You've worked so hard to build up your freelancer client base and to land those hard-earned projects. NOW the goal is to hold onto those clients so they keep coming back for their next project and the project after that and the one after that... or for them to renew their retainer without even thinking about it because they love the work you do and they love working with you.
Here are the best ways to provide first-class service to your freelance clients.
Be vigilant and PROACTIVE about potential pitfalls. Anticipating the potential pitfalls that could stand in the way of a project's success and proactively addressing those with your client is an excellent way to show that you're not only a rockstar at what you do but that you're also adding value to their business as another super sharp mind who cares about their success.
Respect your clients' time. Most of our clients are busy, busy people. That's one of the reasons they hire freelancers to begin with. One of the best ways we can provide impeccable client service as freelancers is to show the client that we respect their time. That means scheduling meetings at their convenience (within reason, of course – and one of the best ways to make scheduling convenient is to use a scheduling tool and send your client a link to choose a time that works best for them!) Coming prepared to those meetings with an agenda and a list of decisions or action items that need to be decided within that meeting is equally important. There is nothing worse than setting aside time to meet at someone's request and then realizing during the meeting that the host did not spend time to prepare for the meeting.
Don't keep your clients guessing – maintain consistent communication. Freelancing (and from the client's perspective, working with freelancers) is much different than being an employee. As freelancers, we often have a very narrow lane or task that we fulfill for the client and our view of what's going on at that organization is very limited to what we need to know to fulfill our contracts and complete our projects. That's how it should be since we AREN'T employees! But that is a very different dynamic and it can lend itself to feeling siloed or the client feeling like they're disconnected from what we're working on and the status of those projects. One of the easiest ways to help reduce that 'distance' is to keep communicating. You might feel like you're over-communicating but your clients would rather you over-communicate (they can easily delete your emails or give you a quick, "Thanks for the update!" response) than for you to leave them feeling like they're in the dark. Even if everything is going according to plan, if it's been a few days since you 'phoned home' then that sort of brief update can go a long way to establishing trust and rapport.
Be clear in your communication... and close the loop! In addition to maintaining a healthy cadence of communication, be very clear and concise in your communication is equally important. Long, rambling emails are distracting and make it hard for the recipient to get back to you quickly. Keep your emails short, to the point, and be upfront and clear about your asks/needs of the client. Make sure you "close the loop" by providing confirmation that you have what you need and that everything is on track so you don't leave your client guessing about whether the project is moving forward or is stalled.
Avoid surprises at all costs... give your freelance clients plenty of warning. Spoiler alert: Freelance clients don't like surprises. The antidote to an unpleasant surprise is to give plenty of warning with as much time as possible. This piece of advice has many, many applications from letting the client know when the project may exceed the agreed-upon scope if both parties don't get back on track to giving a fair heads up well in advance when you need to reschedule a meeting. In this same vein, utilizing a written project brief or plan with dates, tasks (and owners, and any requirements documented and shared with the client and any relevant team members is incredibly helpful for keeping everyone well-aware of upcoming milestones. You may think
Toot your own horn. This might sound odd since this list is about what you can do to provide stellar service to your clients but tooting your own horn is actually pretty important. The reason is because if you're going to the ends of the earth behind the scenes but your clients never actually register that you're doing that for them, you're losing half the battle. You need to be visible and stay top of mind so that they never doubt the value of your contributions. For many freelancers (and yes, women in particular), it's tough to stand up and say "Hey Client – this deliverable is ready for your review. I also did x, y, and included z because I think it'll help achieve x outcome." Or... "Hey Client, I was thinking about our conversation yesterday and did a little bit of research. I found that x and y could be potential options to address that issue we talked about." It doesn't have to be schmoopy or overly boastful, just be matter of fact and make sure they know how you've been adding value.