The Secret to Successful Freelancing

The biggest secret to becoming a successful freelancer is customer service. No it’s not crazy awesome design skills or the ability to be the best programmer in the world. It’s something as simple as how you treat people. Good work delivered on time is always better than great work delivered late. Here’s a strategy to follow for providing excellent customer service.

You’re not the best

The cold, hard truth is that you’re not the best designer in the world. You’re also not the best web developer or software engineer in your city. Now that we have that out of the way, you can stop worrying about unrealistic goals or judging yourself against your piers. Don’t waste your energy trying to become a “rock star”. Instead focus your time on what many freelancers ignore — customer service. What can you do right now to be a better service provider for your customers? A few things you could try are:

Don’t waste their time

Make sure you’re prepared for meetings so you show that you value their time. They’re your customer and that makes their time more valuable than yours. Yes, they need to respect you too but if they are taking time out of their busy schedule for you, make sure you show that you appreciate that. This is done by showing up on time for meetings, staying on topic in discussions, and getting to the point quickly.

Educate your client

The worst thing you can do with a client is put yourself above them. I’ve often heard in the past that the client should just accept my work because I’m the designer, I’m the one with the knowledge, why don’t they trust me? Trust cannot be given, it needs to be earned. To build trust with your client take the time to educate them and inform them about the design decisions you make. For example, I decided to use a sans serif font and blue for your new identity. The reason behind this decision was X, Y, and Z. What’s obvious to you may not be to your client so take the time to explain your decision making process. This will allow the customer to feel a sense of ownership in the project and make it easier for them to sign off on your creative. This also builds trust and will make future jobs easier.

Be honest

Above all be honest with your clients. I often have clients come to me and ask for a service that is outside my core areas of strength. Yes, I could design or develop your project for you but it will take me much longer than someone who specializes in this area which will also be more expensive for you. Don’t take this job without first telling the client how you feel. Even better, have someone in your back pocket you can refer your client to. But I don’t want to give business away. The thing is you are building some serious trust with your customers when you follow this type of strategy. It will ensure they return to you because they know they get great service and can rely on you. In some cases, they may even want you to do the work because you provide such great service!

Service is key

Are you seeing how all of this comes back to providing great customer service? The design or development basic skills need to be there but it all comes down to how you treat people. I think Gary Vaynerchuk said it best… the best marketing strategy is just to care! Genuinely care for what is best for your client and it will be returned to you.

One of the biggest complaints you hear from clients is that such and such designer flaked out on me. Or the designer didn’t really listen to what I wanted and delivered the project late. If you are looking for a way to be different from the competition, this is it. Treat your customers well, deliver on time and on budget and you will be a successful freelancer.

Starting up your freelance business

I’m working on a new book right now called the Freelance Startup Guide. It will teach you everything you need to know about starting and growing your own freelance business. Including more great info on customer service and how to build relationships with your clients. Check it out today or leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Originally published at on May 5, 2015.

Head of Design @ Stellar Labs

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