How you treat a client – and the work itself – certainly impacts the success of a relationship. Meeting deadlines, producing quality work, staying on scope, communicating clearly and often – all of these are freelancing 101. What’s not talked about that often is how to set your new client relationship up for success so that all of these things come easily – maybe even naturally.
With that, here are 10 ways you can set yourself up for success when working with a new client.
1) Finalize your budget
The first step after landing a new client or project is to confirm your budget – what you’ll be paid, when and how. Have your client agree to what you’ll be paid in writing – in your contract, in an email or on the CloudPeeps platform. Clearly outline the hours you’re expected to work (if working on an hourly rate) or what your flat project rate is for the work to be completed. Often times, your final, agreed upon budget will be included in your scope of work – covered below.
2) Scope your work in writing
During the negotiation stage with your new client, you should have identified their goals and agreed on how you’ll help them reach those goals. Before you officially kick off your work, reiterate what you’ve agreed upon in terms of deliverables and expectations from both parties in writing.
Just like your finalized budget, you can share and agree on your scope of work anywhere you can revisit later if an issue or disagreement arises. At a bare minimum, your scope of work should include:
- Your expected deliverables: what’s due to the client
- When your deliverables are due: weekly, monthly, quarterly – with exact dates
- Your quantitative (metrics) and qualitative goals as a freelancer: the results you’re expected to produce
- How your results will be measured: your key metrics – signups, followers, website visits, etc.
- How your results will be reported and who’s responsible for monitoring results, when
- Any meetings either or both parties are expected to attend: i.e. weekly check-ins
- When, how, and how much you’ll be paid
- Milestones to be reached (covered below)
Your scope of work is the most effective and efficient way to manage expectations. Both you and your client can revisit it anytime there are any questions around deliverables. It acts as a sanity check to ensure everyone is on the same page. It can also be a great tool to leverage when negotiating a wider scope or increased rate.
3) Agree on communications standards and a process
Your process for communicating will have some overlap with your scope of work, but it goes beyond that. Your process should outline how you’ll communicate and what tools you’ll use (i.e. Slack, Trello, Asana). It should also cover what will be accomplished with every team check-in, when you’ll meet, and any other communication expectations.
Your process will take some trial and error and will change over time. Try not to be too resistant to the change in order to find what works best for both parties. For example, CloudPeeps just updated how we check in with our own Peeps and set up new workflows to stay on the same page between meetings. This has been the best solution for us in terms of productivity and removing roadblocks. But it took a few approaches to find what worked best for us, especially being spread among time zones.
4) Collect all passwords and secure files
As part of your communication process with new clients, collect all relevant passwords and logins at once when your engagement launches. We suggest using a secure platform like 1Password to ensure your client’s secure information is not compromised. In 1Password, you can create a folder for each client so that everything is organized in and easily accessible from one place. (Pro tip: remember, all software you pay for that you use for your freelance business is tax deductible!)
5) Create milestones
Milestones create opportunities for re-negotiation. Identify one or a few of your goals in your work agreement as a chance to revisit what’s been accomplished, and how. Alternatively, milestones can be set and reviewed periodically. Every quarter, we revisit our content and community strategies to identify what’s worked, what hasn’t and what changes should be made. This is a great time to celebrate wins and realign priorities. Example milestones include quarterly content review, reaching 10,000 Twitter followers, six-month contract and reports review, 1,000 signups, etc.
6) Set up your internal process
The more you can prepare yourself for a successful client engagement, the better. That means getting organized. Make sure your calendars are up to date with your client meetings and calls, create any Trello boards or Asana projects you’ll be using, download any other tools you might be using in the engagement, create secure files in your Dropbox to save all of your work, etc.
Create a daily or weekly checklist of everything that needs to be done for that client or project. That way, every day you can wake up knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished. If you do this for all of your clients, you’ll be able to scale your freelance business faster than ever imagined!
7) Create feedback loops
Clear and consistent communication between a freelancer and client is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. And the most important part of developing consistent communication is building feedback loops. When setting the agenda for your weekly check-ins, carve out time for your client to share any constructive feedback on your work. Acknowledge their feedback – positive or negative – by repeating it back and brainstorming what you can do differently, or continue doing. That’s the only real way to keep your clients happy and wanting to continue the relationship.
8) Set boundaries in advance
When creating your scope of work and communication processes, share any vacations or offline time you know of in advance. That way, expectations are set and your client and you can plan accordingly. For instance, if you’re a social media manager who’s going on vacation, schedule posts before you leave and make sure someone on the team can reply to anything urgent – and that they have everything they need to do so.
More importantly, outline the times of day you’re available to answer emails, Slack messages, IMs, or calls. Whatever you do, resist replying to your client’s email at 11pm unless it’s absolutely urgent. Set expectations and boundaries early on so that they’re not abused later. Your client will respect the fact that you are also a business owner with other clients and a life. Make the most of a tool like Boomerang that allows you to schedule emails to send at a later time.
9) Create a client onboarding checklist
Take all of the steps above and put them in a checklist you’ll use for every client. Trello is a great tool for this. With a repeatable process, your client onboarding will go much faster and smoother and nothing will fall through the cracks. You can even share your checklist with your clients so that they know what to expect throughout the process and can prepare everything they need to in advance. Plus, think of how impressed they will be with your organizational skills!
10) Use CloudPeeps to manage your client relationships
The hardest part of launching a freelance business is getting started. Or even knowing where to start. That’s why we created CloudPeeps. CloudPeeps enables you to connect with clients, provides you with a platform for managing contracts, tax forms, job agreements (your scope of work), and invoicing. We make it super easy to manage all of your client relationships in one place so you can focus on getting the work done.
Ready to get started? Create your CloudPeeps profile today. Have questions? Leave them in the comments below!
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