Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

Praise in business travels slowly. But…a negative take could spread like wildfire…

As a freelancer, do you perceive customer service a priority? What do you think of your clients – are you there to serve them, or is it just a cold hearted trade of time for cash?

This post is little short of a rant but also a lesson as to what can happen if you forget the value your clients bring to your business. Not just a financial value, but a marketing one too.

As you will know, I launched my second company a couple of months ago. Whilst busying myself, getting everything organised and moving into the office, I received a phone call from a business publication.

Did you know that Business Link is soon to be defunct by our government?” they asked. “Yes,” I said, (I did – I have a telly). The saleswoman proceeded to tell me about the fabulous company she worked for. Apparently, they felt the plight of all the start-up businesses and freelancers out there who struggle for information and advice. Although the company used to charge for their services, some of these – out of the goodness of their heart – were now free. (Doesn’t it make your heart sing?)

Believing their own hype

They were running a special advertising package in their publication – a magazine that went to numerous other businesses and was taken in bulk to trade shows. Not only that, their website had more traffic than Piccadilly Circus. I could, through this package, have an advert in the magazine and an article published on their website.

At the time, this sounded okay; I hadn’t, at that point, got round to planning my marketing strategy but I figured I’d give them a try. I agreed and asked them to confirm what the package involved in a follow up email (which didn’t arrive).

A few days later, I received another call from someone else in the company, offering me another package that incorporated a one-off column in the magazine and an in-depth ‘question and answer’ interview to be published on the website. Again, it seemed harmless enough and they made it sound as if it would bring clients banging down my door, so I agreed.

I later logged on to the website and was amazed to see I could actually upload articles for free. What the hell was I paying for, then?

I called them, asking this question. They said my paid-for article would have more prominence. By this time, my Q & A interview had gone up on their website yet not a sliver of extra traffic had come to me.

It was at this point I felt aggrieved. I was the customer and, clearly, they were only interested in the contents of my purse.

Last week, I got another phone call (bearing in mind, I had made at least three of my own to chase the publication of my articles and find out what the hell was happening) asking me if I wanted to have a package for free.

The trust had gone

Now, as a freelancer, I pay enormous attention to my customers. Sometimes, I’m a little too on-the-ball and have to apologise for pestering when ensuring that everything is okay with the service I provide.

If, for one moment, I thought I was doing something wrong, I would be on the case to find out what had happened, and how I could rectify things. Mainly for my reputation but probably for my ego too – I don’ like being in the wrong.

They say negative publicity travels seven times faster than positive word-of-mouth. They also say that finding a new customer is many more times expensive than keeping the ones you have satisfied.

Freelancers can’t run to the boss when they receive a complaint.

One of the responsibilities of working for yourself is that the buck stops with you. YOU are responsible for how your customer perceives your service. YOU are the one who needs to accept mistakes may have been made and offer verbal, or financial compensation. If you don’t, not only have you lost a potential income stream but you could damage your reputation, which may hinder your success with finding new clients.

My advice to all freelancers is: don’t let it get that far. The advantage of being a sole trader or small company is that you will undoubtedly be interacting with your client regularly; therefore, signs that they may be less than happy should be easy to spot.

Don’t get too carried away with drive and ambition that you forget the people who are necessary to help get you there – your clients.

Have you been treated badly by a company or service provider? Did this influence your own working practices? I’d love to know your thoughts.

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Written by Editor on November 7, 2010 and filed in Entrepreneurs, Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, Money, Opinion ,


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