When you’re in business for yourself as a consultant, independent contractor or freelancer, it’s all about you and the client. Whether you’re an independent web designer or freelance writer, nurturing that relationship is as important as turning in stellar work when it comes to ensuring your professional and financial future.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has some ideas about how to proceed.
- Making yourself indispensable to your clients is the difference between working just one project and being called back again and again. By assimilating yourself into your client’s team, you become as invested in their success as they are — and they’re sure to appreciate your efforts. “Use your knowledge of your client’s business goals to pitch ideas and suggestions they may not have thought about for current or future projects. So, instead of simply receiving a brief and running with it, you’re demonstrating that you not only know your stuff but that you’re committed to their success,” the SBA advises. “From there, a stronger relationship will follow and there’s a good chance you will become their ‘go-to’ person.”
- Step up your role by coming up with ways you can handle additional tasks involving more responsibility; in other words, be proactive in a way that helps not only yourself but you client, too. Ask yourself how you can grow in your role, and then make your move!
- Be consultative and professional by staying on top of industry and market trends, new tools and best practices, and then bring them to your client’s attention. “Being consultative is about knowing your client’s needs and pitching solutions that will solve their problems,” explains the SBA. “If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking, ‘My client should be doing this,’ then go for it. Bring it up on an informal call or the next time you meet.”
- Follow up like you mean it! Don’t just complete one project and move on. Chances are there’s more work to be done, and you’ve (hopefully) already proven to your client that you’re up for the challenge. Follow up with them a month or so after you’ve completed your initial work. Be very specific in how you word your follow-up and get the message across that you’re ready, willing and available! If the client mentioned business or financial goals for the future, use them as your springboard. If they were waiting for budget approval, ask how that’s coming along. Be persistent if there’s no immediate work because there could be just a few months down the road.
- Propose a bonus structure for projects that directly impact the client’s bottom line. This could be along the lines of a profit-share or bonus tied to performance and applied to the top of your standard rate. A marketing consultant tasked with managing a lead-generation campaign or launching a new product could propose tying the performance of the campaign to their compensation. Or a writer asked to assist with a large proposal that could mean big business for their client could request a 10 percent bonus on top of their agreed project rate. Note, however, that this approach is best reserved for clients of long standing who already value your work.
In short, prove to your clients that you’re a productive, savvy and hard-working freelancer who has their best interests in mind, and chances are you can improve both their bottom line and yours as well!About the Author:Beth Longware Duff is an award-winning writer whose work covers electronic payment processing for Merchant Express.