Doing the Little Things to Please Clients

Read any post on this site and you’ll find a million dos and don’ts of how to treat clients and how to go the extra mile to please them.

In my experience, I’ve noticed something strange–clients are more likely to notice the little extra things you do for them than the big ones.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of not doing any spec work and I always charge the client for work outside of the contract. But, we can offer our clients other little extras that they’ll appreciate just as much.

So what are some little things you can offer your clients?

Smile in Your Conversations

I prefer to speak with my clients through email. Unfortunately though, it’s tough to convey your personality or mood through email. What may sound normal and business-like to you might come out as terse and short to them.

I’ve found that by simply including a few smilies and making sure I’m in a good mood while typing has really made a difference in the way the client perceives my communications.

Potential clients who email me often feel at ease with me after only a few emails. The more comfortable you can make your clients feel; the more likely they’ll be to come to you with more work. Often the reason clients choose freelancers over agencies is because they receive more personal attention.

Delivery Early…Every Time

I normally promise my clients a delivery date of one week from the scheduled date. Then I try to deliver one or two days ahead of time. Clients appreciate the fast services they receive and it gives them some extra time for content and revisions before launch.

If I feel the project is going to take two weeks, I promise it in three. Not only does this cover you in case something goes wrong with the project, but it makes you a superstar in their eyes when you deliver early.

Take Initiative

The other day I blew up a website. Apparently, my client made several changes to the CSS live, which I didn’t realize at the time, and I didn’t download the newest version before making changes to it. By the time I realized that I lost all of his work, I was away from the office in a several hour appointment.

As soon as I got home, I gave my client a call and spent 30 minutes letting him walk me through the site so I can replace everything I messed up.

Instead of arguing with the client or putting off the fixes until it was convenient for me, I apologized first thing and cheerfully made the fixes.

Clients know you’re human and that you’ll make mistakes from time to time. It’s how you handle the mistakes, however, that determine whether you’ll have a happy or angry client.

Answer Emails Promptly

Most clients are on somewhat of a deadline and hate waiting two or three days for an email reply. On the other hand, if you’re a busy freelancer it can get tough to answer them quickly.

What I try to do is answer all time sensitive emails as soon as I get to the office in the morning and then I answer the rest in the evening after work. This helps you not to lose productivity, but still allows you to reply promptly to clients.

Take Extra Time

Not all clients are good clients who deserve a ton of extra time from us. But, those who are great ones, do. I love working with several of my clients and never get frustrated when they ask for help, advice or even a small coding change. Normally, I’d charge for most of these kinds of services, but not for these clients.

A good way to reward your favorite clients and let them know how much you appreciate them is to just be there. Make sure when they have a problem or potential project in mind, you’re the first person they think of.  These clients are hard to find and you want to make sure you don’t lose them.

Let Them Know ASAP

One of the biggest pet peeves clients have with freelancers is the bad habit of not telling a client as soon as a problem arises.

When I’m quoting a project, if there’s something I’m not sure of how it can be coded, or it can be done in the exact way the clients wants it , I’ll let them know that upfront. After all, it’s tough to know exactly how something will be coded until you actually try to code it.

If it turns out something can’t be done, I let the client know as soon as possible, instead of waiting until the end of the project. This is a courtesy that many freelancers forget to offer, and it allows the client enough time to think of an alternative plan.

Forgive, Smile, Do…

We’ve all read horror stories about clients. But, clients are people too and they can make mistakes just like we can. It’s easy to get angry or offensive when a client changes course in the middle of a project or forgets to give you important material until the end.

If it’s a large change, then by all means charge for it since it’s out of spec. But, if it’s something that would take less than five minutes, let them know it’s no problem to change it. They’ll be happy to know they’re not inconveniencing you, Plus you seem like a hero.

Scratch Each Other’s Backs

One of my all-time favorite clients is working on a cool personal project and wants me to code it. Since it’s a personal project and not one for his clients (he’s an agency), he’ll be paying for it out of his own pocket.

This client has donated a lot to my own personal projects, so I want to pay them back. I’ll probably end up doing the project for my lowest fee, even though it’s a very large site and would normally cost much, much more.

Freelancing isn’t always about making money and sometimes it’s just as important to make relationships. Doing small thing for clients shows you really care and they’ll often return the favor. I’ve even had clients pay me an extra $50 or $100 just for being so helpful!

Your Thoughts

What are some of the extra little things you’ve done for clients?

Image by Search Engine People Blog


  1. says

    I can definitely vouch for answering e-mails quickly, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from clients and peers alike when I respond to them quickly via e-mail. I can understand why too because I hate waiting 2 days for someone to get back to me on a simple question.

    Another thing I would add to the list is patience. Many clients appreciate a designer/developer/writer who takes criticism well and provides revisions with a smile. This is a huge part of being easy to get along with in terms of a freelance project.

  2. says

    I always try and respond to emails when I get them, twitter messages etc. Even if it gives me less time to do other parts of my work, its important that I come off as really trying to engage with the client. I’ve recently written a post about a client I’m working with at the moment and they are terrible with communication which is really holding me back and te be honest, its getting quite stressful!!

  3. Craig Braham says

    Adding smilies to your email communication is a great way to show you don’t have the skill of crafting sentences to convey meaning, but instead have to rely on emoticons to do it for you.

  4. says

    I think we should take care delivering the project too soon, it can easily become a problem.

    Because if you said that 3 weeks would be enough and you make everything in 2 … the client maybe thinks that you are pretending that the job would be more difficult, and spent more money than the necessary.

    But 1 or 2 days I think its ok.

    By the way.. great post.

  5. says

    Hi Amber,

    Great article and do agree 100 percent with you and faced same situations in my journey of creativity. Keep writting and loved your website, i do miss at times when creativity is overpowered by ego:-) but i gues our personal website can suffice all the creative ideas and your site somehow speak a lot about you.

  6. says

    Thanks Amber, great tips!

    I’ve found that answering emails promptly and “with a smile” often causes the client to respond in a similar way.

    I also agree with Rafael that delivering the project too soon too often can lead to unreasonable expectations with some clients (although many just appreciate it).

  7. says

    What you’ve written express exactly my actions… I’m very glad… I mostly give mine freebies… For instance…They’ve asked for brochure, flyer, banner and cd label… I give the cd label for free for example… Money is harsh for everyone to get nowadays…so, I do my little part…Thanks for your words and xxx from Rio.

  8. says

    New clients have to be reassured that they are in good hands. A personal meeting does the job, even talking on the phone helps. I am not crazy about keeping it just to email. Emails can be interpreted the wrong way. Always be respectful of your clients and thanks them. Also there is nothing wrong with using the word please.

  9. says

    I disagree with Craig as well. Smilies often help prevent your message being perceived as criticizing or harsh when you were only trying to provide information. It lightens the tone the same way you would when doing the same thing in a conversation. Tone and inflection makes all the difference, yet these things can’t be conveyed with the plain written word. And if you’re worried about smilies making you look less professional, then you’re taking yourself way too seriously. The service you provide should speak to your professionalism, and your communications reflect your personality. No one wants to deal with a boring, always-serious person.

  10. says

    I love this article! Putting smilies in my emails, answering them promptly, and updating clients about the work that’s been done are little things I do to make things easier for them and they always respond positively. I especially make sure to make answering emails promptly a habit since I myself get annoyed when people don’t answer my emails soon.

  11. says

    I work a lot of a night so I can’t answer the phone of a day if I’m asleep. I was missing a lot of calls! So I got a call answering service. Although they can’t help the Customer at least they can take a message. It’s really helped.

  12. TLC says

    My clients appreciate it when I give them ideas to expand or enhance what they’re doing. They see me as the expert and expect me to guide them through the creative process.
    My clients also like it when I try to head off potential problems. When I look down the road and point out possible obstacles, then suggest how to deal with them, they feel more confident and prepared.
    Finally, some of my clients know just how frugal I am at home, and they know that translates into me working as efficiently as possible for them, which saves them money.

  13. Mauro A. Litsure says

    Great article. Great tips for when I eventually gather bag full of clients, still will apply with my current clients. I’ve noticed that clients want to feel at ease when dealing with me, so I’ve adopted the “It’s like I’ve known you for a while now” mood. Has worked for me so far.

  14. Ross says

    I seriously suggest contact by phone during the design process.

    I know too many people rely only on email. But that voice contact is so important.

  15. says

    Great post mate. I don’t think these qualities applies to only Freelancers. I am working as a full time web developer in the Client Technical Service department in an E-commerce Solution company and I find these points very useful.

    All the situation you gave as an example, I have almost experienced it all. I’m totally agree with you about giving extra stuff to your favorite clients, but sometime if it’s too much, your favorite clients may turn into worst clients instead. They usually get spoiled easily when it comes asking us for changes. So basically give them free stuff and also let them know your limits.

    And I have to say, Delivery Early…Every Time is a must! I have to agree with this.

    Overall, Great article! Retweeted! :D

  16. says

    There’s some solid tips, I have just one question: do you ever feel that using smileys/emoticons in emails to clients is unprofessional? I tend to use smileys to convey feeling and emotion but avoid their use in email communications with clients.

  17. Patrick says

    Delivering early can be a double-edged sword. It creates precedent that your work doesn’t take as long a you say it will. After a while, a client will ask for something to be done by end of day that can’t be finished by that time and then say, “All your other work you’ve sent early.”

  18. says

    @Ian no I don’t think so. I’ve never lost a client because of my smilies :)

    @PAtrick I’ve never had this problem before, but when I say deliver early, I mean a few days. Don’t tell them it will take a week and then deliver the same day :)

  19. says

    I agree with all points, running a small design business you have to be accountable for everything, so be transparent and put the client first… even if you don’t always agree.

    Definitely reply straight away to emails, think how annoying it is when you’re sat waiting for a reply for hours. Even if you haven’t got the full answer for them, tell them that, then set an automatic reminder (we use the calendar in Entourage) for yourself to find them the correct answer and reply in full as soon as you can.

    Always try and under-promise, but over-deliver!

    I could go on, but you get the idea.


  20. says

    Your post was so validating for me. What you’ve said, I’ve been putting into practice for years. It didn’t come easy and instantly, but boy, it’s made client relationship so much sweeter. Telling the client when you’ve messed up is hard, but the outcome is so much more positive when you do.

    Because I’m an artist as well as designer, I’ve started creating custom drawn thank-you cards to send to my favorite loyal clients. They love the cards and in turn, they get to know my other side as artist.

  21. Israel says

    I couldn’t agree more with Jordan Walker’s comment “Answering the phone when they call.” Last year I picked up 3 new clients simply because I answered the phone and the guys before me didn’t.

  22. That Guy John says

    “Scratch Each Other’s Backs”

    This is great for networking with “like” industries that go hand and hand.
    I have one guy (I say guy, not client because we both do A LOT of back scratching for eachother, he doesn’t feel like a customer), we send eachother customers on a constant basis. We have even, some what jonkingly, discussed working out a point system to cash in on IOU(s). :)

  23. says

    Your post reminds me of something a friend told me that he can hear my smile over the VOIP (phone). I think, positive attitude makes a big difference in the first place.. and the rest follows. To answer your question, I make small revisions free of charge to my loyal clients — and discounts for bulk projects, like me going the extra mile to please them. It has been doing me some good with all these repeat business I get.

  24. says

    Great article, but I too am not sure on your advice about delivering too early and emoticons. if you feel a message needs an emoticon, maybe a phone call is the better route. I just don’t think they convey professionalism. As freelancer, we need to be creative and expressive, but still being professional is important.

    I agree with the comment about delivering TOO early. If you keep doing it, people will start expecting it, and you could paint yourself into a corner. Also, they may very well think you bloated time and effort to get more money.

  25. says

    These are great things to keep in mind. I’m not sure about emoticons exactly (seems a tad teenager-ish), but I get the idea of setting a positive tone and not sounding uncaring. Being punctual and helpful is great too. Seems so simple and like a “duh” thing, but they’re easy to overlook when you have a lot on your plate.

  26. says

    I do consider all of the concepts you have introduced
    in your post. They’re very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  27. says

    Good tips. These ‘little things’ help our clients and prospects to know that we really do care about them and want the best for them.


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