As a freelancer, you likely have clients from all different categories of business. This type of diversity can keep your work interesting, but it can also present a challenge when figuring out how what your clients need. There is a special set of skills required to figure out what each client wants and then come up with a plan to meet those needs.
As of 2014, about 33 percent of American workers had done at least some freelance work within the previous 12 months. That means that you are competing with a lot of different freelance workers with all different experience levels and price ranges. Knowing what information clients and potential clients most need can put you ahead of the competition. Here are five key things clients need to know when working with you:
1. Complete Rate Structure
Before you talk to a client about what you plan to charge to complete work, you need to fully understand the scope of the project, how much you’d like to make per hour and what you plan to charge for incidentals. Most companies are on a budget for their design and marketing needs, even those farmed out to freelancers. A client needs to know he can trust you to stay within that budget.
The best place to start is figuring out what you need to earn per hour to make a livable wage freelancing. You then need to add in an additional percentage to cover any overhead, time spent finding new clients and advertising costs. This can vary from one freelancer to the next, of course, so a good place to start would be around 20 percent of total project cost. This isn’t a number you’ll find listed hard and fast anywhere, but is just from experience with freelance work and costs involved.
2. Privacy Policies
Clients need to know how you’ll keep their private information safe. You may be privy to all sorts of sensitive information. This information, if given to competitors, could harm the overall profitability of a company. How will you keep this information safe?
Understand that some clients will require you sign a nondisclosure form. This simply states that you won’t disclose sensitive information. You can offer this to clients upfront by letting them know your nondisclosure policies and putting them in writing.
However, keeping client information safe goes a few steps further. You need to be sure you have secure computers. Use virus protection, keep files private and not public, and only allow access to trained and vetted employees.
3. Statistics on Packaging
Your clients expect you to be an expert on marketing and design. You should share statistics with them about the effectiveness of the proper packaging and why they should consider a redesign if needed.
52 percent of people who shop online say if a business offered premium packaging, they’d buy from that company again. 40 percent would share a photo of a product if the packaging was interesting enough.
Understanding all elements that go into creating a unique and interesting package design takes years of training and practice. Share this experience with your clients, so they know you have a handle on the best design for their products. You can ease their worries with your knowledge.
It is really quite simple: Don’t lie to your clients. Don’t promise things you don’t know you can deliver. For example, you have no way of knowing how effective a campaign will or won’t be. You can guess, because of similar campaigns, but there are many variables.
Instead of making promises you can’t deliver on, explain why you can’t give a hard and fast number. Then, explain what you can promise. The amount of work you will do, the outlets you will reach out to and design elements are all things that you can personally control for your client.
A client will appreciate your honestly more than if you make lofty promises. Most seasoned business people will see right through a promise that isn’t based in fact.
Freelancers are sometimes bad communicators. Many freelancers work from home because they enjoy the ability to work alone on their own time frame. The problem with this is that no one works in a vacuum. Clients need to know where you are at in a project.
Regular communication reminds clients that you are on top of the project and completing milestones. Fortunately, there are many tools you can utilize that will help you better communicate with clients. Some examples include Basecamp and Trello. You also can create a simple spreadsheet and share it in Dropbox or Google Documents with your clients.
Do take the time to send an email or schedule a phone call every once in a while. Clients might sometimes have questions they haven’t expressed, and by keeping a weekly or biweekly communication schedule, you avoid any misunderstandings that can compound over time.
Another idea is to send out a monthly newsletter to your clients. Let them know about new skills you’ve learned, successes you’ve experienced and any changes to your team or business. This can also jog the client’s memory about you and they may throw some additional work your way or tell a colleague about the services you offer.
Knowing what your clients need isn’t always the easiest task. The five points above will help keep the lines of communication open and your clients’ needs at the forefront. Don’t be afraid to ask a client what he or she needs, too. A quick poll, email or phone call can fill you in on details you otherwise wouldn’t know.
With a little focus on your client, you’ll gain a reputation for being a problem-solver. This can grow your business faster than almost anything else.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dog, Bear.