Many people assume that being a freelancer is the same as being an employee, just with more flexibility. However, it is more akin to being a small business owner. To be successful, you need to not just take care of the basic tasks of your chosen field, but also engage in administrative and marketing activities to maintain the financial health of your one-person company.
The most important aspects of these additional duties tend to revolve around your clients. There’s a lot of competition out there, no matter what field of freelancing you engage in. As such, it’s imperative to find and attract new customers, and keep them coming back. One effective and efficient way to approach this is by optimizing the structure of your client journey.
This isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re not well-versed in customer service. However, it can make a significant positive impact on your ability to keep your business running smoothly. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can structure your clients’ journey and set yourself up for success.
Understand Your Customers
It’s difficult to optimize your client journey if you don’t take time to understand who your clients are. Your approach to this depends entirely on what level of your freelance career you’re in. Many people find freelance clients through a combination of methods. Friends and family can be a good initial source, as can your social media network on Twitter or LinkedIn. As you move on you may find it effective to make profiles on freelance websites like Upwork or FlexJobs.
[bctt tweet=”Ask your current clients what they valued about your approach and take note of elements of quality they prioritized.” username=”freelancewj”]
Ask your current clients what they valued about your approach and take note of elements of quality they prioritized. If you’re pitching more to large corporations, your approach may be slightly different. Seek to utilize data gathered by the industries you’re engaging with at large. If it’s within your budget, work with a data analytics company that can help provide you with insights into the preferences and needs of clients.
Whichever approach you use, you should then use the information you gather to start building a general client profile(also known as a customer persona.) If you’re operating in a single niche, you’ll usually only need to create one of these. This is essentially your customer in a single fictionalized form that you can use to design your journey towards, rather than trying to predict what each client might want. As your business grows and develops, you can adjust your persona according to changes in your industry and evolving client needs.
Consider their Experience
Creating your customer journey can’t just be predicated on getting them through the sales funnel and converting them. Though this can be effective to some extent, it can feel to consumers that the situation is coldly transactional. That can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Rather, it’s wise to look to large businesses and focus on customer experience (CX).
This is where you structure the journey in a way that considers not just opportunities for conversion along the way, but how positive their experience along each step of the path is. Not only can excellent CX lead clients to hire you, but research shows that it can also have an impact on loyalty. So, you need to start by examining every aspect of your clients’ current journey. In each interaction — on your website, navigating your portfolio, communicating with you — establish what your current approach is, and how you can improve.
Often you’ll find that good CX involves making things simpler for your clients. Particularly if they’re large businesses with a lot of moving parts, you want to make sure their CX is as smooth and pain-free as possible. When it comes to your billing, you’ll generally find clients have a better experience — and pay on time — if you take some of the work out of it for them. When you’re negotiating payment terms, provide them with flexible payment options. Using cloud-based invoice management rather than physical documents can be more efficient if they need adjustments or corrections to be made.
An important element that too many freelancers overlook when structuring their clients’ journey is dialogue. Their journey shouldn’t be a static, one-way system with you dictating what their experience will be. You’ll find more success and have a more pleasant time when you engage in meaningful exchanges.
This is where your social media profiles can be useful. Make it clear — particularly on text-based platforms like Twitter — that you’re active in communications and responsive to both comments and messages. Engage in conversation with industry leaders and discuss interesting aspects of the industry. Ask about their needs. The goal is to use your socials as another point in the client journey where your demographic can see you’re approachable. Encourage your profiles’ use as both a customer service platform and an opportunity for clients to make valuable connections with you.
Most importantly, be sure to make both existing and potential clients part of your storytelling. Ask them to contribute blog content to your website. Start a podcast and invite them to be a guest on it so you can talk about prevalent issues in the industry. This helps to demonstrate you care about what your clients have to say and want to be part of addressing their challenges.
To keep attracting and retaining clients as a freelancer, you need to take the time to understand the journey you’re taking them on. Learn about their needs and review your processes to ascertain where you can make their experience more positive. Making them a key part of the process can help forge stronger bonds that ensure consistent engagement for years to come.