A few weeks ago, I attended my annual “Tennis Day” with friends. That’s the week I head out to a professional tennis tournament in my city to watch high-level tennis, chat about that amazing shot, and spend a ton of money on food and merch as I hang out with friends.
My clients know about my passion for tennis, so they are okay when I tell them I have to move a deadline to attend. I’ll even tell them why, and they’re fine with it. Why are they okay with it?
First, I tell them with plenty of notice. But second, it’s because we’ve developed a relationship where it’s okay for us to share that sort of info. I know one of my clients is a big R&B music fan and another curls in the winter.
When we show genuine interest in each other, it creates a deeper rapport and connection. Clients will think of you first because they remember that “thing” about you. Plus, a personal relationship moves the experience from a transactional one to a true partnership. We relate to each other as people and are more apt to continue working together.
So, how can you develop a more personal relationship with your clients so you’re always their first call? Here are a few ways you can do that.
1. Get Personal, But Not Too Personal
Clients are more likely to reach out to us because they know, like, and trust us as freelance writers. We’re more likely to work with them because we have a good relationship and enjoy our time working together on projects.
But there is a line you definitely shouldn’t cross. Talking about yourself, your family, and your passions outside of work is okay. Going into the details of your latest doctor’s appointment is not.
Stick to high-level information, and you should be fine. For example, I’m going to share that I’m a Star Trek fan and love craft beer, but I’m not going to give the details of my latest hotel stay on a family vacation or the results of a medical test I had.
2. Make Time for In-Person Meetings or Video Calls
As much as I hate “hopping on a video call” with clients, I will do it every now and again so we can see each other as we chat. Sure, a phone call or email might be fine, but it can be nice to look clients in the eye as we talk too.
This “live” touch to our communications can have a powerful effect on the conversation and relationship since we often picture people in our heads as we type out emails. It gives a personal touch to our digital communications in a way that a still picture doesn’t.
3. Send Thank-You Gifts
When I was a full-time manager, I often left thank you cards on my team members’ desks when they’d done a great job or helped me with something. It was a nice reminder that went beyond a verbal “thanks!” and made them feel valued and appreciated.
I’ve done the same with my freelance writing clients, even if they’re in a different country. I’ll send a thank you card or postcard to let them know I’m thinking of them and appreciate our work together. But you can also send a physical or digital gift, whatever you’re comfortable with or think would be best for them.
Some other example gifts are calendars with your insights on each month and your logo or website address, a notebook (if you know they write a lot), a digital gift card to something they like, such as a coffee shop or online marketplace, or a tech accessory organizer (who couldn’t use something to keep track of all our charging cords?).
4. Learn Everyone’s Names
While you might always deal with Jane, the marketing manager, it pays to learn the name of Mike, the accounts payable person, and Carol, Jane’s VP and boss. Learning everyone’s name shows respect and kindness, and also demonstrates your attention to detail (an important trait for a writer).
Use an admin document to help you keep track. I create one for all my clients where I record info like the URL to their payment system, keywords they want me to use, and competitors to avoid. I also add contact information for anyone I speak to so it’s easy to find. Personalizing any messages can help you jump to the head of the queue and ensure a faster response.
5. Learn a Few Icebreaker Questions
Instead of asking the usual “get to know you” questions, learn a few unusual ones to be memorable to your clients. They’ll help you connect more on a personal level and evoke unique, memorable, and appropriate answers, hopefully kicking off a great conversation.
Try one of these out next time:
- If I had the opportunity to travel through your [city/state/country], what would be your top place to visit?
- Have you been to [well-known industry event] before? I’m debating whether or not to go, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
- Your LinkedIn profile says you’re fluent in [other language] — do you get to use it a lot in your work?
- I saw online that you’re a massive [sport] fan. Are you looking forward to [big sporting event]?
- I saw your company won the [award name] recently. Congrats! Did you submit an entry, or were you nominated by someone else?
- I think we’ve got the same taste in [movies/books/other media]. What have you enjoyed recently that I should check out?
Getting personal with your clients can help create a better relationship with them. When you do that, you’ll always be the first one they reach out to when they need help. It moves your relationship from being simply transactional to being more like a partnership.
It’s why I talk about my love of tennis and Star Trek and how I destress from work by running in a large park near me.
What icebreaker questions have you asked clients before that helped you learn more about them? Or do you use other tactics? Share in the comments and let us know.