HOW TO MANAGE A FREELANCER/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP

Client: I wonder if she got my message. I sent it a few minutes ago and still no reply. Look, I’ll send her one more just to be on the safe side…

Freelancer: My god, if this person messages me one more time. Does she not understand that she’s not the only client on my books?

Sound familiar?

The relationship between freelancers and employers is a finely balanced one. Unfortunately, it only takes a slight wobble from one side to throw the whole relationship off balance. These ‘wobbles’ are often caused by a lack of trust, respect and poor communication shown by one or both of the parties.

In this article, I’m going to highlight the reasons why these wobbles often occur and provide simple tips that clients and freelancers can take on board to help them maintain balanced, harmonious working relationships.

I’ll probably be shining a light on a few things readers know they’re guilty of.

Look, I hate to break it to you, but you may be the person upsetting the balance in your working relationship. If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one. I’ll be sharing some of my own failings to date too.  

So, stick with me.

Freelancers. You’re up first.

I’m a freelance writer and marketing strategist. The one thing I learned pretty quickly when I started freelancing was not to underestimate the importance of establishing a well-balanced, positive relationship with a client from the get go.

Why?

I’ll put my hands up. When I started freelancing, I naively thought that a freelance contract would allow me to easily dip in and out of different companies, solely focused on the job at hand.

In short, I didn’t really make the effort to understand what my client’s companies were all about.

I just didn’t really think I needed to make that extra effort when I was just doing a small piece of work for them. 

That outlook was short lived though.

I stupidly believed that I only needed an initial chat with the client along with a brief and I’d be good to go. However, I quickly realised that in order to gain a client’s trust and respect (not to mention repeat business), I’d need to do more.

Through trial and (a fair bit) of error, I learned that there were three key things that I needed to do to earn a client’s trust and respect, in order to both attain and maintain a strong relationship with them.

Do the work

The most obvious way to earn your clients trust and respect is to do the job you’ve been hired to do and do it well.

Simple as.

Get the job completed as instructed, by the time and date set by your client. Do this consistently and the client may trust you enough to begin giving you more work.

 

Know your stuff

I needed to invest more time learning about my client’s companies, their missions, values and cultures.

It’s important to understand a company’s background before you chat with the client about the job at hand. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in the job and you respect that client’s time and their company.

Furthermore, having a good understanding of what a company is all about will positively inform your work. If I’m trying to figure out a certain tone of voice I should be using for a certain job, I’ll have a look at the company’s social media pages or their blog, if they have one.

Finally, if you can’t find the answer through research, ask the client. They want your work to be great so they’ll be happy to answer your queries.

 

Get involved

If you're working with a client for an extended period of time or you do regular work for them, they might suggest that you pop into the office every once in a while, or maybe they’ll set you up on a business communication platform like Slack, so you can connect with other staff.

I implore you to GET INVOLVED. I hate using caps, but on this occasion, I really have to.

It’s small acts like attending an after-work drinks event or popping your favourite cookie recipe into a team chat group that can help you earn your clients respect and trust.  

Getting involved with your client’s company shows that you have a vested interest in their company beyond the contract work you do for them.

If you ignore a client’s efforts to make you part of their team, it looks rude and disrespectful.

Make the effort.

Also, I’ll be the first one to admit it, freelancing can feel a little lonely at times. So, go to that client meeting, send that message on Slack.

Believe me, you’ll be glad you did it.

 

 

Now, let’s pop the spotlight on the client for a minute.

While freelancers need to put in the work to earn your trust and respect, clients must do the same.

Here’s a few tips for clients:

 

Refrain from Micromanaging

As I explained in a recent article (https://bit.ly/2zaPqC2), managing freelancers is not the same as managing office staff.

Freelancers often work remotely. This means that you can’t pop by their desk to check in on them and their work every few minutes.

If you’re going to hire a freelancer, you need to trust that they’ll get the work done. Freelancers are used to working remotely and they understand that getting work done by a certain deadline is key to maintaining positive relationships with their clients.

If you check in with them too often, they’ll feel like you don’t trust them.

Maybe consider asking your freelancer at the beginning of the contract to send you an update on their progress once a day. Outside of this daily update, try not to contact them. Respect their experience and work ethic and know that if they have a query on something, they’ll get in touch.

 

Remember that freelancers work with multiple clients

Your freelancer is likely working on multiple projects, yours being only one of them. Bear this in mind if they take a little bit longer than you’d like to reply to an email. 

Sometimes you need to be a little more patient and flexible with your freelancer than you might be with your office staff.

I understand that it can be difficult to develop a strong level of trust and respect with someone you don’t see in person and if you’re not used to hiring freelancers this might take a bit of time to get used to.

But please do trust them. They’ll make the time to produce great work for you.

 

Trust and respect are key to maintaining healthy relationships between freelancers and employers.

The tips in this article will help you develop these two important elements and won’t take a lot of time or effort to implement.

Re-read them, take them on board, use them. 

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