Young Freelancers, Eight Rules Of Good Client Relationships

Young Freelancers, Eight Rules Of Good Client Relationships

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October, which is almost upon us, is a more interesting month than I had realized. Halloween is a perennial favorite, of course (#2 among favored holidays, just below Christmas. Surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is way down at #8). But I’ve also recently learned that October includes Boss’s Day on October 16, a holiday I hadn’t known about before. In honor of Boss’s Day, but respecting my focus on the #freelancerevolution , I thought it might be interesting to begin a conversation about the qualities of great freelance clients. But, after reflection, a more useful article topic presented itself: What can young freelancers do to create effective and mutually satisfying relationship with their clients? In his article , “How to spot a bad freelance client and what to do about them,” my Forbes colleague Abdullahi Muhammed provides a helpful description of how freelancers should manage client expectations. I liked his approach; while it was not explicit, his thinking had much in common with Robert Frost’s wonderful poem Mending Walls and its iconic refrain, “Good fences make good neighbors.” I’ve added helpful advice from my mentor Herb Shepard , an early freelancer and a much esteemed pioneer in organization development. Here’s my take, eight reminders of what it takes to build and preserve effective client relationships: Remember, this is B2B. This is the most obvious, most important, and the most likely to be forgotten by young independent professionals. So, let me say it as simply as possible: act like you are one of the B’s in this B2B relationship. Newish freelancers with prior corporate experience in IT or elsewhere too easily forget that they are no longer employees, and that their relationship to the client is peer, not boss. But, to make that stick, they also need to be as “buttoned up” in how they do business as they want to be seen and treated by clients. Whether full time or side hustle, you need to ensure that you are seen as professional and dependable. Clarify expectations often . Top freelancers are unanimous: even when there is very good agreement on the work and the terms surrounding the work, freelance-client relationships are often difficult for all the obvious reasons. The first rule of good client management is to help the client by ensuring a clear statement of work and terms and regular conversation to identify, assess, and talk through potential or required changes to the plan, the timeline, and associated cost. Set clear boundaries with straight talk . Clients focus on their needs; they want to know that the work is completed well, as quickly as possible, and at the lowest reasonable (possible?) cost. Not surprisingly, clients often try to expand the service space, for example, “let’s touch base daily.” Or, move up the deadline. Or add features. Or renegotiate the price (“Seems like it’s taking less time than you thought.”). Your challenge as a freelancer: “straight talk” that builds a realistic relationship without off-putting the client. A fact based conversation is […]

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