When you’ve been at the freelance game long enough, you imagine that you understand what clients want most: a great work product at a price that delivers value for them. From the perspective of someone who’s hired hundreds and fired dozens of creative freelancers over the years, I can confirm those two components are indeed essential—but they’re insufficient when it comes to earning referrals for your editing business. Rising to that level requires delivering a superior client experience.
What does that mean in practical terms? Doing great work is no guarantee that someone is going to pass your name along. And few freelancers are talented enough to get away with being difficult or annoying to work with. Delivering a superior client experience includes:
- Communicating on the client’s terms. I realize that we all have our communication mode of choice, but my belief is that you need to adapt to the client’s preferences. If you really hate phone calls and the client loves them, you have to follow the client’s wishes. (Charge extra if you want.) If a client wants weekly updates, deliver them; if they don’t want to hear from you until the project is done, don’t pester them with questions unless they’re do-or-die.
- Being reliable. Define a mutually agreed-on scope of work, do what you say you’re going to do, and accomplish it in the required timeline.
- Knowing when to let go. When a client is not happy about the final outcome of a project, find a way to be happy or at least at peace with it. Not everything needs to go into your portfolio.
- Delivering the X factor. Ultimately, you want your clients to enjoy the process of working with you. That might mean acting more professionally with some and more casually with others.
Remember, when a client refers another client to you, they’re also putting their own reputation on the line. If you do a great job and deliver a great client experience, that reflects well on them. If you fail in any of the categories above, it’s going to make the refer-ee question your client’s judgment—and in a worst case, that could even jeopardize their own relationship.