Philip Oyelola is a marketing enthusiast and freelance content marketer. He helps tech companies with content that builds trust and educates their audience. He enjoys writing on topics like SEO, client management, and content marketing.
Meet Jon, a freelance copywriter trying to land a gig.
He throws himself into prospecting to score clients by sending cold pitches, scouring job boards for exciting gigs, and connecting with fellow copywriters.
These efforts paid off when he signed three new clients, and business was going well. But Jon made a costly mistake. He didn’t take the time to build relationships with his new clients, so they ended up churning.
Many freelancers like Jon, are experts in their fields—not necessarily in communication or relationship-building. Both happen to be important skills for cultivating a thriving business.
If you want to be a great partner, collaborate better, and retain the clients you work hard to lock in, you’re in the right place. Follow these steps to develop long-lasting relationships that will help you grow your business.
Taking the time to develop long-lasting relationships might just be the missing piece to building a thriving client base.
First Thing to Know: Soft Skills Matter
Soft skills are often overlooked but are an essential component of managing a successful freelance business. These are the non-technical skills that make us good communicators, managers, and collaborators. Some of the most valuable soft skills for freelancers include:
- Good communication
- Emotional intelligence
- Ability to solve complex problems
You need soft skills to run a thriving business as @alygouletwrites points out:
Soft skills make you a better freelancer because, when leveraging them, you can:
- Understand your client’s needs and set expectations
- Communicate clearly and transparently
- Stay organized
- Better position your services
- Be open-minded and accept feedback to grow
How to Use Those Soft Skills to Build Long-Lasting Client Relationships
When you put your soft skills into play, you can create the client relationships that lead to a thriving business—and make your work enjoyable.
1. Spend Time Understanding the Needs of Your Client
Truly understanding the needs of a client is the soul of every thriving freelance business. Many freelancers don’t take enough time upfront to do the research and understand the problem they are helping to solve. This often leads to multiple revision rounds and frustrating conversations down the road when you’re misaligned on goals, brand, or tone.
So how do you align up-front and truly understand the needs of your clients?
Start every project by gathering the information you need to truly understand their goals. You should have early conversations about the working process, your client’s challenges and needs, and what they hope to accomplish with you.
Here are some questions to help you get this information:
- Tell me about your products/services and your target audience.
- What are your short- and long-term goals?
- Are there any recurring challenges I can help you solve?
- Have you worked with freelancers before? What went well? What didn’t?
- What are your expectations for how this project moves forward?
- Do you have success metrics in mind or should we build those together?
2. Make Note of Important Client Details
Every interaction with your client is an opportunity to collect important information. As the number of clients you take on increases, it can be hard to rely on memory to remember all the details. Instead, start taking notes.
Anytime they mention new needs, expectations, preferences, etc., make sure you jot them down so you can reflect later and build them into your process. You can take these notes in your CRM or freelance management tool, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
3. Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Many freelancers are hyped about getting gigs but fall short when figuring out how to effectively communicate with those new clients. This is where your soft skills really have an impact. Being open, providing and asking for feedback, and listening with intention all improve your communication with the client while showing them you’re open to what they have to say.
If you struggle with this, here are some ways to improve your skills:
- Be open-minded and truly listen. The ability to empathize with others goes a long way in creating an emotional connection.
- Identify emotions in a conversation. Having what is referred to as emotional intelligence will help you figure out the best ways to respond to specific feedback.
- Be proactive and send or give updates to your client regularly so they understand the status of your project.
- Ask for specific feedback on concluded projects.
- Be responsive to the concerns of your clients, if they express any.
4. Invest in Software to Manage Your Business
To maintain great communication, you need more than awesome soft skills. The right software helps you stay organized and on track so you can deliver on time, stay connected, and more. There are a lot of great freelance management tools available to you.
One of my favorite freelance tools is Harlow. Harlow helps freelancers streamline management tasks, like client management, time-tracking, contract and proposal creation, and invoicing. With Harlow, you get a full view of your clients and get paid for your work from one centralized hub.
5. Connect with Clients as Individuals
Although relationships within professional spaces can be formal, it’s also helpful to have conversations about topics outside of work. Get to know your clients as people by asking about their vacations, pets, family, and other interests. A little curiosity and interest go a long way in forming long lasting connections. Remember, your clients are humans too.
You can easily do this by starting calls with a simple question like, “How’s your week been?” or “What are you up to this weekend?” However, remember to follow your client’s lead on this. Not all clients want to speak so casually, so if they seem uninterested in sharing those details, don’t press them.
You Can Build Long-Last Client Relationships
Client churn can be a vicious cycle that hinders the growth of your freelance business. Taking the time to develop long-lasting relationships might just be the missing piece to building a thriving client base.