Whoever came up with the ridiculous notion that self-employment meant being your own boss clearly didn’t have any clients. If you’re running a startup, contracting independently, or offering any sort of service, you don’t just have a boss.
You have several.
The difficulty in working with several clients versus a direct superior is that there’s more than one person to impress, and an even higher chance that you’ll be passed up for someone else when you fail.
By the time you’ve factored in cold pitching, email correspondence with current clients, and problem solving any issues you may already have, you’re probably doing more more to keep your clients happy than actually doing the work you’ve been commissioned for.
And that’s assuming you’ve already locked down this client for the long haul.
Impressing your clients, both current and prospective, is one of the many ways that you can try to stand out from the unseen competition and maintain consistent income. Which brings me to my first point:
If you are talking to them, they are your client. Full stop.
I don’t care if they’ve requested your rates or sent an email asking what exactly you can do for them. They are your client, and you need to treat them as such.
Treating prospective clients like second-class citizens will only ensures that you will never have a lasting relationship with them. As long as it is financially feasible for you to do so, devote as much time to your clients as possible.
Here’s the simple truth — if you want to impress your clients without trying, pay attention to them. Stop talking, and start listening. That’s it.
That answer might frustrate you. You might have been looking for some other explanation when you clicked on this title. But if I could, let me show you why paying attention and listening to needs that aren’t spoken has helped me more than I ever thought it would.
I’ve been working with a digital marketing agency for some time now. Nothing particularly fancy — I look at their needs, write up some articles and copy, and ship them off to an editor who takes it from there. It’s simple work, and it’s not particularly lucrative, but it’s consistent and the editor is my favorite liaison and client.
After a while, I noticed that she had been reformatting my articles on the collaborative drive into a new style— something I hadn’t seen before, but most likely worked in favor of whatever workflow they had for their agency. So, before sending over the next project’s articles, I changed the formatting to match hers.
This took me, what? Ten seconds to complete?
After another three hours, I got this in response:
I got more than just a compliment. My workload doubled soon after that, and the client bent towards my schedule — not the other way around. I got twice the work and twice the freedom by paying attention.
Here’s another example:
I was in need of another agency to fill up some free time and help with some bills I needed to pay. Once I found an agency that seemed close to my niche, I noticed that they had given pretty specific instructions for applying.
Instead of copy-pasting my usual cold pitch (that’s proven to be pretty effective in the past), I wrote up a new one. Again, this took me no more than 5 minutes. I got a response in less time than that:
By doing the bare minimum of expectations, I had set myself apart from an untold number of applicants and pushed my application to the top of the pile.
And yeah — I got the gig.
So don’t go on autopilot when talking to clients or pitching prospective ones. You’re not emailing some benevolent being that’s holding your money hostage— you’re talking to a human.
Instill a little humanity into your online correspondence. Don’t be scared to mention little anecdotes, like a personal note on the weather or even a current event if appropriate. I’m not saying be unprofessional — I’m telling you to be normal.
Part of the glorious nature of working for yourself is the ability to turn your personality into a part of your personal brand. Don’t negate that ability. Be a little loose, if that’s how you are in reality. Or be concise and direct. Whatever is most honest to you.
Usually, you only have one shot to impress a client. So make it count. Be somebody people actually want to work with. And who knows?
Maybe you’ll want to work with them, too.