If you look up the word ‘ rapport ‘ in the dictionary, it means presence of harmony, trust and cooperation in a relationship. As a freelancer, when you are working with a client on a project, it’s important to understand that your relationship with the client isn’t just limited to that project which you are working on.
It could go well beyond that and could benefit you in the long run.
Hence if you think long term, then you need to build a strong rapport with your client so that he remembers you even after the project. It’s pretty simple actually, provided you keep in mind these basic ground rules.
1. The First Impression
Like in any relationship, the first contact with your client lays the foundation of mutual understanding and determines whether this relationship will continue even after the project or will just be a one-time affair and perish.
So when you first talk to your client, it’s important not to dominate and listen actively. Try and understand his psyche. Is he assertive, very demanding or easy-going ? Does he have great expectations from the project ? Will he co-operate and can you live upto his expectations ?
It’s not easy to determine all these things during the first conversation but still you can get an idea. Once your client has finished talking, you should go ahead and ask relevant questions. The client may interrupt you and bombard you with more questions. It’s fine, be patient and politely answer his questions. If the client is satisfied after the first conversation and feels that it was a good talk, then his chances of cooperating with you going forward increase immensely.
2. Inform And Educate
It’s important to inform your client about the ifs and buts before you start working on the project. This prevents any misunderstanding later during the course of work. Set expectations about the time of delivery and what further help you can provide.
You should also go that extra mile and educate him about your work process. Like, if you are a web designer, you can always inform him that first you’ll design it using photoshop and then you’ll start the coding. Educate him about the fact that once the coding starts, major changes in design are usually difficult to make and hence both of you should come to a definite agreement on the design before you start with the coding. Also during the course of work, you can educate him on a few things about designing.
Going that extra mile with your client will certainly ensure a strong rapport with him, which could further translate to a nice testimonial and more work for you in future.
3. Timely Communication
This is something which a lot of freelancers tend to overlook. You may be dealing with a lot of clients at a time and don’t have time to email each of them, but if you think form your client’s perspective, he hasn’t hired a lot of freelancers for the project. He has given you the project and hence has some expectations from you.
Keeping that in mind, you should email your client at least once or twice in a week informing him about the progress and your work pattern. This helps in eliminating the worry factor which is always directly associated with investment of money and further strengthens the mutual trust between you and your client.
Yes, it goes without saying that if you complete the project in time and beat the deadline, your client will be very pleased. In fact it’s good to underpromise and overdeliver. You can always give a surprise to your client by including a nice extra feature in the project in the end.
Not only that makes the project better, but it helps you to build strong rapport with him and win his confidence.
5. Keep In Touch
Yes, you should take time to touch base with your previous clients. An email or sometimes a short chat on IM always helps to maintain that friendship. And with so many communication tools available ( like twitter ) it shouldn’t be difficult. :)
I think the above tips, with the exceptions of a few really bad clients, should work pretty well with all your other clients. So what other methods do you adopt to build a good relationship with your clients? Let me know in the comments. :)
About the author: Abhijeet Mukherjee is a blogger and freelance writer. He is a regular contributer for many blogs notably including DumbLittleMan.com and MakeUseOf.com. He also maintains his own blog about tech tips, productivity hacks and blogging tips – Jeet Blog