Being your own boss can be tremendously rewarding, but it’s also hard work. One of the toughest jobs you’ll face is creating and maintaining positive relationships with your clients. It’s through these relationships that you’ll nurture loyalty, and that loyalty will not only gain you new clients through word of mouth, but keep your existing ones coming back. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
First, while it’s not true that the customer is always right, it doesn’t mean good customer service isn’t important. Always be pleasant, respond to emails (and make sure you have a professional email address-sexyguy1 isn’t going to go over well!) and voice mails promptly, and make sure your clients know exactly what to expect from you. A contract is a must, and if the project is extensive, providing an estimate is also a good idea. You can find a sample estimate template online. These tools will help insure your clients won’t be taken by surprise when they get your bill.
You should also be sure to make your clients feel appreciated. This can be accomplished by sending a holiday card at the end of the year, offering occasional discounts, and if your budget will allow, sending a small gift on a special occasion like the client’s birthday.
One word of caution, while doing all you can to make your clients happy is well worth the effort, there will always be clients who take advantage of your goodwill. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries-if you have specific business hours, don’t return emails or phone calls you receive outside those hours. If a client has a rush job and you can handle it, great. If not, don’t be afraid to politely decline and refer them to a trusted colleague. If you do accept, it would not be out of line to charge a rush fee!
Finally, despite your best efforts, there will always be clients you just can’t please. It happens to every business owner. If this happens, it’s okay to “fire” them. You’re not obligated to keep working with a client that makes you miserable, no matter what!