You’re a freelancer. An expert in your own domain. You’re your own boss.
But you’re also solely responsible for your reputation and recurring revenue. You can be happy as a clam (and successful) simply providing the services you’ve specialized in. Or, you can be a step above the other freelancers who only take direction by making a little extra effort to blend in with your clients.
Coming from the agency, contractor and client-side, I’ve learned that not everyone puts in the time to try to become one with the client. By engraining these simple tips into your onboarding process with a new client, you can quickly establish yourself as one of the team:
- Listen and soak it in. Sure you’ve been hired as an expert, and brought on board to bring your best ideas, opinions and work to the table. But when your client is briefing you or giving feedback, listen to what they are saying. You might be surprised to find out that your preconceived notions of what they like or don’t like are wrong or have changed, and really tuning in to what they are saying can save you lots of rework down the road. Also, to further the conversation and pinpoint better feedback, make sure questions are targeted to the current discussion, not based on your own agenda.
- Experience the buyer’s journey. Don’t just rely on what your client is telling you. If there is content publicly available on what your client is selling, do your research. For example, if it’s a free service (like Hightail), sign up and explore. This will give you firsthand knowledge of the customer journey, including how the service benefits those customers, which can yield more ideas for your project. Having gone through this experience and doing your research will make your job, and your client’s, easier. In turn, you’ll become more valuable because you are saving everyone time and you can build your reputation as a self-starter.
- Get to intimately know their target audience. This is SO important. Again, you could get by with just the information that your client shares. Or, you can scan their community and support pages, subscribe to the industry newsletters and follow industry thought leaders on social media. If you really want to position yourself as an invaluable asset to your client, you need to know their customers just as well as they do. As a freelancer, you might not get access to resources that could be useful – such as customer support logs, product usage insights or user data. If you are asking for these details, be sure to justify why you need it, and what you intend to learn from it. Establishing a theory and hypothesis is a good way to approach the request. If the answer is still “no,” instead of seeing it as a knowledge gap, dig deeper into the data you do have that specifically can tie to the particular project you’re working on.
- Be open to using their productivity tools. There are plenty of different technology solutions available that businesses use for productivity. Don’t let this be a barrier to your collaboration with clients. If they invite you to join in on their platform of choice, don’t hesitate to experience that new tool, learn how to use it and adopt it for your project. You’ll be seen as easy to work with if you can keep the conversation in their solution of choice—and having experience with a new tool will only expand your marketability as a freelancer. For example, our team likes to keep all creative feedback in Hightail, so that we have a review system of record, instead of needing to track down decisions across email, Slack and phone conversations.
At first glance, these activities may seem like they aren’t worth the effort since, as we all know, time equals money. Perhaps include a few hours of research in your proposal, depending on the scope of the project, so that you are demonstrating interest in really getting to know their business. This communicates to the client “I’m doing my part to learn your business,” which at the end of the day will save them time and, in most cases, will yield better work.
Want to see how Hightail can help you collaborate better with your new client? Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Hightail today.