Treat clients with utmost courtesy

21 January 2015


“OK, I've defined my freelance work and fees, but where are the clients?”

by Al Sabado

As a fellow service provider, I can only assure you that finding projects and clients is a process—no shortcuts. But if the above title is your question, now that you’re starting as a freelancer—congratulations! Welcome to the freelance industry!

I won’t go into the details of where to find clients because I’m sure you’ll find clients in ways that might be better than what I’ve known. For a start, do visit some leads I’ve mentioned on my web page, Database of freelance tools. What I’m sharing here are a few aspects of finding clients and tips on dealing with them.

Note that “freelance” is just a jargon, describing the nature of the work self-employed income earners accomplish and deliver to clients. This means that freelance work can be legitimate and trustworthy, delivered by professionals, who are in no way classified as fly-by-night or unreliable income earners.

Your clients may come from every part of the globe, depending on the service you offer

While you’re starting, try to be more open when it comes to finding work from unlikely sources. I say this because not many people like the idea of bidding on projects. If you’re into online work, then projects may come from bidding websites, such as Freelancer, People per Hour, Upwork, and the like. These job sites normally deduct an escrow or a milestone fee of 10% from the payment you receive from clients.

You may opt to pay the 10% fee right away, or better yet, allow the bidding site system to deduct the amount from your fee every time a client pays for your delivered services. Joining these bidding sites doesn’t mean you’ll have to earn so little just to find work. You may find from these bidding sites clients, who pay reasonably or around your hourly fee, based on the current industry standards. Sometimes, your clients may not leave feedback on your profile but would be kind enough to refer your services to their colleagues. Be brave. You’re reading these statements from someone who’s been there.

Avoid other forms of small intermediaries

The bidding sites I mentioned are examples of preferred intermediaries. I say they’re OK for a start. But the intermediaries I’m referring to that you ought to avoid are agencies or third parties—can be individuals or companies—that offer similar services you do but serve as a channel between you and the clients, at exorbitant fees—as much as 75% of your professional fee! If that’s OK with you, then join them. But if you’ve realized doing your work is no joke, then you’re serious enough to evade such third parties and manage your OWN freelance business. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Observe the highest form of work ethics when dealing with your clients

Unfortunately, some service providers take it a small matter to be rude to clients. But as a customer yourself, you understand that rude service is bad business practice, and that service done with utmost courtesy to clients and customers is favored and rewarded. So let’s observe the following must-have work ethics:

Don’t hesitate to address clients with Sir, Ma’am, Doctor, or other titles that’s due them. Addressing clients with these titles doesn’t make you inferior. But doing so is recognizing the fact that they’re, first of all, your clients who you look up to with respect and, secondly, you’re the service provider they can trust. If they prefer you call them by their first name, then call them according to such preference. But treat them highly and not as someone who is as the same level as you are. You’re talking to a client, not a friend. Remember this principle especially when the client treats you in a friendly manner. You can be amiable, but learn to draw the line and be sure not to go beyond it. Call that the code of professionalism.

Refrain from sharing with your clients your loaded schedule, personal affairs, and other commitments. Telling your clients how busy you are with your other commitments doesn't help them in any way. Know that clients are similarly preoccupied with numerous endeavors, and perhaps they’re a lot busier than you are. So be kind enough not to bombard them with stories about your personal and other business affairs that don’t concern them at all. Be helpful by being direct to the point in addressing their project concerns. If they’re asking about their project the time you’re in the middle of a flood inside your house, then simply address their concerns about the project. Deal with the flood inside your house—later! Learn to deal with your personal affairs courageously and privately without having the need to “confide” to your clients.

Practice precision in your speech: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t leave the clients assuming or guessing what you plan to say or do. Be frugal with your words but be sure your messages are clear to your clients. NEVER tell your client, “We will visit the project on January 25, if the Lord's willing.” If you’re a God-fearing person, then so be it! But if you’ll tell the client, “if the Lord’s willing” to say you may or may not come or do something, then you’re utterly mistaken! The Holy Bible says, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). That's a given factor. But as a professional service provider, you ought to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” because beyond that is of the devil (Matthew 5:37).

And so after stating a date for your visit, don’t commit another mistake of sending a text message to the client saying, “If not the 25th, is the 23rd OK?” Avoid making it appear like the client's going to be the one who'll adjust to your schedule, when the flexibility should come from your end as the service provider. It’s either you say you’re coming or you’re not. Be careful then in stating your plans. Be sure that what you say, you’ll do. And say only that which you’re certain of doing. If clients notice the uncertainty of your words, then how do you expect them to trust everything else you say?

Regardless if you find the client unpleasant, observe courtesy at all times. Be sure to address all client concerns accordingly. This might be the first time the client is dealing with a professional like you, so aim to make it a pleasant experience for the client by acting professionally. Be not slow to clarify any miscommunication that may arise between you and the client, who may be a potential first-time client or repeat client. Sometimes, projects aren't awarded simply because the service provider is sloppy in communicating with clients. For instance, disregarding client messages or neglecting to acknowledge emails and other forms of messages from the client is a sign of rudeness. Refrain from committing these poor work ethics. Respond to client messages in a timely, polite manner.

It’s never too late to apologize. Ignore the popular song that says otherwise. Don’t leave your client disappointed due to miscommunication. Be quick to clarify concerns and apologize for any unintended misunderstanding that has occurred between you and your client, who may be embarrassed with your casual lack of response towards an unlikely circumstance. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness but a timeless form of humility.

These reminders are just a few I can mention here. I’m sure you have gained other learnings (a nonstandard word, officially known as “lessons”) from your own freelance experiences. Do remember to treat your clients kindly, just as you would want your service providers to treat you.

You might also want to read other online articles on this site:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, 
We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 
(Luke 17:10)

Updated April 2016