clearer brief if the current one is unclear
  • Asking for better design assets if the ones you've been provided are pixelated, low-res photos taken on a Nokia 331

Your client will ultimately respect you for it and trust your professional opinion more when it comes to the actual work. Maintaining solid boundaries also helps to prevent burnout and resentment.

CHECK IN

…if it’s been a while since you received feedback on a project. We assume that you asked for feedback when you sent it through (and if you don’t do that, start, snappy) but clients are often busy and can forget things.

Shooting them the ol’ “hey, I just wanted to check in and see if there’s any feedback on XYZ” goes a long way in simply showing that you care. 

DO THE ODD FAVOUR 

You obviously deserve to get paid fairly, but every now and then, it’s nice to do favours for your loyal, long-term clients - within reason, of course. Think minor copy tweaks on a post that you haven’t charged reverts for, or the odd 6:30pm briefing when it’s the only gap that your client has available. You catch our drift.

That being said, we’re talking small, occasional favours. If you’re putting in a ton of extra hours or admin, you deserve to be compensated accordingly. These little perks should be a nice-to-have, not a regular expectation. 

There you go! Those are the fundamentals of being a top-notch, hire-worthy professional. There are a ton more ways you can go the extra mile, but at the risk of being a smidge over-the-top, these should do the trick just fine. 

The golden rule? Just try to be the type of person that you would want to hire. Easy peasy. 

Need more career advice? Chat to us now.

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