If you work in the world of providing services to clients, then you realise that fostering better business-to-client relationships is the only way to create a sustainable business model. Providing top quality services is obviously going to be part of the equation. But a lot of business owners and freelancers trip themselves up by believing that’s all that matters to your clients. Here, we’re going to look at how you make sure the ship sails smoothly and you keep many more of your clients on board.
Have a clear contract (and be willing to break it)
Not every client is going to ask more of you than you’re prepared to offer. Many of them have a problem and will listen to your advice on how to fix it. But there will be those who want you to do work you didn’t anticipate or will want to pay you less than you think your work is worth. Set up a contract outlining your service, your compensation, and more details. But don’t feel like you have to stick rigidly to the definitions of that contract, either. If you see the option to go the extra mile for a client, you could really stand out to them as being truly dedicated to service by taking the initiative. Just make sure you’re getting compensated for all the work you do, not just some.
Communication must be exceptional
This shouldn’t have to be a point, but there are many who don’t know what good communication is really all about. For one, it involves listening as much as it involves providing solutions. Don’t just wait until clients stop speaking so you can offer your solutions. Take notes on what their needs are if it helps you cater your service better to the result that they want. As important as how well you communicate is that you keep the channels for said communication open to them. All clients should have a direct line to you and they should always have someone to pick up their call so long as you’re in business hours.
Sometimes, you can go the extra mile as mentioned above, but you should always be willing to say no to clients when you don’t honestly know if you can provide the service they’re looking for. Similarly, you shouldn’t oversell yourself during those initial talks or when it comes down to progress or meeting deadlines. Dishonesty is drastically riskier than having to let them know there’s been a snag in the service or a hold up that pushes back the deadline. Emotional honesty is just as important. Don’t schmooze up to clients and try to ingratiate yourself. Let the relationship build up naturally and keep it professional.
Share a desk
You should also consider the boundaries between you and your client and where they might be blurred. Sometimes, clients like a sense of control over the services they’re paying for and being able to build a sense of collaboration with them can make for a much stronger, closer relationship. Business collaboration can involve getting them more involved in the decision-making process of every phase and giving them progress to offer feedback on more regularly. It can also mean using shared portals and software clients that allow them to access and assess the work done when they want to. That way, they don’t have to ask your permission to access what they want to see and you don’t have to spend your time acting as a gatekeeper instead of having more time to work on providing the results they want.
Get better clients
There are some clients you’re just not going to have a good relationship with. These are the toxic clients that try to take liberties with your payment, expect you to telepathically know what they want, or simply don’t appreciate the work that you do. Just as you should be willing to tell a client “no” and risk letting them down, you have to be willing to say no to a client in general and go without the income they provide. Relationships that provide little but uncertainty and dubious payment are not an investment worth pouring your time into. You should consider being more picky with your clients if you really can’t have a good relationship with them.
A good relationship with a client has to be good for both of you. Whatever you can to foster collaboration, you should consider. What you shouldn’t be too willing to do is sacrifice your own business model and standards for your clients. In the end, that will become unsustainable.