Of course you would. What freelancer wouldn’t like to get more gigs? Even if you are very busy right now, it’s always good to get a positive reference from a client.
But how can you accomplish this? How can you get more business from clients and make a favorable impression on them?
The answer is simple. Try walking in your client’s shoes. It’s called empathy, and if you can show it then you will be a better freelancer. In this post, we’ll discuss how you can use empathy in your freelancing business.
Why Empathy Works
Everyone wants to deal with someone who “gets them”–someone who really understands what they are going through. However, such people are difficult to find because, at their core, most people are mainly concerned with their own problems.
I’m not saying that everyone is selfish–at least not consciously. I’m just saying that often our own worries and concerns make us so preoccupied that we fail to think about what others are going through. This is also true of freelancers.
When a client hires a freelancer, more often than not, the freelancer looks at the project from their own perspective. He or she is thinking:
- How long will this project take me?
- How much effort will I have to make?
- Will the client pay me on time?
- Can I use this work in my portfolio?
Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with these questions. They need to be asked. But many freelancers stop here. Often, the client’s unspoken needs are totally forgotten. Instead, the freelancer only looks at the surface of the project requirements and bases their work (and their relationship with the client) on that. That’s why, from a client’s perspective, freelancers often seem interchangeable.
Imagine what a difference it would make if the freelancer took the time to get to know and really empathize with the client. What if the freelancer not only completed the requested work, but went one step beyond. What if he or she proposed other options that solved some of the client’s biggest problems? What if the freelancer took the time to go beyond the client’s obvious request and make suggestions that would really improve the client’s business?
A freelancer who went to this added trouble would certainly stand out, in a positive way. The client would see that the freelancer understood them. They’d be happy to provide a positive reference for such a freelancers. In fact, it’s likely they would want to work with this freelancer for their next project, and their next project, and the project after that…
Look Beyond the Instructions
But how can a freelancer approach projects and gigs from an empathetic standpoint?
One way is to go beyond the client’s instructions to determine what the client really needs. Yes, client instructions are very important and they need to be given the attention and respect that they deserve. Your client likely put a lot of thought into them.
The truth is, though, some clients don’t actually know how to solve their problems. They may see something a competitor has done and think that doing the same thing might help them, but they don’t know. They need a freelancing expert to help them identify and solve their problem.
This is where walking in the client’s shoes can help you help them.
Use your intuition. If you can figure out a way to make your client’s life easier and save them time and/or money, your client is going to love you. Not only that, you’re going to stand apart from most of the crowd of freelancers out there who don’t take these additional measure to really get to know their client.
Slow Down and Get to Know Your Client
Yes, it may take a little extra time to approach a client from an empathetic standpoint. It will mean, for one thing, that you learn about them and their business. You may have to contact them with extra questions (be sensitive to their time) or show an interest in what they are trying to accomplish.
If you want to walk in your client’s shoes, try to look at your client’s business from their perspective. Be prepared to ask some of the following questions:
- What are some of the biggest struggles your business faces?
- Why do you suppose that struggle exists?
- What takes the most time out of your day?
- What’s a unique struggle facing your field as a whole?
As much as you possibly can, try to imagine what it’s like to be your client–to walk in their shoes.
Once you understand what your client faces, you’ll be in a unique position to suggest what he or she really needs to solve their problems. (Of course, you’ll make those suggestions in a tactful and sensitive way.) Once you understand your client, you’ll be head and shoulders above other freelancers.
How well do you really understand your clients’ business needs? Have you ever gone beyond your client’s initial instructions to look at their business from their perspective? Do you feel that you have walked in your client’s shoes?
Share your answers in the comments.
Image by Môsieur J. (version 5.9a)