Getting a referral may not necessarily be as easy as you think. As a freelance graphic designer, you are one of many in your field. So if you deliver a mediocre product with run-of-the-mill service, your client will most likely look elsewhere next time. It’s harsh, but let’s be honest— you’re replaceable.
On the other hand, if you go above and beyond the expectations of your client, delivering the best possible product and customer service, guess who they’ll call next time they have a design need? Maintaining a positive reputation is crucial.
Besides having outstanding graphic design skills, it’s the extra stuff that really sets you apart from the rest. From getting that first enquiry, to delivering a finished product, your aim should be to make the process as seamless as possible.
Let’s take a look at 21 simple ways you can assure your client adores you.
1. Be Transparent
Aim to be honest, right from the get go. As soon as you receive an enquiry, give a clear quote. Outline exactly what you’ll deliver and when you’ll deliver it. Be sure to include any fees that may apply for revisions or edits. The more straightforward you are up front, the fewer speed bumps you’ll run into down the road.
2. Be a Good Listener
Sounds simple, right? Improving your listening skills is one of the smartest things you can to as a freelance. When a client is explaining their problem, and how they intend to solve it, genuinely pay attention and take notes. Don’t make assumptions—make sure you are 100% clear about their expectations.
3. Ask Questions
After you’ve thoroughly heard their ideas, request more information if needed. Some clients may not have much experience dealing with designers, making them unclear about what you need from them. Be proactive in collecting more details—ask meticulous questions to avoid any possible misconceptions. Be sure you know who their target audience is and what they hope to achieve with the piece.
4. Show Examples
Sometimes your client may not have a clear idea of what exactly they’re looking for. Instead of trying to read their mind, give them a little nudge to help get them on track. Show them some examples of other pieces of work. Whether they’re your own examples or another designer’s, this can really help get the ball rolling on a concept.
5. Share Your Opinion
If a client has a bad idea, don’t hesitate to let them know. If they suggest using nine different fonts, but you think that would be visually cluttered, explain why you think that and what may be more appropriate. After all, you’re the pro—that’s why they hired you.
6. Be Nice
It’s the golden rule, isn’t it? Treat others the way you want to be treated. This holds true for designers as well. If you do have a suggestion or difference of opinion, handle it with courtesy. It’s easy to come off sounding condescending, which can really rub a client the wrong way. Never act like you know more about their business than they do. Also, if the client is impolite and really gets under your skin, do your best to act professionally at all times.
7. Get Personal
Show your client that you view them as a human being and not just a source of income. Work in some conversation about your personal interests, rather than merely talking business. Ask about their family or favorite sports team. If they feel a personal connection with you, they’ll be more inclined to work with you again.
8. Be Punctual
Always be realistic about your projected timelines and never make a promise you can’t keep. Then, just like you would for a job interview, be early whenever possible. If you deliver the product ahead of schedule, the client will be pleasantly surprised and they’ll remember that next time they need a designer.
9. Overdo It
Instead of just providing the bare minimum, think of what extras you can offer. It always pays to go the extra mile. Do you know of a cheaper supplier than the one they’ve been using? Let them know. If they requested three concept ideas, why not give them five?
10. Be Accessible
Communication is key. Be prompt in replying to emails or phone calls and make time for meetings or conference calls. If appropriate, schedule regular updates to keep your client in the loop. Some will appreciate being involved throughout the process, others will just want to see the final product. Either way, be sure you are readily available to the client.
11. Be Up Front
Throughout the course of a project, unexpected issues always arise. When you encounter unanticipated delays, make your client aware of them promptly. Never wait until the last second.
12. Accept Criticism
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a project in which you’ve invested a lot of time and effort. However, remember that at the end of the day, it’s their project—not yours. So if they point out a few they’d like changed, don’t take it personally. Simply nod your head and follow their instructions. Besides, the customer is always right!
13. Admit Blame
Nobody’s perfect, so if you happen to make a mistake along the way, take responsibility for it. Acknowledge your error and explain how you’ll correct it. Refusing to admit liability makes you seem unprofessional and untrustworthy.
14. Devote Yourself to Every Project
You should always strive to produce a final product that you’re proud of to enhance your own portfolio. But keep in mind that your client has likely invested a significant amount of time and money in their business, and they’re trusting you with their baby. Especially with small business owners, they are essentially placing the livelihood of their company in your hands, so you should always handle it with care.
15. Show Your Face
Even though most projects these days can be handled entirely online, it’s nice for clients to put a face to the work. If at all possible, try to have your initial meeting face-to-face and hand-deliver the final product.
16. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
As great as it is to pile on the paychecks, never take on more than you can handle. When you’re schedule gets a bit hectic, you must learn when to say “no.” If you don’t have the capacity to devote yourself to a project, it will show in the final product.
17. Refer A Friend
Having too many requests is always a good problem to have. If you are approached with a project for which you simply don’t have the capacity, recommend someone you know. Not only will that designer be grateful for the gesture, and hopefully reciprocate in the future, but the client will appreciate you making their search easier.
18. Show Appreciation
Once you’ve wrapped up a project, be sure to thank your client. Send them a card, email, or a small gift if it’s appropriate. Make note of your project’s launch date and follow its progress. Check in with the client later regarding how the piece is doing.
19. Be an Ambassador
Clients appreciate when you believe in their brand as much as they do. Be passionate about the work you’ve done and spread it within your own personal social networks. Work it into your portfolio and show the client later. Flattery can go a long way.
20. Be Loyal
Although it’s tough to turn down work, try to maintain a certain level of loyalty. If one of your client’s competitors approaches you, consider the consequences before agreeing to it. Determine if it’s worth tarnishing your relationship with an existing client.
21. Save the Day
Lastly, be a hero! If a client you’ve repeatedly worked with comes to you with a last minute emergency, don’t immediately turn them down. If you get a call on Saturday morning regarding a project that’s needed first thing Monday, give it some consideration. It’s obviously a big sacrifice giving up your weekend, but if at all possible—make it happen. If you can come through in a pinch, they will likely be very thankful. They won’t forget it and they’ll probably spread the word to others.
So, there you have it. You are now equipped with 21 surefire ways to win over your clients. Put these into practice and you will certainly make an impression on your clients, making them more inclined to working with you again in the future. Don’t be afraid of asking for referrals. If you don’t ask… you don’t get.This guest post is written by Callie Malvik. She is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Rasmussen College. She is also responsible for blogging about programs ranging from a graphic design degree to a multimedia technology degree. Feel free to connect with Callie on Twitter or Google+.