You’re one of many freelance designers striving to make a positive, long-lasting impression on your clients. For clients who understand design, your amazing portfolio will show off your skills and style. For clients who don’t understand design, your clean, professional website and your design blog will show your passion and dedication to your profession. But when a client has made up his or her mind and decides to make contact with you how can you show how truly remarkable you are? Here’s five tips!
1) Be Professional
You are a design professional. Make sure it shows when a client contacts you. Answer all emails promptly, write short but clear sentences and make sure there are neither mistakes nor typos. Take especially good care of this when writing in a foreign language. Astonish your clients with absolute command of their native tongue! This will show your proficiency in areas other than design, always a bonus.
Let’s say you get an inquiry from a potential client who filled in your web contact form. Chances are the form is highly detailed and should give you enough information to prepare a quote. But, alas, sometimes clients don’t shed enough light on their requests, or the matter at hand requires additional explanations. Therefore, it’s always good practice to follow up such inquiries with a series of relevant questions pertaining to the job. When you do this, be very specific. Ask questions about the scope of the project (ex.: How will the illustration be used?), about the time frame, about what file formats are needed. Some clients might not understand, for example, the difference between vector and raster graphics but there you are explaining it to them in layman terms. Not only will this clarify any doubts regarding the given job, it will also show that you’re for real. This is especially important for freelancers, who are more likely to be treated like “that kid who draws pictures.”
2) Be Fun!
By all means, be fun! One of the reasons clients turn to freelancers is so they can avoid the stiff, bureaucratic, corporate hassles associated with studios and agencies. They’re looking for a talented, dynamic, passionate and professional individual. They’re looking for you.
They expect you to lean more on the artistic side than to wear a suit. They’ve see the fun copy and the caricature on your website. They misspelled a search term and landed on your exhilarating 404 “OOPS!” page. They can take a joke. You’ve already shown them you’re a true professional, now show them your friendlier side.
When replying to that first email compliment them on their website (or offer valuable critique – it speaks volumes on your keen eye for good design and your desire to make everything more beautiful). Keep your tone professional but fresh: they pay you to draw little colorful pages and characters, remember? Will they hire you if you come across as stuck up and stiff? No way.
If you are active on social networks (you probably should) include your profiles in your email signature and invite your clients to follow you on Twitter. The lighter tone usually associated with tweets allows you to stay in touch with people in a relaxed manner.
In these days of Internet freelancing we don’t always see the people we work with or even talk to them. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to let our personality show through emails, SMS’s and status updates. Being fun means being a real person. And that’s invaluable.
3) Surprise Them
Surprising your clients is the icing on the cake and can be accomplished in a number of ways. The thing to keep in mind is this: at the very end of your collaboration leave your client something to remember you by.
A typical scenario might be the final communication with a client who hired you for logo design. Upon completion you send a last email with the final files. Why not include a two-page style guide with a few usage suggestions? Don’t frown, I know style guides are a lot of work and are charged extra but we’re talking about a simple document here. It will cost you very little effort and time but the client will definitely be surprised by the unexpected bonus. In fact, be sure to mention the free giveaway in your last email as a bonus, you don’t want it to be overlooked as part of the package. Explicitly state that you took your time to come up with a few suggestions to help better implement the logo in the future. Who knows, you might tease the client into expanding the scope of the project (“Hey, since you suggested a logo usage on websites how ’bout designing me one?”). At the very least you’ll have granted yourself a reputation as a professional, fun and dedicated freelancer. Try beating that!
4) Follow Up
Just because you finished a job doesn’t mean you’ll never work with a client again. That depends on many factors but you can at least avoid being forgotten by following up on a completed job.
Much like you would do after a job interview to better your chances of landing that position (“I would like to take a moment to thank for the opportunity to meet…”), you can send an email thanking your clients for giving you the opportunity to collaborate on such a stimulating project. Only do this when it applies, as nobody likes a suck-up. Better yet thank them publicly on Twitter, letting them know about it. If you write a blog post about the job you worked on together be sure to mention how great your relationship was with such a responsive client, or whatever applies. Again don’t write anything you don’t believe in as false publicity might come back to bite you. Sincere words go a long way.
So that’s our recipe: sincere thanks + link love. Yes, your clients will love you for publicly thanking them and they will happily write recommendations for your LinkedIn profile and testimonials to put on your website.
5) Stay Tuned
You will know when your clients stay in touch with you by following you on Twitter, by leaving comments on your blog and so on. But the old paper forget-me-not also known as business card is still the best way to remind them you’re there for them whenever they need you. With all the furore about business cards we see these days the subject is as popular as ever. Make sure to send a business card to your clients as a final present. Give them something physical to remember you and make it beautiful.
The same goes for promotional and holiday cards. What better way of staying in touch than knocking at business’s door a few times a year?