5 Tips On Having A Good Relationship With Your Clients

You are the boss. You are in charge. You’ve left behind being told what to do and are running your own business. Good for you! It’s tough, isn’t it? There are some things you have to take care of that you’ve never had to do before when working for somebody else (and no, I am not talking about taxes). I am talking about your relationships with clients.

If you’re in charge, you have to take charge. And one of the most important things to take charge of is your clients. Taking branding and marketing aside for the moment, you should know how to have a good relationship with every client that comes your way. Most importantly, you should know that you are no longer an employee.

As an employee, you don’t have much choice on who you work with and you are always working for somebody else. As an entrepreneur and freelancer, you are your own boss and you can choose your clients. I know that this will be hard at first. When I first started freelancing, I kept on waiting for somebody to tell me what to do and every time a client did that, I got so mad. At first, I didn’t know why but then I realized (years down the road):

I am getting hired for my expertise in a specific field… this means that I am the one telling me what to do.

Clients hire you for your specialties and skills

I hope that anybody reading this will realize it sooner than I did.

There are a few things you should take into account when working on your relationships with clients:

  1. Treating yourself as a company, not an employee

  2. Clients hire you for your specialities and skills

  3. The legalities behind every relationship

  4. Setting your working and break schedule

  5. Getting properly compensated for your work

Treating yourself as a company, not an employee

When working with clients as an entrepreneur or freelancer, you want to think of business as a partnership between two companies. One of the companies (client) hires another company (you) to complete the work required. As such, you have to come to an understanding between the two of you using a contract to get the project done.

While the work is happening, you are considered an asset or contractor to the client. You are NOT an employee for any duration of the project! As such, you don’t receive many of the benefits that an employee would receive. This includes, but is not limited to, paid vacations, meal breaks, job security, insurance, awards, pay raises, company treats, tax benefits, and more.

Clients hire you for your specialties and skills

Think of the legend of Picasso:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So, Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

Quoted from How to charge, one of the archived posts on 1099 — “the magazine for independent professionals.”

You want to share your knowledge and experience, even if it seems unrelated to your clients. That babysitting job when you were in high school? It teaches you to pay attention to your surroundings. Did you tutor your classmates at university? It shows that you can communicate with people of different skill levels. All of your life experiences add up to you being who you are and owning your power.

Clients will hire you for a service you do or buy your products based on their quality, but we live in an age of growing authenticity and people are looking past the service or product. They want to know who you are, why you’ve created what you have, and if you are worth their buck. As such, you want to own up to your skills and take charge.

Every entrepreneur has their own rates based on their skills. Most entrepreneurs also have a wide variety of skills and services they provide. Sometimes, these skills may seem unconnected to your clients, but that’s usually because your clients don’t want all of them. On the other hand, it can be a pleasant surprise for them if you work on one thing with them and then offer them something else once you’ve built up a good relationship and have an idea on how they will feel about it.

The legalities behind every relationship

Firstly, payments. I am not going to tell you how much to charge but a general rule of thumb is 1.5x the salary of an employee doing the same job. Take your years of experience, market, and focus into consideration here as well. The main reason for this is because you, as an entrepreneur, don’t get any of the benefits an employee does. As such, you want to take into account how much would it cost for you to get a new computer if yours breaks, new glasses, dental checkups, medication, etc. all of these things add up into your rate.

Another important thing with every relationship with your clients is contracts! These can keep you from going bankrupt. Unless your client requests beforehand, you are very unlikely to work with only one person at a time. What this means is that you may be working with your clients’ competitors. In order to ensure you can still have a successful relationship with your client even while working for their competitors, get everything written out in a contract. NDAs can keep you safe from a lawsuit and payment schedules can keep you from chasing your clients down with an invoice. Contracts are also useful when it comes to data breaches, confidentiality, injuries, compensations, and more. Remember that everything is based on communication and compromise. Both entrepreneurs and clients want to get the best for themselves, but if you are working together, you have to compromise. It is the same for any successful relationship.

Setting your working and break schedule

As an entrepreneur, you will be considered a contractor for your clients. as such, you want a contract (see legalities above). But there are many factors to consider within your own company when you are working. Are you only available to work remotely or can you go on-site? Note that if you are requested to go into your client’s workspace, you don’t have to. You can request otherwise or let them know. If you decide to do on-site contracting, remember that you are not an employee! You have to follow the rules set in your contract, not of the office (though they are usually the same).

If you are working remotely, make sure not to make yourself available 24/7. Discuss working times with your client before you get mad at being contacted at four in the morning every Saturday. Additionally, you want to keep time differences in mind. If you are only available to work at four in the morning your client’s time, then maybe that relationship won’t work.

I like to split by regular 8-hour working day into three sections (10 to 1, 2 to 5, and 10 to 12) as this allows me to be with family and still talk to my international clients. As such, I have had questions, requests, and URGENT WORK sent to me that I have not been able to get to for a few hours. Hey, everybody needs sleep and some time away from their computer.

One other thing you want to keep in mind with your working schedule is your number of clients. If you are working with multiple clients at once, you have to be juggling every client as a separate ball in the air. Do not rush to respond right away to any of your clients, because then they’ll get used to you being on-call for them and the relationship will deteriorate when you can’t be.

Getting compensated for your work

Every entrepreneur has their own rates. These rates are dependent on both skills and where you are located. The standard rate for a graphic designer in the UK is different than that in Canada, India, or China. As such, you want to clarify to your clients early on what your rates are. The two main factors for your rates are skill level and social economy. In order to ensure that you have a successful relationship with your client, you need to be transparent about both of these.

Additionally, you want to talk about prices with your clients as early on as you can. Don’t waste both of your times if you are out of their budget. I know that talking about prices can be intimidating, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised sometimes. Not every time. Don’t lower your rates because if somebody is trying to work with a budget entrepreneur, there are a lot of those out there. Hold out and stay firm to your pricing!

I also have a little personal rule, every time a client tells me my prices are too high, I add on a 50% charge (something really stupid so they realize how ignorant they are being). Every time I see a competitor’s pricing and it makes me think mine is too high, I add 25% increase to my signature product or service. Every time I think my prices are too high, I add 10% across the board. Trust me, it is a lot scarier to lower your prices than to raise them, so if you are sweating when you think about raising them, stop thinking about lowering them.

Also, consider end-of-project or after-purchase surveys to ask questions and get testimonials. Due to the way the current culture of entrepreneurs is growing, there are many sources available where potential clients can get information about you. As such, reviews and testimonials from other clients are often-times the easiest way to make you look credible to potential clients. These reviews and testimonials are also a form of compensation from your clients and if they were happy with the final deliverable, they will be happy to say so to others.

Having a successful relationship with your clients

As you have probably heard before in any romantic comedy, relationships take work. This includes business relationships. Always be aware that you are a person working with another person. If you want to think of yourself as a company, then put your client on the same level, even if it’s a one-time project. Neither one of you is above the other! Communicate clearly and often, and make sure you are always respectful. If your client does not return the favour, drop them. I know it’s harsh, but that is the truth of it. Would you work with someone who doesn’t respect you? Remember, treat your client the way you want to be treated.

- Kristina Konstantinova

Follow Kristina on Instagram @konstantandnew

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