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Nov 29, 2023
Navigating Client Relationships: 10 Approaches for Freelancers

Navigating Client Relationships: 10 Approaches for Freelancers


To shed light on the art of building strong, long-lasting relationships with clients as a freelancer, we've gathered insights from ten seasoned professionals, including Founders and Business Owners. From the importance of authenticity and strategic over-delivery to the power of treating clients like family, these experts share their proven strategies and illustrative examples. Dive in to learn from their experiences and apply their wisdom in your freelance journey.


  • Establishing Authenticity and Strategic Over-Delivery
  • Building Personal Connections and Trust
  • Understanding a Brief and Problem-Solving
  • Structuring a Well-Documented Workflow
  • Maintaining a Human Touch
  • Being Helpful, Dependable, and Yourself
  • Generating Ideas and Being Proactive
  • Over-Communicating for Stronger Relationships
  • Delivering a Unique Client Experience
  • Treating Clients Like Family


Establishing Authenticity and Strategic Over-Delivery

Freelancing is so much more than the craft itself; it's about establishing trust and continuity. Serve with intention, understand profoundly, and over-deliver strategically.


Authenticity is my starting point. Every interaction is laced with honesty. It's about letting clients see the human behind the craft, making transparency a cornerstone.


Delving deep is non-negotiable. I'm absorbing a brief and absorbing a brand's ethos, voice, and aspirations.


Exceeding expectations isn't about doing more, but doing it smartly. Maybe it's offering a fresh angle, fine-tuning a message, or finding that untapped emotional chord.


I once collaborated with a local coffee shop aiming to expand digitally amidst bigger coffee conglomerates. Instead of a standard website copy, I suggested a series of in-depth profiles of their coffee growers. It was a gamble. Yet, by focusing on the very hands that cultivated their beans, we created a unique narrative. The result? Their online orders surged!


Lilach Bullock, Founder, Lilach Bullock


Building Personal Connections and Trust

As a freelancer in affiliate marketing, I live and breathe all things relationship building. I believe open communication, rock-solid reliability, and creating personal connections are key. For example, after a few weeks of working with one of my clients, we connected on Instagram. 


By getting a glimpse into each other's personal lives, we discovered common interests and the conversations just flowed. That connection turned into trust, and my client started referring me to other people. It's real proof that building connections outside of the business realm can lead to incredible success.


Ann Hand, Affiliate Marketing Consultant, The Full Hand


Understanding a Brief and Problem-Solving

Understanding a brief is crucial, and you can gain a lot of trust by asking the correct questions. With this information, you need to ask further pertinent questions until you get to where not only do you fully understand the brief, but the client can also see that you understand the brief.


Importantly, don't say yes to everything. It's your job to flag issues and provide solutions to them. If you're the only freelancer highlighting issues, then you're way ahead of the competition.


For instance, recently, we were asked by a major outdoor leisure brand to take photos at an activation and deliver them via facial recognition.


We have the capability to do this and could have just said yes. However, the event was going to be in low light, and it wouldn't have worked well, causing major problems. We told them this, and they changed direction with us. We've now had two further inquiries from this client.


Philip Atkinson, Founder, Ignite Images


Structuring a Well-Documented Workflow

Assisting clients in structuring a well-documented workflow ensures a successful collaboration. This includes providing comprehensive project briefs that clearly outline all necessary information and project objectives. 


Clarity is essential; when freelancers such as myself are well-informed about the what and why of their tasks, they can fully comprehend their role and the purpose of their contributions. This method allows for seamless communication and aligns the freelancer's efforts with the project's overall goals.


The freelance community has an extensive pool of talent, and their consistent delivery of high-quality work enhances team capabilities. Using platforms like Upwork has been critical to project success, especially during stressful and demanding times.


Jemma Wiltshire, Business Owner, Jemma Wiltshire Design


Maintaining a Human Touch

Always keep your human touch. It may sound obvious, but it's not. 


The secret is in the little things. Is the client coming back after two weeks off? Ask how their holidays were. Will you be unavailable on Friday because your brother is getting married? Share that with your project manager.


This approach has worked extremely well for me. A lot of project managers contact me to freelance for their new companies when they change jobs. 


Over the years, it has been a phenomenal client-acquisition strategy - one that I wasn't even thinking about when I started doing it.


Domenico Trimboli, Freelancer and Business Owner, Domenicotrimboli.com


Being Helpful, Dependable, and Yourself

I have been consulting in B2B tech marketing (cyber & AI) for seven years now and have built relationships that turned into repeat business as well as genuine friendships. Here's how:


1) Show up as your authentic self. Be clear on what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can best help.


2) Deliver what you promise, on time and on budget.


3) Follow Rumi's sage advice and be a lamp, a ladder, or a lifeboat. Shine a light on what's working (and what's not, and how to optimize), help your client and their team(s) achieve their goals, and remember you are there to serve.


4) Remember, you are working with actual people, not just titles or roles. While some freelancers are more comfortable staying 100% in the professional realm, I would much rather know the folks I'm working with. 


And because I've done all that, I have now worked with one executive across four different companies, and keep in touch with many others.


Kim Ann King, Founder and Managing Principal Consultant, New Leaf Communications


Generating Ideas and Being Proactive

Be proactive in coming up with ideas for your clients. Freelancing can be very transactional if you let it. I've never been satisfied with being an order-taker, so I proactively look for new keywords, topics, or content ideas to help my clients reach their goals. I'll pitch these ideas to them; many times, I create more paying work for myself.


This is a great way to show to your clients that you "get" them. You know their business and what they want to achieve. You're showing you're not just an order-taker but a second brain for them that can help them get closer to those goals. They'll feel like they're getting their money's worth and won't want to work with anyone else.


Alli Hill, Founder and Director, Fleurish Freelance


Over-Communication for Stronger Relationships

Keeping clients updated frequently and asking more relevant questions about their business has led to much stronger, long-lasting relationships as a freelancer. This isn't a regular call. 


Most clients receive a maximum of one call per month (unless a big project is underway). Instead, it is a weekly update email, plus sporadic additional emails asking questions or requesting feedback. 


This gives a great psychological boost to the client, showing that things are constantly moving forward with their work, rather than them potentially worrying for the month and then getting a longer monthly update. Great feedback has been received from clients since implementing this.


Freddie Chatt, E-commerce SEO Consultant, Freddie Chatt


Delivering a Unique Client Experience

Building quality, lasting relationships with clients can be challenging, particularly as more people launch businesses. One way to stay relevant and diversify from other service providers is by delivering a "Disneyland Experience" to every client served. 


Think about how to provide an experience so memorable and unique that they can't find it anywhere else, which makes one irreplaceable. As a career coach, this might look like asking questions they've never been asked before or sending an unexpected note in the mail. 


The key here is to focus on the relationship and making their experience magical, not getting caught up in the money or trying to scale a process.


Dr. Kyle Elliott, Founder and Tech Career Coach, CaffeinatedKyle.com


Treating Clients Like Family

Treat your clients like family. Provide the same customer service you would to someone close to you. Go above and beyond at every step of the process and earn their trust. It doesn't end once they've paid; it's just begun. 


You want to be someone they can learn to trust down the road, who they think of later if someone they know asks for a referral, and you want to affirm that they made the right choice working with you.

Irina Scarborough, Owner, Resumeology