1. Do You Look Like a Professional or Freelancer?
When you refer to what you do professionally, I recommend saying, “I’m a professional writer/photographer/graphic designer/consultant, etc.” Or you could say, “I own a professional graphic design business, etc.”
The great thing about saying it this way is that it establishes right away that you are a professional. So, down the road when clients hire you, they know you are the real deal.
2. Manage Expectations
The next step toward establishing a healthy client relationship is to manage expectations from the get-go. You have to make everything clear upfront.
3. Set Business hours
You should have some. Yes, being a solopreneur or small business owner often means long hours, but everyone needs a day of rest. It also allows you to structure your workday into work rhythms that allow you maximum productivity.
4. Define Time for Appointments and Meetings
Let your clients know that you are available for appointments and meetings, but not always available for phone calls. Phone calls, excessive emails and other forms of messaging and meetings can waste your precious time and focus. Remember how you must be ruthless with your time and focus?
When your availability is not clearly defined, it is only natural that clients will behave as if you are on call 24/7. This isn't because your clients are jerks, it's because they don't know what you don't tell them.
5. You Need Enough Lead Time.
Communicating how many days in advance you need project details before you can complete them (lead time) is such a valuable piece of early communication for some professions. Often clients do not understand that by rushing their projects through, you are setting aside other projects and deadlines.
6. Refund Policies Keep Awkward Situations at Bay
Having a policy related to refunds for services rendered is very important. Communicating this in advance is always a great idea.
7. Define in Advance How Contract Termination Works
For any number of reasons, contracts get interrupted. Both parties need to understand from the very beginning what will happen when/if they terminate the contract early.
And while we are talking about contracts, let’s talk a little bit about reading them. It’s important to have a contract, but just because something is IN the contract, doesn’t mean your client has read it, so be sure your client understands the details of your work together.
I can't tell you how many times I've said, "As it says in the contract…," and then hear that the other party didn't actually read all of the contract. As I have said before, many people are skimmers. Prepare for this so your brain doesn't explode out of sheer frustration down the road.
8. Be a Good Business Person (Seriously!)
I know this might be surprising to some of you, but sometimes clients hire disreputable people. And once that happens to them, they are forever wary of other professional contractors.
Setting a very positive tone early on with your client will do wonders for their trust level with you. And a trusting client is a happy client.
9. Be Dependable and Thoughtful
Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. If something happens (because life happens, right?) and you can not do what you said you were going to do when you said you would do it, be upfront with your client. If you have to reschedule a call because your dishwasher exploded, don't be cagey just be honest. People can sniff out cagey in a heartbeat.
10. Give Clients the Benefit of the Doubt
Sometimes, we as entrepreneurs, tend to think our clients are difficult when in reality it’s that they just don’t understand what they are asking for. Giving your clients the benefit of the doubt (giving them your trust) will give you a more positive impression of them, which will translate to them having a more positive impression of you.
Never assume your client (or anyone else for that matter) knows what to do, why you do what you do, or how things should work. Over-communicate everything and explain the whys and hows. You'll quickly see that 'difficult people' magically become dream clients.
Bonus: Be “For” Them
Whatever you do, whatever service you provide, you should be “for” your clients. Have the mindset that their success is your success.
You started your business to serve others by doing what you love. Be it consulting, graphic design, photography or accounting- your unique gift combined with your desire to provide a service to others is important.
As a service professional, your work is focused on serving others.
It isn't rocket science. Being a good business person comes down to being a good human and treating others right.
There you go, now you have the key foundational principles for running your own service business.
And feel free to reply to this, like and share.