Customer-centric freelancing is simply the practice of remembering that successful freelancing involves a never-ending focus on your clients’ perspective and needs. Many freelancers, especially those found on portals like Upwork, treat freelancing like a side gig. It’s something they do when they have the time but not something that they’re going to put a full amount of effort into.
This is the wrong attitude and one that guarantees lackluster returns on the time you invest in your freelancing. Any customer-centric or client-centric business, freelance or otherwise, depends on the proprietor’s ability to focus on the needs of her client.
Even if your freelance writing business is something you do outside of your “regular” working hours, it stands to reason that you should try and make as much money as possible in the time you spend on freelancing. The way to guarantee this is to remain as customer-centric in your freelancing as possible.
The Difference Between The Public Sector and Customer-Centric Freelancing
If your nine-to-five job is in the public sector, you’re going to need to take a different tack with respect to the clients in your freelancing gig. There’s a fundamental difference between public-facing jobs in the public sector and client-facing jobs in the private sector. In the former, the public usually has no choice but to consume your service. Regardless of the part of government you worked in, odds are that the people who came to you did not have an alternative.
But when you’re freelancing, your clients have a million and one alternatives, all of whom are champing at the bit to take your job. They’ll promise to do it twice as good, in half the time, for half the money. Your job is to convince your clients, every day and with every task, that they picked the right person for the job. That’s customer-centric freelancing.
The Traits of a Customer-Centric Freelancer
So how do you convince someone that they hired the right person? By being the right person for the job. You must demonstrate the best traits of client-centric freelancers on a regular basis.
There are few things more important to remote freelancing than responsiveness. Remember, your client can’t hear or see you and, if they’re a new client, doesn’t know you from Adam. If you go dark for three days after accepting a job they have no idea if you’re working hard at your task or simply ignoring them.
Always make an effort to view the situation from your client’s perspective. Have they not heard from you in a while? Have they gone more than 12 hours without getting a response to a question? If so, they may be becoming concerned. Drop them a line and just check in with them. Give them an update on your progress.
Don’t get hung up on “business hours.” There’s no such thing when your in business for yourself. Customer-centric freelancing means you make reasonable efforts to respond to your clients’ questions and messages on their timetable, not your own.
Accessibility is closely related to responsiveness but it’s important enough to have its own section. Some freelancing portals, like Upwork, make a big deal of only talking to your client through the portal’s communication options. In my view, while freelance portals can be a convenient way of dealing with a new client, regular clients prefer to have multiple ways of getting in touch with you. Telephone, text, email, and videoconference are all great options for you to make available to your clients. The more ways they can get a hold of you, the better.
A necessary complement to having these options to get in touch with you is for you to actually make yourself available reasonably often in these mediums. There’s no sense in giving out your email address if you never answer emails. Customer-centric freelancing requires that you be available in the medium your client prefers when he or she desires.
Client-centricity means always being professional. Even when you think your client is being unreasonable, or has made their expectations unclear, or is otherwise making your life difficult, don’t take it personally. This is the nature of the business. You don’t get emotional or drawn into an argument. You don’t lash out.
When I practiced law I was always told to respond to people as if my response was going to be published on the front page of the local paper the next day. I’ve found it to be a good rule of thumb in client relationships as well. Respond as if everyone could see you how you behave with this client.
Always remember that your client reached out for someone to help him or her with a problem. Your job isn’t to do the one thing that you understood them to be asking for. Your job is to help them solve their problem.
Customer-centric freelancing means you sometimes have to color outside the lines and help the client understand what will solve their problem. Sometimes that means you might agree to do a little bit extra that technically wasn’t part of the agreement but would go a long way towards helping your client out.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to deliver the stars when you only promised the moon. But it does mean that you should, whenever reasonably possible, use your skills to help your client achieve whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll be rewarded with good feedback, higher pay, and client referrals.
Final Thoughts on Customer-Centric Freelancing
Customer-centric freelancing will set you apart from the vast majority of amateurs currently available on the market. By setting high standards for yourself and your business, you’ll find that you consistently meet the high expectations of the best clients out there and will, over time, be rewarded handsomely for your trouble. After all, that potential for high-reward work is what makes freelance writing the best side job for professionals.