Welcome to Week 6 of How to Quit Your Job and Become a Digital Nomad in 90 Days. This week we’ll discuss how to grow your freelance business through customer service.
As a freelancer, customer service is crucial. If you treat your clients the way that you want to be treated, you’ll quickly fill your schedule with high-paying and enjoyable projects.
Surprisingly, many freelancers fail to recognize the importance and value of great customer service. Considering it can cost 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one, you should definitely have a customer satisfaction strategy in place. Plus, happy clients often refer others – helping you earn even more money, in less time.
Lastly, if you use use a platform like Upwork to work with clients, you want to do everything you can do to avoid negative reviews. One or two bad experiences early on can eliminate your potential for landing any new clients.
This week’s homework: Try incorporating several (if not all) of the steps below into your current freelance projects. You’ll be amazed at how it impacts your bottom line.
7 strategies to keep your customers happy
Great customer service doesn’t need to be overwhelming or expensive. In fact, it can actually help you make more money. Here are 7 strategies that you can easily implement to improve your client satisfaction and retention.
1. Interview potential clients before accepting their projects
Treat your client interviews like dates. Rather than trying to convince the client to hire you, use the time to determine if the two of you would actually be a good fit.
I’ve turned down many potential clients when red flags came up during the interview process — and this has saved me countless headaches. Working with difficult clients is never fun.
During the interview process, review the follow items to ensure that the experience will be mutually beneficial:
- How have previous freelancers rated the client? Negative reviews from others are always a warning sign.
- How much does the client try to negotiate your rate? The best clients care about results, not your rate. Furthermore, they understand the true value of your time. In the past, I’ve received more edit/fix/change requests from articles that I’ve written for $25 than for articles that I’ve written for $200.
- Does the client have an established business? It’s always fun working with a new company, but many new projects fail. Established businesses can pay better and are more likely to work with you for the long-term – reducing client turnover.
- What style/design/voice does the client prefer? I often ask clients to share examples of what they like. This allows me to determine if I can deliver the same quality and style that they expect. Some clients love my writing, others find my writing too personal (or not personal enough).
If you can filter out bad clients before beginning the project, you’ll save yourself many headaches in the future.
2. Clearly define the scope of the project
I had several costly mistakes before learning how to avoid scope creep. At the onset of every project, I make it very clear what the client should expect from me during our time working together. This creates mutual expectations and gives us something to reference if (when) the project scope changes.
Why is defining the scope so important? If a client asks you to write an article for $200, what does that include? How many words, will you upload it to their blog, add keywords, include images, share it on social media, etc.? If this isn’t clearly defined at the beginning, it is likely that both you and the client will have different interpretations of what should be delivered.
Additionally, many clients will start asking for more as the project continues. If you don’t build a clear fence around expectations, you may find yourself doing twice the amount of work than you initially budgeted for.
So define the scope and increase your rate for additional requests.
3. Budget extra time and money into your proposal
Many projects end up taking longer than expected. Although clear expectations can reduce this substantially, it’s still very likely that some clients will require more time than you first expected.
How do you combat this? By budgeting more time and money into your proposal.
First, budget more time by adding 25-50% more to the time you believe the project will take. If this is a 10 hour project, bid based on 12-15 hours.
Second, charge a premium rate. If you want to earn $20/hr, you already need to charge at least $30/hr to cover taxes, benefits, and time applying to projects. If you bump that rate up to $40-50/hr, you actually give yourself a buffer to spend more time on a project without having to bill for it.
By charging 25-50% more than you actually want to earn, and budgeting an extra 25-50% of your estimated time for the project, you can give yourself a substantial buffer to go above and beyond without breaking the bank.
4. Communicate during every step of the project
One of the most common mistakes that freelancers make is failing to communicate enough. A lack of communication will quickly lead to disgruntled clients and extra work.
Let me give you an example. If I ask you to design a title image for one of my blog posts called “The Joys of Living with Pets”, you may go out and find a picture of a fish. However, my article is actually about dogs! Now, I’m either stuck paying you to find an extra image, or you’re stuck redoing your work.
This is a trivial example – but I have written many articles on topics that were not directly aligned with the expectations of the client. And although it was an honest misunderstanding, the freelancer is often the one who needs to take responsibility for this misunderstanding.
How do you overcome this? Over communicate – especially when starting with a new client. Have them review your idea, outline, sketch, draft, first version, and final version – as they are developed. You’ll save yourself a lot of time if the client rejects your ideas before you’ve completed the entire project.
5. Share ideas to improve their business
I’ve spent about four years working in healthcare finance – and there’s one thing that blew my mind.
We would pay consultants millions of dollars to come in and give us a report that they gave to hundreds of other hospitals!
Yep. These large companies like Deloitte, Cerner, and Huron take standardized templates that they’ve developed, add a little bit of personalization based on the client, and then sell the content for an absurd amount.
You should do the same!
Act like a consultant and give your clients customized information that requires very little (if any) work on your part.
For starters, you can just share industry articles that are relevant to their brand (this doesn’t require any work on your part).
As you have time, however, you can develop your own resources to give your clients “for free” when they buy your service.
When someone hires you to design a website, you can do a good job completing the project and leave it at that. Or, you can also provide them with your “Epic Guide to Marketing Your New Website”. Sure, this guide could take a few hours or dollars to develop at the beginning – but it can be used over-and-over, and provide tremendous value to your clients.
When you view yourself as a consultant, instead of exclusively a freelancer, you begin to set yourself apart from the crowd – and substantially increase your value to clients.
6. Always follow the 5-minute rule
Let me share with you one of my favorite tips for any freelancer: the 5-minute rule.
What is the 5-minute rule?
Simply put, before delivering any project ask yourself “what could I do in 5 minutes to make this noticeably better?”
Most of the time there is something small that you can do to develop an extra “wow” factor in just a few minutes.
Maybe it’s finding a free image for the article on Pixabay.com. Perhaps it’s sharing a few great resources to help them automate their social media. Or maybe it’s just skimming through your project again to make sure that there is nothing substantially out of place.
Sometimes I’ll even spend $5 on Fiverr to add an inexpensive, yet substantial, bonus.
By taking 5-minutes at the end of every project to step back, see the big picture, and find a way to improve the deliverable, you will consistently impress your clients.
*Of course, you want to deliberately ensure that this “extra” doesn’t become expected by the client – resulting in scope creep. Therefore, if this perk is substantial, make it very clear that this is something extra that you wanted to give them.
7. Offer post-delivery customer service
One of the most annoying experiences for any business owner is to have a freelancer disappear after delivering a poorly developed project. This is a quick way to lose clients and earn negative reviews.
Provided you’ve followed the budgeting tips in item 3 above, you should have ample time to make any needed revisions or tweaks.
Request their feedback during delivery, and then touch base one more time a few days later. Not only does this allow you to catch any issues that might have been missed initially, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect regarding any additional projects they may have.
Great customer service allows you to ask for favors in return
Happy customers will do a lot for you. They’ll leave positive reviews and references – and they’re often happy to refer you to other business owners. Finally, happy customers remain customers – providing ongoing value to your business.
But most importantly, happy customers that value your work add value to your life. Knowing that you’re creating something that others enjoy is an incredibly rewarding experience.
Click here to view other articles in the series: How to quit your job and become a digital nomad in 90 days.
What have you done to provide great customer service? Whether you’ve had one client, or one thousand, you certainly have a customer service lesson to share – and I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!