Today we have another guest writer, Stef Gonzaga, founder of The Freelance Pinoy. You might know Stef from her blog, or from the webinar we did together last year, or from her various writing work.
Or you might know her from “Better Work” - a podcast that I co-host with her. It’s for Filipino freelancers who want to do better work, get creative, and make a difference. If you haven’t tried listening to the show yet, you might want to start with our episode on 6 simple ways to increase your freelancing income (no need to change your services or learn new skills) or our episode on the things we wish we knew when we started freelancing.
For her contribution today, Stef shares 5 ways you can get more projects from your current clients. Take it away, Stef:
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We Pinoys are hardwired to do all that we can to make others happy. We provide for our families; we share our lunches with our classmates; we work extra hours at the office.
This innate characteristic is one of the reasons why we excel as freelancers and service providers. Of the top 3 industries in the country, 48% goes to services as more workers join the labor force; and thanks to freelancing, that rate is set to rise even higher.
What if I told you that to build a steady flow of freelance work where clients are regularly knocking on your door, you only have to utilize that very characteristic already ingrained in our culture and psyche?
If you’ll look at the research, client relationships are a huge factor to a business’s growth and success—almost as much as price. This means that a client who’s had a terrific experience working with you is more likely to hire you again or send more business your way.
The key is to build and nurture positive relationships with your clients, and one of the most effective ways to do this is a strategy I’ve used to know exactly what would make my clients so happy that they wouldn’t hesitate to email me again for new and upcoming work.
How a Change In Perspective Can Make All the Difference
One of the principles I abide to this day is reciprocity. You probably recognize this more as The Golden Rule.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
To put it into context, if you want to be treated well by your clients—and by “treated well” it can mean being paid more, sending more work, bringing more referral business—you’d want to treat your clients well too.
It sounds simple enough, right? We just have to be good at doing our jobs.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t set you apart from the hundreds of other freelancers who already know this. To be a better and more valuable freelancer, you’d want to offer much, much more to your client than simply being an order-taker.
How do you do this?
Put yourself in the client’s shoes.
In other words, allow yourself to experience what it’s like on the other side of the fence.
I’ve talked to several freelancers who’ve tried hiring other freelancers for small and specific projects, and they observed how many freelancers sent generic cover letters, disregarded the requirements, and simply didn’t know how to follow directions. In my experience working with other freelancers, I felt frustrated when one freelancer kept me hanging for several weeks while two freelancers pulled a Houdini on me just when I needed the extra help.
These experiences re-taught and reminded me of what I should be doing for my own clients. Because of how unreliable those two freelancers were, I made sure to show the clients that they can completely rely and trust me to take care of the project.
You don’t have to hire and work with other freelancers to figure this out; you can however take extra steps to really understand who your clients are, what they do or what their businesses are, and what problems or concerns they have to deal with everyday. This way you’ll be able to tailor your services to best fit their needs and address their problems
Not sure where to begin? Here are five strategies to use to see things through your client’s perspective:
1. Pay attention to what makes your clients happy or respond positively.
Think of the last time your client expressed joy or satisfaction. Was it an influx of sales? Was it because you captured what the he or she had in mind for the sales page or website design?
You want to continue doing what makes your clients respond positively to you. This way, the working relationship grows to a point where your clients become more confident and trusting towards you.
2. Learn more about what keeps them up at night.
You’re hired to solve specific problems your clients either don’t want to deal with or have no skills for. To better serve them, learn more about the specific problems or issues that they can’t get their minds off of. [Celine’s note: I wrote a guide about how to find out your client’s pain points here.]
Once you’ve nailed these down, you’ll be able to brainstorm and provide effective solutions that your clients will appreciate and be willing to pay you for.
3. Read up on your clients’ industry.
Take the time to do research on their business, their target customers and their behaviors. With this information on hand, you’ll be able to suggest and design tasks and projects that would help achieve their business goals.
For example, you’re a blogger and your clients are in the finance or banking industry. Research will tell you that their target audiences are people who are meticulous about data and accuracy, and so are trained to consume every bit of detail they read. Your blog content would then be long-form research-based articles that address different relevant topics about banking and finance.
[Celine’s note: Personally, I set up Google Alerts for this. For example, one of the publications I write for is about brand publishing and sponsored content - this is a fast-changing industry. So I set up Google Alerts for the keywords “sponsored content” and “brand publishing” so that I would get email updates whenever a new article or whitepaper or research is published on the subject. I also use SmartBriefs to get regular email updates on what’s going on in the industries that I serve.]
4. Ask them straight up.
Sometimes it’s as simple as asking your client the right questions and listening to their stories to better understand where they’re coming from.
Your clients may share their experiences running their businesses, their insights on the market, and even their passion and love for their products or services. These are opportunities to learn more and use these ideas to create real solutions that bring in results, whether that’s increasing their brand, getting their target audiences to share and spread the word, or driving more sales.
5. Create a client persona.
A client persona is a culmination of all of the things you’ve learned and discovered about your clients. It’s a technique I picked up from entrepreneur Marie Forleo where she argues that the more effective way to understand your client is to be your client. It’s literally putting yourself in his or her shoes and seeing things through their eyes.
To create a client persona, list down all of the details about your client—demographics, psychographics, desires, and fears. Ideally you’d have this information after doing #’s 1-4.
Create a single identity that encapsulates all of these details—give it a name, age, gender, occupation, and even a face so it’s really concrete.Use this client persona as a guide to give them better service and pitch more informed solutions that would really bring in the results they want for their business.
Happy Client = More Business Your Way
How you care for your client relationships can make all the difference for you and your freelancing business. Instead of simply treating your clients as one-off transactions, take the time to really get to know who they are and what would convince them to (re)hire you for your services.
Finally, implement them. If you see that your client appreciates punctuality and transparency, make it a point to send the work on time or to be completely honest about the difficulties you’re having with the project. This builds trust, which can lead to repeat business and a good word about your name and your work as a freelancer.
Reflect on all of your client relationships. What was the one thing you did that your client really appreciated you for? Was it delivering outstanding work? Taking care of minor problems? Being super reliable whenever emergencies arise?
Write down 1-3 of these positive experiences and place it on your corkboard or wall where you can easily see it. Let these be the values and strengths that will define and position you as a freelancer.
Stef Gonzaga is a creative writer, blogger, and the founder of The Freelance Pinoy. During her spare time, she works on her creative projects, bakes apple pie, and is always on patrol in case her kids decide to paint the house red.