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Healthy Business Relationships for Freelancers

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by Laura Spencer

This tutorial turns the common myth of the lone freelancer on its head. It explores the types of business relationships freelancers need and why each is important. It explains how you can make your relationships stronger. I’ll also examine an area of relationship building freelancers often neglect: face-to-face networking.

Business relationships are the core of my own freelancing business. I know that I’m not alone. Most successful freelancers also excel at building good working relationships with those around them. Interpersonal skills are a key asset.
Regardless of your freelancing specialty, I think you’ll agree that business relationships are important. Let’s take a closer look at why you should invest in them.

Why You Need People
Your freelancing business needs people to survive. This is true even if you work from home and rarely see anyone on an average workday.

Without clients, you’re not in business. Once you have clients, you need to build healthy relationships with them so they continue working with you. If you run a business, you need clients, prospective clients, and also colleagues.

What Freelancers Say About Relationships
I asked a few experienced freelancers how relationships factor into their business. Alicia Rades, a specialist in blogging and content marketing, emphasizes the importance of relationships:

As a freelance blogger, I find two types of business relationships to be of the utmost importance: my relationship with my clients, and my relationship with other writers. My clients keep my business going, and I’m happy to say I learn a lot from them. I also find relationships with like-minded business owners to be valuable as these relationships have led to incredible learning opportunities as well as on-going work.

Lauren Tharp has been a freelance writer and editor for over five years. She says:  At its heart, freelance writing is a customer service industry. Without good relationships, you have no business.

Having a relationship with your clients and colleagues doesn’t mean that they’ve suddenly become your best friend. You likely won’t be hanging out with them every weekend. And you certainly don’t want to call them up with the latest gossip about your next-door neighbor.

Strong personal friendships do sometimes grow out of work situations. That’s not what we’re talking about here. And that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Trust and Relationships
Your clients and colleagues need to trust you enough to want to do business with you or to recommend you for projects. Those prime projects won’t just fall into your lap. If you rely on blind ads to find work, you compete with thousands of other freelancers.

Trust ranks highly as a success trait for entrepreneurs and other business leaders.

Author Dixie Gillaspie explains why trust is so important in her article on Entrepreneur.com, Why Trust Is the Most Important Part of ‘Know, Like and Trust‘. She explains that you earn trust when you put the customer’s needs first.
In Vivian Giang’s article, The 4 Most Important Relationships You Need At Work, on Business Insider, she describes “Trusted Relationships” as:
“…the most personal, valuable and often the ‘longest-lasting’ relationships…”

For people to trust you, they need to know something about you. How do you get the type of trusted relationships that lead to more business? Let’s start by taking a look at face-to-face networking.

Face-to-Face Networking Still Works
We live in a world that’s inundated with electronic communications. It seems everyone is online. The tendency is to try to connect with anyone and everyone through social media or email. We tend to ignore face-to-face networking.

Face-to-face networking still works. It’s still as important to relationship building as it ever was. Yet many freelancers dread face-to-face interactions.

The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) agrees that face-to-face networking is important. SBA Blogger Rieva Lesonsky’s advice on face-to-face networking includes these points:
• do your homework
• mingle
• follow up
• integrate online and offline
You’ll find the rest of Lesonsky’s networking tips in her helpful post on the SBA blog, The Power of Face-to-Face Networking.

If you’re getting ready for a face-to-face meeting I would also suggest that you:
• dress professionally
• schedule meetings in advance
• bring business cards

Quick tip: Business card templates allow you to quickly create a brand new set of cards with an updated professional look.

If you’ve been ignoring in-person interactions, now is the time to make face-to-face meetings part of your strategy. There are plenty of networking groups and trade show opportunities.

Build Stronger Business Relationships
We’ve already shown that people tend to do business with those they know and trust. Building healthy business relationships is a business strategy that works.
How do you build stronger relationships? As we mentioned, face-to-face networking is one way. But you can also take steps to strengthen any type of relationship.

The following steps work well whether the relationship is online or offline. First you need to strengthen existing relationships. Next, you should work to overcome challenges to new and existing relationships.

Strengthen Your Relationships
Here are five steps to help you build stronger relationships:

1. See people as individuals. Your prospect is an individual. Yes, you may have an ideal client profile, as described by Ed Gandia on Tuts+. But your prospects and clients are also real people. Find out what’s different about your contacts.

2. Add in the right mix of personal. Acknowledge significant life events to keep your name in front of the client. Send birthday cards or congratulate the client on a professional accomplishments or work anniversaries. Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you keep up. Some social media platforms like LinkedIn also publish work anniversaries and accomplishments.

3. Pay attention. Too many people ruin relationships by making it all about what they have to say. Listening is a vital relationship-building skill. Your contact will notice if you make the relationship all about you. In email interactions, listening means reading the contact’s emails carefully and asking appropriate questions.

4. Learn what they need. If you pay attention, you’ll start to understand your contact better. You’ll know what they really want and need. This knowledge will help you work more effectively with them each time you do business together.

5. Respect boundaries. While you should be friendly with your business contacts, there are boundaries. Your client is not the person you will call at three in the morning when you’re scared or sick. Nor will you spend a Saturday afternoon gossiping with them. That’s okay. You have other friends for that.

Tharp has dealt with the boundary issue:
For a while I had a post-it note up on my wall that said ‘Your clients are not your friends.’ It sounds ridiculous, but, if you’re an overly-friendly person, you might need a reminder like that! Setting boundaries is important for both sides of the business relationship and you need to be sure you enforce them.

Read more here: http://business.tutsplus.com/articles/a-freelancers-guide-to-healthy-business-relationships–cms-25002

Let us know what you think or any comments you have. Thanks.

The Creative Tablet

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