5 Ways Freelancers Destroy Client Relationships (and How to Avoid Them)

By Hailey Robinson on January 31st, 2014 / Comments

There’s no doubt about it: freelancing is a tough business. Creating a product, whether it be as a programmer, writer, or designer, and then advertising and attracting clients is quite difficult. But if you can’t keep the clients who hire you, you won’t be able to maintain a good reputation. Don’t make these 5 mistakes that will lose you clients and money.

Failure to Communicate
The specific relationship you have with each client is very important, and establishing those relationships begins with good communication. Be upfront about your prices and your process. Clarify any details you’re uncertain about, and make the client feel as though he or she can come to you for clarification as well.

Listen and pay attention when clients give you revisions or ask for changes, and constantly confirm details. Something as simple as emailing to confirm a deadline can save you and your clients a huge headache later. Not every client will be good at explaining what they want, so honing your own communication skills and being as specific as possible will go a long way. Also avoid confusing them with complicated language–programmers especially need to watch out for this one. Speak to the client in a way he or she will understand.

Being Unresponsive and Flaky
One of the easiest ways to lose clients is to fail to respond to deadlines and communication. The client is paying for your service, and part of that means negotiating when that service will be delivered, and being available in a timely manner if they need to speak with you. They want to know you’re present if they have questions, concerns, or changes. A client who is uncertain of your availability and who can never get you on the phone isn’t going to be a client for very long.

Using Unreliable Tools
Freelancers need the right software and hardware to get their projects done. A designer knows the value of Photoshop, just as a programmer needs a quality computer. But your tools don’t stop at your computer and your programs. Your internet connection and your cellphone service are as important. Imagine missing important details of a project because your cell reception was shaky, or dropping a call in the middle of negotiations with a new client. Consider investing in a home phone service from a reliable provider, because any successful entrepreneur needs to be able to communicate with confidence.

Forgetting that Freelance is a Business
A programmer who creates brilliant code in a short amount of time, or a designer whose work is beautiful and complex, might forget that having a good product isn’t the only, or even the main aspect of freelancing. You might be selling your art, but that doesn’t change the fact that freelancing is a business.

A quality product isn’t enough to keep clients coming back if you’re unprofessional, unresponsive, or unreceptive to criticism. Also remember that your clients are human, and deserve to be treated as such. Even if you’re busy, don’t treat your clients like numbers and provide them all with similar work. Each relationship is a unique one based on respect and professionalism.

Creating Second-Rate Product
Freelance may be a business, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the work isn’t important. Like any business, you want to submit your best work. It doesn’t matter how easy you are to work with, how exactly you comply with deadlines, and how cheap your services are. If your work isn’t well done, clients aren’t going to want to continue to work with you.

The only way to produce a quality product is to work hard at it, practice often, and maintain a critical eye. Whether you’re a designer, writer, or programmer, keep your mind open and receive criticism gracefully. Learn from comments you’ve received in the past so you don’t repeat mistakes. If you’re not sure about something you need to submit, keep working on it until you can be confident it’s your best.

If you’re a freelancer, you’re in business for yourself. So stay professional and respectful, learn to communicate well, and always produce your best work. By avoiding making these mistakes, you’ll maintain healthy, lasting relationships with your clients.

Looking for a local freelance resource? Check out the Detroit area Freelancer’s Guild.

About the Author

Hailey Robinson

Hailey is a recent graduate with a degree in Journalism. Now that she isn't face first in books she is trying to travel as much as she can. She writes in her free time between fixing up her new house and teaching people how to live a longer, healthier life.