The Freelancing Guide: The Secret to Strong Client Relationships | Faye Brown | Skillshare

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The Freelancing Guide: The Secret to Strong Client Relationships

teacher avatar Faye Brown, Faye Brown Designs

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Secret Formula


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.



    • 6.

      Finding clients


    • 7.

      Project steps


    • 8.



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About This Class

Building strong relationships with clients is so important for any freelancers... ideally they will keep coming back and give us more work or maybe they will recommend us to other people. 

I've been freelancing since 2010 and over those years I've built up some great relationships with clients - some I've been working with for over 5 years now. In this class I will break down all the factors that go into making strong relationships that ensure you are always at the forefront of a clients mind. 

I will also talk a little about having customers for those of you who own shops or an online store. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Faye Brown

Faye Brown Designs

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Hey Everyone! Thank you for checking out my classes here on Skillshare. I’m a designer and animator living in the English countryside with my young family. After completing a Graphic Design degree in Bournemouth, I started my career working in London in motion graphics designing and art directing title sequences for TV and film. 10 years later I decided it was time to go freelance, shortly before we started our family. 

These days I work on a variety of projects focusing on my passions of typography and branding. Following the success of my first Skillshare class - The Art of Typography I’ve created a range of classes all aimed to help you guys in different areas of design, typography, branding, creativity, photography and freelancin... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello, welcome to this class. Let me briefly introduce myself and my background. My name is Faye Brown, and I'm a designer and I'm based in the UK. In 2010, I decided to leave my full time job as a motion graphics designer to go freelance. In that time, I've learned a lot along the way about building a really strong client relationships. In this class, I will share all my insights and tips for creating relationships that last. Having a few clients that you can really rely on for regular work can be invaluable as a freelancer, but not all clients will need your services again, and yet they're just as important as they can recommend you to other people. So, each and every client is just as meaningful as the next. In this class, we equipped you with all the skills necessary to make these relationships work and also make them enjoyable for you to nurture. I would share with you the three elements that are combined to make client relationships long lasting and meaningful. We will then break down each element into factors and talk about each part individually. Throughout the class, I will use case studies as examples. This will help you see how this works in the real world, so to speak. If you have customers rather than clients, this class will still help you. Customers are generally defined as someone buying goods or services from a store, business, or an individual; whereas clients buy professional services or advice from someone. There's crossover between the two, so sometimes it's hard to determine if you have customers or clients. In this class, I will give you advice to those of you who maybe sell products or own shop. Although, I will usually talk about having clients. I said on HC2, so I have both clients and customers. This is the third class in freelancing service, the other two are about managing your finances and finding a good work life balance. So please do check them out as well if you enjoy this class. 2. The Secret Formula: I was putting together this class. I start collecting all the info that I wanted to share with you guys. I was trying to figure out how best to put this class together in simple, easy to follow sections. At that point, I realized there was an easy to understand visual that would help illustrate the secret to these all important relationships. Everything we do that's client-based fits into three sections: communication, building relationships, and talent. Seeing together as a Venn diagram, helps illustrate how each is as important as the next. If we aren't very good at communicating, so like replying to emails, being polite, having a good attitude, if we aren't good at that, no matter how well we might get on with the client or how amazing our work is, there will come a point where the client will be frustrated because they aren't hearing back from their emails, and they're fed up of chasing us. If we don't build good relationships with our clients, this involves getting to know their brand values, finding a common ground, going that extra mile, they will reach a point where they will think well, what's setting this person apart from general John blokes. Yes, they reply to my emails and their work is good but will your client really feel valued and like they are special? Then talent. Well, if we aren't very good at what we say we are, the client will soon realize we aren't right for that project, The key here is really finding out what your talent is and becoming known for that. So, we can see this magic zone in the middle where all these three elements overlap. That's the perfect relationship a client wants for long lasting work, and they are all as important as the next. If you have bags of talent but you're a nightmare to get hold of, and don't really value your clients, there's a good chance your client will get annoyed with you, and that's not a good start for relationships. We will break down each of these elements into factors that go into making each one important and I'll give examples of real life situations as we go. So, let's start with communication. 3. Communication: Communication. In this section we will look at all the elements that make up being awesome at communicating: Honesty, good attitude, being friendly yet professional, replying, keeping in touch, being easy to find, presentation's portfolios, and talking money. Let's start with honesty. I think this is such an essential quality to have that sometimes you also need the confidence to be honest. I know that sounds silly but let's say you are a work from home parent who carry or who works part-time like me. At first I was a little bit hesitant to tell my clients I only work certain hours because I was worried that it would put them off working with me. This led to some quite stressful moments where I was trying to send final designs whilst feeding my children or getting them ready for a bath. It wasn't that I lied it just I wasn't up front with my time limitations. So these days I make sure if I have a tight deadline or a big job on I tell the client the times I'm available for work or a call. Clients are a lot more used to people working like this these days, and most of them respect that you might have some other commitments. So if you're honest upfront it will save you and the client a lot stress down the line. The other element to honesty is being honest about your abilities. Now I have briefs sent to me that I've instantly thought this isn't right for me. I don't think I'm going to do this project justice or I don't have the technical ability to do this. So, I'm not sure how to be honest with a client and say as much, I'll then usually to try to recommend a friend who I know could do a great job. Now this is great because I'm sure that friend would recommend me in a similar circumstance, but it also shows the client that you care and want to have them move that project on. My husband is now a director who often has to employ freelance editors, and he said he finds it frustrating when he receives the show bill that he then soon realizes doesn't really match up to the person's skills. So, if you are showing your work online or through a video, be honest about your skill set and your ability. You might not attract every client but you will attract the right ones for you. Attitude. It may sound simple but having a good attitude to work goes a long way. Being polite, showing a willingness to work, going above what is expected of you. These are qualities people will remember about you, and make you more likely to be called upon again. You can produce some great work but if your attitude stinks there's a good chance clients won't want to work with you again. They would just find another person who creates great work but who is also good to work with. So listen to your clients, give advice if required, but never ever be rude to a client. Occasionally, you might encounter a nightmare client, but it's part of your job to always remain professional and courteous. You don't want them to talk badly of you to others even if you have no intention of working with them again personally. So, attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Being friendly yet professional. It's often quite hard to find that line between being friendly and remaining professional. You don't want to come across all cold and corporate, and you want show interest in your clients lives. At the same time you don't want to come across too keen or a bit weird, and show too much interest. Unless you want to develop as you build your relationships. If you end up working with a client for three to four years, you will have built up a good working friendship that you probably didn't have at the start. So, let this come naturally. If your client invites you out for drinks, try to go. That will help build that side of the relationship. Don't try to be their friend. I have friends who have become clients and I also have clients who I'm friendly with, but they aren't necessarily my friend. In the next section we would talk about finding common ground with your clients that will help you talk to them. But in terms of general communication, try to speak to them in your normal manner. They are buying into you as a person so communicate with them in your natural way. I usually address my emails with a friendly, "Hi." If I know the recipient, and maybe write something like, "Hope you're enjoying the warm weather." It's very generic but friendly, and just shows that you are human. Reply, talking with the emails. It's so important to reply to your clients, whether that's from a voice message, text or email. Even if you're away just reply and say, thank you for your email. I'm away for a few days but will look into this as soon as I get back. They know that you've seen their mail and acknowledged it. If your client has to start chasing you, that's when they can start getting frustrated. So keep them in the loop. If you're going on vacation, pop them a mail a few weeks before and just say, by the way, I'm way from x date to x date, but please let me know if you need anything before I go away. Otherwise I will respond to anything when I return. We all miss emails or text from time to time. If your client does have to chase and say, "Did you get my last email?" Just again be honest and say, "I'm so sorry I completely missed this. I'm not sure how." Et cetera. Then respond to that request ASAP to show that you care about that relationship. Keep in touch is the key to remain at the forefront of client's minds. So, if that perfect project comes to them then they instantly think of you. So, whether you do that through newsletters, don't do mail outs too often because they can get a bit annoying, maybe a monthly newsletter, or a quick email to say, "Hi." See how everything went with that last project. So just try to remind clients of what you do is always useful. Maybe have a social media page that you can update with recent work. I sometimes share these sorts of posts on my personal Facebook feed as well. You never know when someone might need a logo designing or an animation for example, and it's good to remind people that I do this. I've often got some logo jobs through friends on Facebook. Just last summer I designed a logo for an architect, and the lady I worked with over 10 years ago and whom I'm friends with on Facebook thought of me when they said they wanted a new logo to reflect their business moving forward. She'd seen I was still designing logos and she got in touch. If you're a photographer or illustrator, you can get some postcards printed and send clients a little package nicely wrapped up. Everyone loves getting real post these days. So be creative with the ways that you can keep in touch and have some fun with it. As part of your project write down one thing you could do today to get back in touch with a client that you've loved working with, and better still action it today. Make sure you're easy to find or get in touch with. Have an online presence so you can get high up the search results, have a behance portfolio if it's relevant to your work. Be on Linked In. There's so many ways people can find you these days. So, make sure you are visible. If you'd rather people didn't know your phone number, make sure your email is easy to find on any websites or profiles. Just make it as easy as possible for a client to get in touch with you. Presentation and portfolios. It seems simple to say but make sure your online portfolio or website shows the work you want to be doing and shows it off well. If you want to be the go to person for some sort of work, maybe it's calligraphy, character illustration, or landscape photography, make sure that's the first thing people see when they go to your portfolio site or your Instagram account if you have one. Make it easy for your clients to see your work. If you sell products online, make sure your photos clearly show what you're selling and the descriptions are accurate. Money. I'm not sure anyone really loves talking about money, it's always a bit awkward, but building client relationships that last the money conversations are unavoidable and part of the job. I have clients now who will happily say, just do whatever hours you need and invoices. We have build a trusting relationship, but that won't happen all the time. Most clients will want to know a price upfront whether you have a daily rate or a fixed price list for certain types of work. Make sure you send official quotes to clients upfront, so they know how much money you are charging, and also make sure they are happy with your payment terms. I worked on an animation project once for a new client and it was a project that took a whole month to do, and I invoiced at the end and ask the payment within 30 days. They replied saying that their payment terms are 90 days. Thankfully they agreed to meet me in the middle but I knew then any big projects with them wouldn't be doable for me as I can't wait that long for payment. So, we learn from our mistakes. So don't forget the important part of communicating with your clients. It works both ways. The relationship has to work for you too. So, if you have customers who ask for money off one of your products for instance, just be honest with them if you want to do it. You can still be polite. Just say, "I'm sorry, I'm unable to lower the price on this particular item." You're being polite but firm in saying no. So, let's just recap the key to good communication. Be honest, have a good attitude, reply to clients as soon as you can, listen to them and imagine yourself in their shoes. Be that person who will make their project as easy as possible to complete, and they will come back. So, all of these can be applied to those of you who have customers. If you are face to face with your customers, always be polite and help them in any way you can. If you have customers who email you, reply. If you have a shop or an online shop, these customers are even more important because they can obviously write a bad review, so, you want to please them as much as you can. So, now we're going to talk about one of the other elements, and although this is closely linked to communication, we're now going to talk about relationships and how to really make a client or customer feel special. 4. Relationships: Building relationships. What's going to set you apart from someone who offers a similar set of skills or services to yourself? Along with good communication skills, you need to build relationships with clients. This will hopefully happen organically after you've worked with a client on a few projects, but we will talk about a few things you can do to stop building those close relationships from that first project. So, we will cover finding a common ground, getting to know that brand values, respecting all clients no matter how much they are worth to you financially, recommendations, and going the extra mile. If you have a shop with customers, it can be a lot harder to build personal relationships. Sometimes customers might come back. Sometimes they will recommend you to friends. The time you spend on building close relationships will inevitably be less, but there's still some good points just to pick up from these tips. It's good to find a common ground with clients whether you share an interest in winter sports or music or the fact that you have young kids. One of my clients are Run Mommy Run, and they started as a small group of moms meeting for a run, and now have over 50,000 members in their Facebook group, and sell active clothing. I've been working with Leanne the founder almost since it began and Leanne says, "What helped is that we had interests in common (in our case it was children), so we completely understood each other's restraints, hurdles, and challenges at home and at work. I could also sometimes get in touch with her in the evenings and this is great when you're a working Mum." For Leanne, knowing I was available all times was beneficial. It was also good for me to know that Leanne would understand I wasn't available 9-5, five days a week. Clients who have children also understand when you may not be available during school vacations or if your kid gets ill and you can't work, but it's not all about families. Any common ground is a good thing. It also shows that you're interested in their lives. Maybe they like football and you can talk about the match at the weekend. Maybe they love to travel. The key is to let this stuff come out naturally. You don't want to come across like a stalker desperate to find something you're both interested in. Also, don't pretend you're interested in something if you aren't. It will soon become obvious that it's not a genuine interest. Know their brand values. Your client might be a business owner and that business will have brand values. Most of you are probably designers, illustrators, or artists of some kind. So, getting to know your client's brand values will really help you, not only create great work that's also that brief, but will also show your client how much you really understand their brand. A great example of this is the work I've done for Run Mummy Run over a number of years. The first project I had done was to design their logo. After that, I would do a few graphics jobs with them and as their brand grew, they started designing active clothing. I'm now designing haul clothing ranges for them. For the years of working with them and growing with their brand, I've gotten to know the customers well in terms of what they like. Sometimes will have brand guidelines, some will have a strong presence on social media. Do all you can to get to know their brand and what they stand for through their audiences, what makes them thick. As your relationship grows, you will start to tune into this. But when you first start working with a new client, do as much research as you can about them and ask them if they have brand guidelines. As a designer who designs a lot of logos, it's essential I know my client's brand values and often, I'll send them a questionnaire to help them define them if they aren't sure about this themselves. So, you can do something similar and in the resources of this class, I've included some prompt questions that you could ask your clients. Treat your clients with the same respect and value. One thing that has served me well is making sure that each client feels like I value them and the fact that they've chosen me to work with. So, that's a quick poster design or big animation job that's going to keep me going for months, I try to value everyone the same. I will make sure I reply to emails quickly, open their minds at ease if they're unsure about something. So, even if one job is worth 100 pound and the other is worth a few thousands, be consistent with how you relate to your clients. The client has come to you with this more job might end up in a position to give you a really big job soon, and the client with the big well paying job might suddenly decide that they are changing careers and no longer need your services, and both can be also in a good position to recommend you to friends, which brings us all nicely to recommendations. Not all clients will lead to regular work. I design many logos for clients and that's all they needed from me. Sometimes I like going to design a business card, a stationery or flyer. But once they've got that printed material, they might not need me again, but that's not to say the relationship is over. I designed a logo for a guy to start his own business about two years ago and just within the last six months, I've had two more logos jobs based on his recommendations of many to his friends. Just recently, I've been recommended by someone who I've worked with over five years ago. So, don't think a relationship is over just because your services are no longer required. The other part of talking about recommendations is don't be afraid to recommend friends or people that you know to your own clients. I've often passed on clients to other people for a number of reasons such as I can't fit the working and with a deadline I have, I think I might not be quite right for the job, I'm on vacation, etc. Now, clients will respect you for helping them out by recommending someone else, and your friends will no doubt be happy with you, and hopefully, will pay the favor down the line. Go the extra mile. Doing that little bit extra for your client goes a long line. Maybe you've quite come up with four initial logo designs, but then you actually deliver six. Or it could be something like suggesting some printers to them or maybe send them a little gift at Christmas. Now, I've had clients ask if I can recommend some good Christmasy typefaces to them previously. It took me about half an hour to get some examples together. I didn't charge for this time, a regular client and doing the favor like this can go a long way to build that relationship. Relating this again to those of you with customers, I sell printable items on Etsy and they range from one pound to five pound on average. So, generally, not high ticket products. Recently, I had a customer who wanted part of my printable postal office set, but not the whole set. For me to go and create a light version of this item would take way too much time for a couple of pounds, but equally, I wanted to make sure the customer was happy. So, instead, I set her up 50 percent discount code, so she could buy the full version that is what she needed. An easy thing to do, but hopefully, she'll remember my shop or recommend it to friends and come back. So, there's some good pointers for ways to really build meaningful client relationships. We are now going to talk about talent. 5. Talent: Talent. Being good at what you do is obviously fundamental to being successful in a lot of our careers, and finding that unique equality about yourself, that sets you apart from the next designer, or illustrator, or photographer, or whatever, can set you apart from others. Although, it sometimes takes years to figure out. So don't panic if you don't know exactly what it is just yet. I will talk you first point as to how can you find it, but I wanted to share some tips on ways to manage your amazing talent. Be known for your passion and skill. I describe myself as a designer and animator. It's quite a broad spectrum, but my style of design is generally very clean, graphic, and simple. Just as if you're an illustrator, your style could be very graphic or it might be very painterly. We all have our thing. I'm a type geek and most people know this. So if they have a type query or type of free project, they know I love projects like that and we'll get in touch. It can take a few years to figure out your style. So don't worry if you aren't there yet, but just start taking note over the next year of what projects that you really have loved working on. Is there a common element to the style or the genre? Maybe you're a photographer but you're at crossroads as to which direction to go in. I don't want to limit your opportunities by only saying you do one thing, but when you figure out what you're really, really good at, your clients will figure this out too and know when a project turns up, what might be best suited for you. Now, my work is quite varied and I design logos, stationery, brochures, I illustrate, and I do motion graphics, but there is a style which holds all of these together. So at this point, make sure your portfolios are full of the type of work you want to do. Your dream job so to speak. Be passionate about your work and when your passion shows through, your clients will remember that. It also important to note the following. Clients actually don't always choose the best option. They choose the least risky one. Going back to someone they know who has done a good job before is much less risky than trying someone new. I think this is such an important insight tonight. I would say I'm a good designer, but I'm not cutting edge but clients often don't need cutting edge. They need a good job done with deadlines met and someone who is easy to work with. So that's why, although talent is a main factor in creating relationships with clients, it's not the only factor. So don't ever think that you won't be successful, you won't be as successful as the kid who came up with the most awesome work at college. That kid might actually be really difficult to work with. "But I have no talent." I hear people say this and I truly believe everyone is talented. They just might not have found what they are naturally really good at yet and it doesn't have to be something artistic. Maybe you're great at talking to people or children. Maybe your talent is to teach or care for elderly people or cook or play football. But if you haven't found your talent yet, there's this great list online. I don't know the original source but it says, "10 things that require no talent: being on time, work ethic, effort, body language, energy, attitude, passion, being coachable, doing extra, being prepared. Now, until you find that unique talent that you do possess, work on being great at these attributes or even if you're just going through a patch and not feeling particularly talented, we all do, then still remember this and push on through. For us, talent is important in a lot of careers, it's not everything. So work hard, show up and be the person everyone likes to work alongside. 6. Finding clients: How to find clients. I've speculated about finding clients in other classes, and it really could be a class on its own. But I just want to talk to you about two of my most loyal clients. I've worked with them for a number of years, and the relationship started quite differently for each. I've already mentioned Run Mummy Run in this class. I met Leanne, the founder, on Twitter in a local, our court, I'm sure our, where local businesses post their services or ask for advice on a certain subject and people share or recommend others. My first project with Leanne was to design a logo. I then designed some other material for them, including medals and exhibition graphics. Now, I'm regularly designing whole clothing ranges for them. I really feel like I understand their brand and feel part of it, as I've been working with them since the beginning. We have a common ground in that we are both moms of young children. I know the challenges of working around young children. Here's an interesting fact. I've never met Leanne face-to-face. It's not like we even live that far away from each other. So, even though we've built a great client relationship and often communicate by email, occasionally by phone, we've never actually met. Now, I want you to be inspired by this to find clients yourself. Don't limit yourself by your location. Even if it's on the other side of the world, great client relationships can be formed without ever meeting. So, get your name out there, whether it's joining in with conversations on Twitter, or really building your Instagram following, publishing work regularly on behalf. People can find you, and they can turn into clients. Now, for a completely different client relationship. I often talk about Coffee&TV in my classes, as it's one of my favorite logos I've designed. But getting this job was so much different. I used to work with the four guys that formed Coffee&TV, a previous company. When they were starting to get everything in place for their new company, they asked me if I would design their logo. Since then, I've worked with them on pictures, business plan designs, Christmas cards, and even party invitations. So, this relation started years before. We were colleagues and friends. These guys knew what I was like to work with and what I was good at. This is an example of why it's important to remind people what you do, whether that's the old post on Facebook or just catching up with past colleagues for a drink. You never know when someone might have that perfect project for you or would recommend you to someone else. So, keep in touch with people, but don't do that in a fake way. Do keep in touch just in case they might have some work for you. That should be a genuine relationship there, but just make yourself visible. Join relevant Facebook groups. I've recently just designed a logo for an interior designer who is asking for branding experts in a Facebook group, and I've replied to her. So, get your name out there and don't be shy. 7. Project steps: As most of you who have taken the Scotia class before will know there's a project area and this class is more of an advice class, but there is a very simple project that you can take part in and I'd love to hear about your results. I want you to take action on each element that we've discussed in this class. So, for communication we talked about getting back in touch with the previous client. I really encourage you to take action on this right now, don't put it off. Think about the best way to get in touch and do it. Email them, send them something in the post, whatever you do. Let us know and let us know if you get a response. In terms of building relationships, I want you to share with us a small story about a great relationship you've had with a client or customer and what made it special. Just by doing this task, you'll start to learn things about yourself too. For instance, when I started this class I decided to reach out to two of my most loyal clients and asked them a few questions about why they liked working with me. It wasn't that I was trying to fish for compliments but their responses were quite insightful. So, if you just take some time to actually think about the past relationships you've had with clients, you can learn a lot. Maybe it was a client that didn't work out. You just didn't click. Learning from these experiences is so important. I don't believe in failures or mistakes as long as we learn from them. Whatever you can share with us, would be really helpful for everyone else too. And talent, come on show me your greatest work, what are you most proud of, what projects have you simply loved working on and why, and this can also be a great eye opener to what sort of work you should be chasing. Share your portfolio, so social media accounts. We'd all love to check them out. Ask for advice if needed. So I just want to point you in the direction of my dedicated Facebook group and for all my Scotia students, I've included a link in the notes area on this video and I'll also post in the discussion area. But please use this group to ask any questions you may have as well. 8. Outro: I hope you've enjoyed this class on Scotia. I hope you found it useful and I hope that all these tips will help you build some really strong relationships over the years. If you have enjoyed this class, please do check out some of my other Scotia classes. I've got classes on branding, freelancing, typography, creativity and color. It's quite a lot of a mix of classes I've got here, so I hope to see you in one of those classes soon.