1. Have a Professional Presence

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Always carry yourself in a professional manner. First impressions do count for a lot. Clients will appreciate if you dress and carry yourself in a way that mimics their own employees.

This can extend to your entire public presence, from having a domain name, business cards, portfolio and how you dress or carry yourself when you come into a client meeting. If asked who did a certain project, a client should want to share your information and not feel embarrassed about the referral.

All of your design and marketing materials – and yes, this can include portfolio selections – should represent they type of clients and business you are doing and want to do. Design your own “persona” with as much care as you would take with a client project to ensure lasting impressions.

2. Solve Problems Before They Arise

Clients will appreciate someone who can predict and work out problems before they happen. There’s nothing worse than a call after the launch of a project, website or billboard design that asks “why did (insert problem here) happen?”

Talk about clients with all potential issues and things you have encountered in the past. This awareness will help clients make better decisions and can prevent embarrassing mistakes.

3. Teach the Client Something New

Every client should understand the scope of the project and the work you are doing. Take a little time to help them understand it all. You might teach a client the value of responsive design, for example, or why certain color schemes could turn customers off or on and the theory behind it.

The education is beneficial in two ways:

  • Clients will better understand what you are doing and the value of the work.
  • Clients will feel more ownership of projects because they can actually talk about them with confidence when asked.

4. Become a Brand Ambassador

Clients will love you if you love them. Unless you are working on a confidential project, show your clients some love.

Spread the word about a company or showcase a finished project on social media and through your networks. Add client projects to your portfolio. And after you have shared, let them know you are doing it. (This can be especially important depending on the size of your network and connection to the client work or brand.)

5. Provide Networking

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Sometimes you can connect clients. Help your clients network with each other. A referral network can provide a valuable point of connection and help your clients see you as a strong reference.

“You are the company you keep.” Keep that in mind when making referrals and provide only the best networking opportunities that will reflect well on you and your clients.

6. Over-Deliver

Never will I advocate working for free as a freelancer. But there is a fine art to giving your best or most-desired clients a little something extra.

For example, when I do poster or ad work for clients, I always create a second digital, web-optimized version that clients can use on social media, brand websites or for other online purposes. It only takes me an extra couple of minutes but shows the client that I have all of their interests in mind.

7. Design for the Client, Not Your Portfolio

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When you are working for a client, they need to feel like you are working for them. Don’t force trends or design techniques on clients just because you want to add to your personal portfolio. Clients will see through this and it will become a source of frustration and consternation.

Listen to clients carefully and create for them. Use techniques, elements and tools that represent the client, even if it is something you are tired of doing or a technique you don’t particularly like. To avoid potential problems, think about every client in relationship to your style before taking on a project: Are you similar enough to work well together?

8. Focus on Details

Every little element should be just right. Those details will make a client look good every time. Make sure colors match between mediums, you may have to create a color variance palette with colors in RGB and CMYK and of slightly different levels for specific mediums.

Look at design elements across the project. Are edges round or square? Is type bold or regular? Is the tone and language universal? Do printed and digital elements match? A strong focus on details will ensure that every part of a project – and client identity – will work together seamlessly.

9. Showcase Awards and Recognition

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Do you enter your work in professional competitions? Are there others that you could enter on behalf of clients?

If your work for a client wins an award or earns recognition or even gets a ton of appreciations on Behance, it make the client looks good. It is something they can brag about. As a contracted worker, your recognition belongs to the client as well. Make sure to point out these wins and share the spotlight.

10. Treat Every Project as Your Only Project

Tackle every project like it is the most important work you have, and treat every client like the most important in your portfolio. This can be a lot tougher than it sounds. We are all stressed, right? Just don’t let your clients know it.

Little things like coming to meetings prepared, always meeting (or beating) deadlines and having a good grasp on project and client needs are important. There are other small things you can do as well, such as answering the phone when a client calls and returning all emails within 24 business hours. While these all sound like small things, they can make a world of difference.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that making a client look good is a reflection of you and your work practices. Don’t sacrifice your rates or integrity and make sure to set boundaries with clients so the relationship is mutually beneficial. No matter how good you make a client look, it won’t mean anything if you did something you don’t feel good about to get there.

Maintain balance. Set boundaries. Create strong work relationships. Together these tools will result in client-freelancer partnerships that both sides will be happy to have.

Freelancing 101 is a monthly series to help the increasing number of freelancers in the market. Whether you are a designer, writer, developer or wear multiple hats, we will share tips, resources and ideas to help you make the most of your small business. Is there something in particular you want to know? How do you feel about this series? Let me know at [email protected].

Stock Photos Courtesy of Creative Market

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