You may see contracting as a temporary job, but you would be surprised at how you could benefit from viewing your client as not just another ‘employer’ or ‘contract provider’, but as a business relationship that needs to be nurtured.
Fostering and maintaining strong client relationships is important. You not only need to ensure that you have a mutually successful transaction for you and your client, but you also need to differentiate yourself from others and build a positive reputation for yourself.
When you have a good relationship with your client, your time with them is more likely to be seamless, and you could even increase your chances of being considered for a contract extension or renewal. Good client relationships also facilitate positive feedback about your services, which will help you win new contracts in the future.
Here are some ways you can develop and maintain strong, positive relationships with your clients:
1. Ensure that your contract is clear and understood by your client
In order to lay the foundation for a good relationship with your client, you both need to be acutely aware of what you are there to do and what you are not. You should have a clear scope of work, an assignment end date, and measures in place to gauge the success of your work. Your client’s awareness of this is key to boosting their understanding and confidence in you and your abilities.
2. Communicate effectively
If it is part of your remit to provide regular updates to your client, ensure that you keep this up as it reflects on your reliability and credibility. Communicating openly to your client also gives them the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns as your work progresses, rather than after the work is completed.
The idea is not to communicate as a subordinate would to their boss, but as a professional who is an expert at what they do and respects their client’s time.
Here is another tip to bear in mind: as a contractor you are not tied to operating hours outside the scope of your contract, so if you decide to take a day off or will be unavailable for correspondence, let your client know in a friendly way so they are aware should anything arise. This will allow you to have the undisturbed time off that you deserve.
3. Treat your client like a person, not a number
How you should act around your client depends on their personality, the nature of your relationship and the business or industry you are in. However this does not mean you are not allowed to make an effort with your client on a more personal level.
Getting to know your client and engaging with them where appropriate will help you foster a trustworthy business relationship and help you understand how you can better meet their business needs. A client is also more likely to remember you and recommend you if you’ve gone made an effort with them on both a professional and personal level.
4. Be helpful and valuable
Your client chose you for the role because they needed to search for resources externally and believe you have the required skill to meet their needs. Therefore, being chosen for a contract role should be considered a great achievement. Your client is putting a lot of trust in you just by hiring you – so own this and be the go-to authority by adding value to the business. This doesn’t mean doing tasks that are beyond your abilities, but rather providing resources and knowledge that could help your client’s business. You will appear more loyal and trustworthy if you show you are aware of the client’s and business’s needs and not just your own.
5. Be open and honest
The key to any successful relationship is openness and honesty. By being realistic and not overselling yourself, you set your client’s expectations and give yourself the opportunity to exceed them. Being open and honest will help both you and your client avoid disappointment, and will build your client’s trust in your work and abilities.
These strategies will help you build rapport with your client. Doing so will make the whole business transaction more efficient – and a having a good relationship with your client could benefit you further down the line. You never know who you might work with in the future; it could be a past client or a client’s best friend. Using these strategies to foster strong client relationships will show that you are reliable and capable, setting you up for future success.