Be it your sideline or your full time job, freelancing is a mix of flexible schedules and hard-hitting deadlines. You’ve probably heard all the stories before–I’m talking about people who work from home. Ah yes, that luxurious lifestyle, having the freedom to choose which projects to accept. Whether you are an artist, graphic designer, web designer, photographer, or a fashion designer, one of the most important things you have to remember is to make your clients happy.
Your clients are your critics, portfolios, advertisers, and business cards. They can make or break your career out there depending on how you handle them. This is because they will become your references when another potential client asks who to get for a particular project. You have to make sure they remember you in the best way possible.
In my case, I work as a freelance digital and traditional illustrator, graphic designer/ brand designer, painter, and I was a former freelance animator. I also have my small business, Paper Pirate, and my Merchant Life adventures.
So what exactly should you look out for? What are some tricks and strategies for dealing with clients? Here are some of my golden rules (in no particular order) as a freelance artist.
1. They Know What They’re Paying For
Let me give you a scenario: You have a client who informs you that she is under a budget. In the middle of everything she asks for something in particular that exceeds that budget. What do you do? How do you handle that situation?
Now remember, this is crucial on giving your service to about anyone. True enough, you have to respect your abilities and rates, but at the same time consider your client’s needs and concerns.
So what’s the best thing you can do? Let them know upfront that if they want this, then they would have to pay a little extra. And if they really can’t pay for this, then provide an alternative for them and respectfully explain the situation.
Don’t immediately think that your clients don’t care about your rates. It’s not that at all; it’s about properly communicating with them and being able to find a middle ground that will make both you and your client happy. Avoid surprising your clients, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY. It is better to keep them updated upfront about what they’re paying for rather than telling them at the last minute that they have to pay more than what they expected.
Keep them informed on what exactly they’re paying for and why, and you’re sure to have them shaking your hands.
2. They Get What They’re Paying For
Scenario number 2: A client is asking you to make a graphic logo, which is in your area of expertise. You provide them with your portfolio and samples of your designs, and they love what they’re seeing. But then your client decides that they want to try a text logo instead, and they’re willing to pay any amount you like. That’s great! But then you’re not good at lettering, typography, or anything else that revolves around text. Do you take the job?
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Do not accept a project if you know you will not be able to give them what they are paying for. It’s like promising a car but giving them a bike, and what’s worse is that your client doesn’t know how to ride a bike.
Don’t just say yes because the pay is good, say yes because you know you’ll do good.
If you are ever in that scenario, tell them right away that this is not your forte. But more importantly, you should provide them with an alternative or refer them to someone who can do exactly what they want.
3. Respect Their Time and Concerns
A third scenario: You’re right on schedule, and this particular commission isn’t expected until two weeks. But your client is constantly asking you for an update and is concerned if you will finish. Assure them that you will finish when they need it. Assure them that you are on schedule (don’t lie to them if you’re not), and tell them that you appreciate them for considering you for this project.
4. Let Them Know They’re Your Priority
There will be times when work just piles up right in front of you, literally in front of you. I’m talking about those days, and you will have those days, that you are working with two or more clients at a time; and you would have to meet two within the day and update the other in the middle of it all. For all those clients, no matter how many they are, never make them feel that they are less important than the others.
Definitely do not schedule meetings one after the other, because meetings can always extend. Don’t tell Client C that you’ll be late because you’re still with Client A. Don’t tell Client A you have to leave in the middle of the meeting because Clients B, C, and D are already waiting for you. Figure out a strategy how to make sure each one of them gets what they need and never has to worry about how important they are to you.
5. Stick To Your Promised Schedule
Ever get those days when you just feel like Murphy’s Law seems to just pop out of nowhere and ruin your entire schedule? Your deadline is coming up and you’re not even halfway done and a bunch of other things came up that you can’t get out of. What’s a freelancer gotta do? Maybe you can just ask for more time?
Here’s a tip: DO NOT ASK TO MOVE THE DEADLINE.
You gave your word that you will finish it when they needed it, respect their time and manage yours. For whatever reason it is you have to figure out a way to be able to deliver. This is why, before anything else, you have to make sure you can definitely finish BEFORE your client needs it. Whatever it is you need to do or say, inform them early on. Tell them that you can finish it within three weeks but make sure you’re done on the second week. Sending things earlier than expected is ideal. They’ll appreciate this about you and it becomes your reputation as a freelancer; that you work fast, and deliver quality work.
6. Update Them Throughout Your Production
If you promised them they’ll get a draft of your design by 8am, send it by 8am. If you promised to keep them updated on the status of the project, send the necessary files without them even asking for it. If you promised to send them design variations? Send them those design variations as soon as you finish one or all together. (They will be happy to know that your service includes having this constant watch over their commission, they will feel secure.)
However, it’s equally important NOT to overdo this. Learn when to give them an update or not. Differentiate a milestone-status from a step-by-step status. Again, respect their time.
7. End On A Good Note
Ending on a good note isn’t just for dream clients; I’m also talking about difficult clients. No matter what happens, end on a good note. Throughout your career as a freelancer you will meet many different types of clients, and you will do many different jobs for them; but keep the ending constant.
When you do get a difficult client, take the high road. Don’t complain about them, especially not publicly, because this can potentially make another interested client feel concerned about how you would talk about them one day.
The last exchanges will be that cherry on top, and they will be able to give a good word about you if you make sure that they’ve enjoyed the service you’ve provided them.
Be professional. Love your job, love what you do, and make sure people love working with you.