This article is written by Quin Hoskins. Having studied law and several science-related subjects at degree level, this has provided him with the perfect foundation to cover an eclectic range of topics in his freelance writing career. From the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs to countless travel sites, he is proud to be associated with companies and organizations that are definitely at the top of their game. The flexibility of his freelance writing business allows him to devote a significant proportion of his time to study and is finishing his last course – out of 6 – towards his LLB (Hons) this year. He is also an avid traveler and has proudly visited 40 other countries to date, with much more planned for the future.
When you’re working in an industry with potentially millions of competitors, all around the world, it goes without saying that you need to find a way to make yourself shine out from the rest. However, as a service provider who has also had cause to engage dozens of other freelancers for projects in the past, I can tell you that you would be shocked by how little thought is put into how freelancers should deal with their customers. In fact, this is a huge bugbear of mine! So we'll look at why customer service is important for freelancers.
Stand Out From the Crowd
Considering customers are the lifeblood of any business, I fail to understand why freelancers think they can rely on brusque and often unprofessional communication skills. It is a massive rarity to find a freelancer that stands out from the crowd; one that has taken the time to ensure their communication is both polite and professional. This is where I have attempted to step in and stand out from my competitors over the years.
Define ‘Yourself’ as a Unique Brand
At the end of the day, just like any other business product on the market, you need to bear in mind that you, yourself, should be advertised as a unique brand. Now, don’t groan and roll those eyes – this really is vitally important if you intend to make it in this brutal world of freelancing. Identify your greatest skills and use these to help define the product that is your freelancing service. Allow these skills to emulate a professional confidence in your communications with potential employers, but never allow yourself to come across as arrogant and conceited.
Professional But Not Too ‘Cakey’
In this day and age, I cannot believe I have to impart this piece of advice in an article that focuses on optimal customer service as a freelancer, but make sure your communications with all clients are friendly and professional at all times. I have found that 95% of other freelancers simply forget all about this requirement and this completely astounds me!
Whilst you want to make sure you are professional and warm with the client, do not allow this to cross over the line into the realm of being ‘cakey’. You know exactly what I mean here: when you ladle the charm on with a trowel and your communications come across as being far too unctuous and sickly-sweet; find the right balance here.
Take a Long Break Before Responding to Complaints
One of the hardest parts of any freelancing profession is when you receive a complaint regarding your service. This really can be devastating! If you work all on your own, you may feel particularly defensive and tempted to respond with a deluge of abuse to make yourself feel better over what you do and help you feel more validated – DON’T! This is absolutely the worst thing you could ever do. Instead, after an hour or so, in which time you should hopefully be feeling less upset and more prepared to move forward in a professional capacity, try your utmost to place yourself in your client’s shoes. Go over what they have said about your service or end product, bearing in mind that not everyone will share exactly the same point of view as you.
Immediately adopt the mentality that it is now your job to turn this complaint around on its head. Sorry to sound a little cakey here myself, but you need to turn the negative into a positive. Evaluate exactly how you can do this: e.g. can you amend anything in the product to make it better, or will you need to start over again and make sure you get it just right this time?
There will be times where your client is simply not happy with your service and will demand a full refund: alas, that is the nature of the beast in this industry and there are occasions where you will have to simply bear the loss.
Never Promise What You Will Not Be Able to Deliver
How many freelancers state that they will do such and such in order to secure work, then when it is time for delivery, they realize they have taken on too much and are not able to deliver? Probably the vast majority of them!
Never, ever promise your client anything that you will not be able to deliver. This is one of the quickest ways of ruining your reputation if you do end up working in such a manner. During the negotiations stage of the project, set out exactly what will be delivered, and when. If you need to come back with a counter-offer to the client in order to ensure this happens, don’t be afraid to do so. Only contract with a client if you are 100% sure you will be able to deliver what they have asked for on time.
So, if you thought customer care skills were only a matter that should concern larger companies and people working in the bricks and mortar service industries, hopefully, you will now think again! Bear in mind that most freelancers are shocking when it comes to demonstrating these skills; therefore, use this guide as a way of shining out above them.
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