Keeping the project pipeline flowing means we always need to be on the lookout for the next lead. But rather than chasing down new clients, why not focus on creating an amazing experience for your existing clients?
Happy clients are more likely to come back again and again – and refer you to their contacts.
My guest today is Gigi Davarashvili from Yocory, an all-in-one business hub for freelancers and small business owners. Gigi joins me to chat about how she creates memorable experiences for her clients that keep them coming back, including:
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-size guide to being your own boss and building a business that works for you. I'm your host, Louise Shanahan. I'm a freelance health copywriter and on this podcast I take you behind the scenes, so you can borrow from what's worked and what hasn't as you grow your own freelance business. We'll also have some practical tips and tactics from special guests along the way, so you can skip a few steps on your own freelancing journey. So without further ado, let's get started with today's episode. If you enjoy it, hit follow so you don't miss the next one.
Louise: Hello, everyone. Today, I'm delighted to be joined by Gigi Davarashvili from Yocory, which is a new all-in-one business hub for freelancers and small business owners that’s specifically designed to help us all gain better control over our businesses, and ultimately ditch that overwhelm, who doesn't want that? Today, we're going be talking about a subject that I think is really important and is often overlooked a little bit and that is how to create a remarkable client experience that will keep your clients coming back again and again. So hi, Gigi, thank you so much for joining me.
Gigi: Hi, I'm so glad to be here.
L: I think this is a really interesting topic, because on one hand we probably don't need to explain why it's important to create an excellent client experience, it's not rocket science: if a client enjoys working with you then they'll keep coming back. And in this economic climate, more than ever, that's really valuable for freelancers. But on the other hand, I do think that there are a lot of missed opportunities here and I think people sometimes focus so much on doing a really great job with the actual project work that they're doing, but maybe don't think quite so much about the overall client experience. So let's start there, in your view, what does an excellent client experience look like?
G: So I think actually, it's not that people even focus on the project work mainly, especially as you said in the current economy, the focus is so much on getting the client, getting the next lead, that by the time we actually land the client we kind of forget about everything else that we were supposed to do to create that client experience. And with what you asked, you know, what is a good client experience? Imagine you go to a restaurant, and there are so many restaurant choices, there are so many options for you where you can go and have a good meal. But imagine you go to a restaurant, and it's nice food, it's good service, you end the meal, you had a good time with your friends, and then you go home. And that's great, you remember it as a good meal, a good evening. But then imagine you go to a restaurant where the personnel went above and beyond, you get a little something at the beginning of the meal a little present from the chef. Or maybe the waiter is just really nice and knows the menu perfectly, knows what to suggest, they’re kind and they're attentive and they don't overstep their boundaries or anything like this. And then at the end of the meal they bring you a dessert that you didn't expect, and you leave the restaurant thinking, wow, this was an amazing experience, I really enjoyed my time there. And I think this is the best metaphor for understanding the difference between having a good enough experience for a client versus an experience that leaves your client impressed and leaves them feeling wow, I felt very cared for. I'm going to recommend that place or that freelancer to all of my friends, because I know that they're going to be taken care of as well.
L: And that kind of solves the first problem that you mentioned about trying to get more clients. If you do a really great job and you really take care of your clients, they will be more likely to refer you. And so that pipeline kind of takes care of itself in a way, doesn't it?
G: Absolutely and that's also when you can stop that constant chase for the next client. Because if you work with your ideal client, with your dream client, and you provide them with an amazing, outstanding experience, that ideal client most likely they know more people who fit your ideal client profile. And that's where I usually say that your past clients, they're your biggest sales force because they know the right people that you want to work with. By providing this really great experience for your clients, they will be more likely to refer you but they will be also more likely to come back for more work. Very often, you know, you complete a project and then you never speak to your past clients. I've seen this over and over again in the freelance space, you kind of forget to follow up with them, you forget to nurture that relationship. But the client nurturing is just an additional part of the client experience. Your work with your client doesn't end at the end of the project because your clients' problems don't just end by the time you finish a project. Your clients will have more things that they come up with in their business, they will have more projects, their business is going to grow and more likely they will need your help over and over again. So you want to create that experience also for them to always keep you top of mind when they need a helping hand again.
L: I wonder if you've got any specific examples of how we can create a memorable experience that keeps clients coming back?
G: Absolutely. So one of the ways, I call this surprise and delight elements, you can have a really great experience but if you sprinkle a couple of surprise and delight elements into your experience, that's what makes it really exceptional. And surprise and delight elements, these are these little things that your client just doesn't expect. Because when your client starts working with you they have expectations of what quality of service they expect from you, and also the deliverables that they expect from you as part of this project. But then the surprise and delight elements, they're like little golden dust. One of the ways, it's very simple, but I also do brand and web design for my clients. At the end of the strategy part, I know that the strategy part for my clients is very intense, it's a lot of work. And my clients can feel a little bit overwhelmed sometimes at the end of this strategy. So what I do the next day, after we finish our three-hour strategy workshop I send them a gift, a virtual Starbucks card, so only $10. And it has a little note saying hey, you've done fantastic, I know it's been hard work but the hard part is over and now you can sit back and enjoy and let me do the work. My clients love this. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to be anything grand. It's a little note, a little touch, that makes a big difference for them. So you can add those, it doesn't always have to be a gift. I often get asked do I need to have a starting gift, a welcome gift for my clients. It doesn't always have to be a grand gesture. It can even be a simple handwritten note, or even a document, a nice, beautiful presentation to welcome them to their project. It's little touches that like this, that make a big difference.
L: I wonder if you think that automating some of your processes can play a role in this as well. You know, I'm thinking about onboarding and off-boarding experiences and the way that you communicate with clients and really having very clear, consistent processes that make the client feel like, oh, this person has a system, they know what they're doing, I can trust them. Do you think that plays a role as well?
G: I think it does, but you have to be also careful with automations. On one hand, I'm a big lover of automations, I mean, one of the reasons why we created Yocory was to streamline your process. But you also have to ensure that you don't lose the human touch in your automations. So on one hand, automations and streamlining your process helps you create, again, a very simple workflow for your client to go through. Especially I’m thinking of the very beginning of the process when you send them a proposal, they need to approve it, then you send them a contract, they need to sign it, you send them an invoice. If you think about it, it's a lot of steps for your client and at every step your client can be like, oh no, this seems too complicated and overwhelming, I'm actually not going to do it. Or they may really delay this process, you know, it may take forever for them to sign a contract. If you have an automation in place that makes it super easy for them to go from proposal to signing the contract to paying the invoice, that also shows that wow, she knows her stuff, this was so easy. But on the other hand, you don't want to over-automate the process, you still want that human touch. For example, I have email templates for all of the different stages in my business but I always make sure to edit them slightly to fit my client's personality or something that we discussed with the client. So they see that it's not just a robot, or system in the backend, but it's still you communicating with your client.
L: One thing that I really like about all of this, about the idea of surprising and delighting your clients and about having these really high-quality processes, is that it improves the communication with the client and hopefully avoids any difficult situations further on. I wonder if you've got any thoughts about how being a better communicator can help avoid any difficult client situations. We've been talking about the positive side of it, but what happens when things don't quite go to plan?
G: I usually say that when there is a sticky situation with your client, and this may come across a little tough and rough, but in the majority of cases this comes down to your processes as the freelancer and your communication. A lot of the time this miscommunication happens because your client didn't clearly understand something, or maybe you didn't set the boundaries correctly or firmly enough, maybe you know, something was just missed. So yes, there are situations with clients when you know, conflicts happen, and you have to deal with them. But in a lot of cases, this could be avoided, just thanks to better communication. Especially starting freelancers, they struggle with establishing strong boundaries with their clients and explaining the boundaries and expectations that the client should be aware of during the project. This is something that I do personally at least three times in the process of our work together. The very first time I explain my boundaries and expectations is in my proposal. They're also explained in a more legal lingo inside of my contract. And also in the welcome guide, or in my case a welcome page, the welcome portal that I have for my clients so that they can refer to them over and over again. And those boundaries, they will depend of course for you as a freelancer what matters to you, but things like when are you available, when the client can expect to hear from you, what are your working hours, what happens if a client decides to go MIA and stops responding to your emails, what happens if they miss a payment. All of these things need to be told before the situation actually happens, also, so that you know you've done everything possible to let the client know how these situations will be handled, and you have something to back you up.
L: And that's really about setting expectations isn't it and communicating them at the start. And then having various touch points throughout the project and communicating regularly so that you make sure that you can kind of ward off any challenges before they come up.
G: Yeah, absolutely.
L: This kind of makes me think, it's kind of a mindset thing, isn't it? You're having to switch from that sort of order taker mindset to being the business owner and setting the direction, setting the boundaries- and taking charge of the situation. I wonder if you've got any thoughts around that. How should people think about switching from a freelancer mindset to a business owner mindset?
G: That's a big one. In the design space, I call this how to go from pixel pusher designer to expert designer, to industry leader. And the thing is, you have to realise and kind of go back to the reason why you started your business. In a lot of cases, when I speak to my coaching students, for example, in a lot of cases this comes down to freedom, people start their business because they want more freedom in their life, in their business, etc. And in order to create that freedom, you have to realise what are your boundaries that the clients cannot cross. And by setting those boundaries, you don't come off as offensive or rude, or, you know, mean or anything like this, you actually come off as professional. Your client will have more trust and respect for you, because they see what you expect from them. And I'm sure that your client has some boundaries and expectations in their business as well. So don't worry about coming off as rude or mean just because you know what you want and you respect your own boundaries. Remember that when you disrespect a boundary, when you let the client control you, for example, or you know, when they step on your toes or something like this. Ultimately, you're in a way, also disrespecting yourself. And I think this is such a strong realisation that needs to happen. Take a step back, remember why you started your business in the first place and don't be afraid of setting boundaries because you only come off as more professional than rude.
L: Yeah, and I think it's really interesting because it's kind of a two-way thing, isn't it? You're setting the boundaries for yourself as much as for the client so that you both have a really positive experience.
G: Absolutely, yeah.
L: And there's also ways to bring fun into your business, too. I did an episode a while back about making business fun. It doesn't always have to be super serious setting these very strict boundaries, and maybe thinking about how to create a positive client experience overall, you can bring in some of that freedom and things that make business fun for you.
G: Yeah, I mean, obviously, we're talking about boundaries and being strict with your boundaries. And it doesn't sound like there's a lot of fun in client experience that way, but you only need to set them once and then you can add and sprinkle the surprise and delight elements. Remember that your client, they trust you and they hired you because they need your help. They already see you as an expert and an industry leader, they already have a trust element. So now it's just stepping in your expert shoes and doing what you do best and serving your client and helping them and guiding them to the results that you want to bring to them. So yeah, definitely have lots of fun in your business just remember that those boundaries, they're there also for protecting yourself and your business and your client too.
L: I love that, I’m getting so many ideas for things that I can start incorporating into my business. Thank you so much, Gigi, I really appreciate that. If people would like to find out more about Yocory and the work that you're doing, where can they find you?
G: You can go to your yocory.com or on Instagram we are @yocoryapp. We have tonnes of free resources for freelancers, tonnes of really great content, so we hope to see you there.
L: That’s lovely, thank you, I'll put the link in the show notes. Thanks everyone for listening. I will see you next time. Happy freelancing.
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