Building credibility so that people will hire you is just the first step in developing a lasting relationship with new clients.
It's what happens next - how you navigate the beginning of the project - that can make or break you. Those first few encounters are the perfect opportunity to increase the trust you've already built... or make clients question their decision to hire you.
With the right strategies, you can set things up to go as smoothly as possible. This won't just make it easier for you. It'll also help clients trust in their decision to hire you, giving them the peace of mind to let you do your job without interference and hire you again when the time is right.
Here are a few major areas where video professionals go wrong. Pay attention to these in your own business, and you'll strengthen clients' trust at the beginning of your projects.
Foster Open Communication and Collaboration
One the easiest ways to get new clients to trust you - to treat you like a business partner instead of an employee - is to encourage open communication.
Some video professionals take this too far. They offer up their phone numbers, email addresses, and Skype handles and urge clients to contact them practically 24/7. This pulls time and attention away from their work. But it doesn't do much to boost client trust.
There's a fine line to walk between being responsive and obsessive. Responding to client questions within a single business day is a good compromise. Clients get the communication they need, and you get the freedom to produce your best work without getting constantly interrupted.
Communication works both ways. If something is still vague about the project requirements (or if you're going on vacation in a few weeks), reach out sooner rather than later to keep the client informed.
Tired of endless email threads? One of the easiest ways to keep clients updated without all the back and forth is to use video collaboration software. This lets clients watch progress in real time, make comments, and quickly approve portions of work so you can keep the project moving forward. It might sound counterintuitive, but more transparency makes clients less likely to micromanage because they can simply check on projects themselves.
Set Clear Expectations Right Away
If you submitted a proposal to land the video project, the client should already have a good idea of what to expect before the project moves forward.
If you haven't done this, the sooner you take care of it the better. Preparing a document to pass out during the kick-off meeting is a great way to get everyone on the same page. Even if your proposal touched on this stuff, now's a good time to refine and reinforce what you already laid out.
Key things to cover (no matter the project):
- How will you break down the project? In what order will you finish all the different tasks?
- When can the client expect each phase to be completed? What are the deadlines and milestones? If you aren't breaking down the project into discrete parts, when can the client expect the entire project to be finished?
- How will you deliver the project? Physical mail, cloud storage, video collaboration software, or something else? To whom will it be delivered? In what form?
- If the client isn't satisfied with work, how can they request changes and how long will those take?
You might not know precise answers to all of those questions. But the more specific you get the better.
So much client dissatisfaction comes from having different sets of expectations. You think you're doing great, but the client is holding you to a completely different standard. Set clear expectations at the beginning. This will help clients see you as someone they can trust, and you'll move forward with the same vision of success.
Host an Awesome Kick-Off Meeting
Hosting a kick-off meeting with key members of the client's team is the perfect chance to put names to faces and make a memorable impression.
You can do this at your business, the client's business (if they're willing), or online via Skype or Google hangouts. They don't have to be all-day affairs to be successful either. Depending on the project, you can usually wrap up in a few hours with both parties feeling confident about moving forward.
Besides introducing key personnel, you can use kick-off meetings to hammer out any details about how the project will work. What does your team need to know now to finish the project smoothly? Make a list of questions and work with the client to get the information you need.
Take the time to do some prep work - this could be things like reviewing the client's request for proposals, other business videos, as well as their competitors' videos - beforehand. Circulate an agenda to the key players a few days before the event to keep things productive and organized.
This preparation - and the willingness to ask tough questions to help the client pinpoint and reach their goals - will set you apart as someone to trust. You'll reassure the client it was right to hire you, racking up a quick win before the project begins.
Finally, don't let kick-off meetings leave open-ended. Make sure both sides understand what will happen next. If people don't know how to move forward they can quickly grow frustrated and you will lose this critical early momentum.
Speed up the Team-Building Process
When a client hires you for a video project, you become a team trying to reach the same goal.
Bruce Tuckman created a four-part model describing how teams form and evolve over time:
- Forming: the team meets and learns about the challenges ahead before agreeing on which goals to tackle
- Storming: as different personalities start working together, you find ways to respect different styles and workflows
- Norming: every team member takes responsibility to work so the team's goals succeed
- Performing: everyone is competent, autonomous, and able to make decisions without supervision
Typical companies have years or decades to build this kind of relationship. They also host happy hours, leadership retreats, and other events to encourage employees to bond.
As a freelancer, you don't have those luxuries. You need to integrate yourself as a valuable team member quickly - as soon as the project starts.
Use your kick-off meeting as an opportunity to form a team. Ask plenty of questions about your client's challenges and business goals. Look beyond the scope of this single video project. How does it fit within the bigger picture? Come to an agreement about the client's top priority - and how you'll define success.
To start storming, accommodate differences between clients through open communication and (ideally) collaboration. Keep clients closely involved every step of the way, and give them the chance to offer their input without getting defensive. You'll show clients you're most interested in their success: one of the best ways to build trust.
You can do your part in the norming phase from the beginning. Take responsibility to do everything you can to make sure the video project succeeds. This doesn't mean catering to unreasonable clients. But it does mean doing what it takes - within reason - to help the client achieve their goals.
With time, you'll enter the performing phase. Because clients will grow to see you as an indispensable part of their team, they're more likely to hire you for future projects as well!
The power to build clients' trust at the beginning of projects is in your hands. A lot of video professionals leave this up to chance, but you don't have to.
Applying the tips above will help you hit the ground running on every new project. They'll free up time, keep you from being micromanaged, and help you and clients move forward in a spirit of cooperation instead of mistrust.
What do you do at the beginning of projects to boost your credibility? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Note: this is part two in a three-part series about building client trust. Stay tuned for part three, which will cover how to build client trust once projects are underway. You can find part one (discussing building your credibility before clients hire you) here.