Business Relationship Basics for Freelance Designers

Freelance designers and other freelancers often miss the boat when it comes to finding new customers and building their freelancing business.

That’s because they don’t understand how building healthy long-term business relationships fits into their marketing plan. In the eyes of some freelance designers, a contact is either an immediate prospect or they are not worth pursuing. Often, this means they miss a lot of business opportunities.

In this post, I’ll discuss the importance of building relationships and what it can mean for a freelance designer. I’ll explain why long-term relationships are important and also provide you with five tips for meeting and building business relationships. If you like this post, you may also enjoy reading Why Online Friends are Important to Freelancers.

Why You Need to Look Past the Short-term

I totally get it. You’re afraid of the feast or famine cycle. That’s why your focus is on finding short-term freelance design work.

You’re right. You probably do need short-term work right now. You need to keep that cash coming in.

But, you also need long-term business relationships. Trust me, one day those long-term relationships are going to become the source of some of your best projects.

Why are relationships so important? It’s simple, relationships with business colleagues and contacts grow trust. People prefer to do business with those people they know and trust.

Plus, you are more likely to get repeat business and referrals if you have a strong business relationship with the client.

So, if you want more design work, develop more relationships based on trust. How can you do that? Try building long-term relationships.

Your Once and Future Prospects

Most freelance designers severely underestimate the value of long-term business relationships. The prevailing attitude is: if you don’t hire me today I have no time for you.

Some freelancers are even downright rude to contacts who don’t hire them–talk about burning your bridges!!

The thing is, people move around. They change jobs. Some people move back and forth between freelancing and the corporate world.

That business contact you mouthed off to today may one day work for your ideal client. If you’ve already burned your bridges, what do you think the odds will be that he or she will hire you in their next job?

You need to shift to long-term thinking. Try to remember that the business friend you make today may have work for you in a few months or even a few years.

At the very least, try to be polite to almost everyone.

You may not be sure how to go about establishing the long-term business relationships you need. So, let’s move on to some tips that will help.

Five Business Relationship Tips

Here are five tips to help you find and develop long-term business relationships:

  1. Participate. Before you can develop long-term business relationships, you need to meet people. The way to meet people is to participate. Leave meaningful comments on blogs. Connect through social media. Go to meetups and conferences.
  2. Remember it’s not about you. Too many freelancers think that asking for something is connecting. It’s not. Contacting a stranger on Twitter or Google+ who has never heard of you to ask them out of the blue whether they’ll hire you isn’t building a relationship.
  3. Add value to the relationship. You need to give people a reason to want to connect with you. Perhaps you are able to answer a question that they have posted. Maybe you can point them in the direction of a resource that they need. Look for ways to add value.
  4. Stay in touch. It goes without saying, you can’t build a strong relationship if you don’t check in regularly. Of course, you also need to respect your contact’s time. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools may help you to insure that nobody falls through the cracks.
  5. This is for business. The contacts you make may or may not be the same folks you’d invite to your pool party. That doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter as long as there’s trust and respect because you are not looking for new BFFs (best friends forever). These are business relationships you are nurturing.

Your Turn

How do you nurture long-term business relationships? Every freelancer handles this differently. We’d love to hear your tips.

Image by Trekking Rinjani