Maybe finding clients now feels more challenging or like the opportunities have dried up.
Or clients you were working with have had to cut back their budgets or maybe, sadly, they aren’t in business anymore.
Maybe you feel weird asking for work during this time when so many businesses are struggling.
You are not alone!
I worked full-time in design jobs for about six years before I started my biz in the early 2000’s, before there was social media. I found my very first gig on elance.com (now known as Upwork). I also got work through former co-workers at my job. From there, referrals took over, and I didn’t have to try very hard after that to find work.
Even though I would feel nervous at times about not having enough work, the work would always show up when I needed it, usually through referrals or just by sending out a few emails to past clients to see if they needed my help with anything. I know it’s not always that easy for everyone, but it has been the honest case for me.
I’ve given some serious thought to why this has worked so well for me, and I think it comes down to this fact:
Besides creating great work, I focused-whole-heartedly on serving clients well rather than on where my next project was coming from.
So if you’re not already, try focusing on the clients, you DO have and serve the heck out of them. And I don’t mean to do extra work for free or overdeliver a ton. Here’s what I mean:
What we focus on grows.
Even though you want and probably need more work, try to shift your focus to what you do have and make those clients’ experiences the best they can be FIRST. You want them to LOVE working with you so that:
- They will come back to you for more work.
- They will refer you to others.
I think we all know this, but I can’t emphasize the importance of it enough.
Doing this well makes your clients see you as a gem, a unique professional, and a sought-after designer, helping you stand out from the thousands of others doing what you do. Your clients then don’t want to consider alternatives because they want to keep working with you. There are many creatives out there who DON’T serve their customers well, unfortunately. So this good news for you: Be excellent at your craft and ALSO at your customer service. Remember you’re working with humans, so relationship and trust are everything.
Here are some ways to ensure your clients love working with you:
- Make the process of working with you organized, pleasant, and as easy as possible for your client. If it’s complicated, bumpy, or confusing, that’s not going to be a stellar experience for your client, and they will probably look elsewhere the next time they need a project done.
- Pre-communicate and over-communicate: Be one or two steps ahead of the questions your client might have. Let them know ahead of time how the process of working with you will go, what the next steps will be, and demonstrate how you’re on top of any potential problems that might come up. THEN, don’t expect your client to remember everything you’ve told them; tell them again when it makes sense during the project.
- Empathize. Whenever any questions or issues come up during a project, immediately put yourself in your client’s shoes and understand how they might feel. Then, address problems empathetically but factually. You are serving your client and staying true to your own boundaries, so you don’t feel resentful or burnt out over time.
- Ask them. Find out if they’re satisfied. Ask how you can do better. Ask if clients would leave you a review or write a testimonial. I know it can be scary to do this—it can feel a little weird to ask your client to do one more thing. HOWEVER, keep in mind that by getting this feedback, you are improving the work you do and how you service clients, which will benefit your current and future clients. So, make this a part of your offboarding process! Set up an email template for the “ask” and go for it! I know when I finally got up the nerve to do this, I received several 5-star google ratings in ONE DAY, just because I asked for them. Don’t rely on clients to do this automatically. You’ve got to ask!
I hope this helps you think about how you can make sure your clients love working with you. I challenge you to put some ideas into practice THIS WEEK! Let me know how it goes and, of course, ask any questions in the free Facebook group. Your amazing fellow creatives and I will be happy to help.
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