The Art of Exceeding Client Expectations: Why customer service should matter to freelancers

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As a freelance translator or interpreter, you’ve dedicated years to learning your craft, building a portfolio and mastering certifications. You may want to believe that your specialized knowledge and experience will speak for (and sell) itself, but succeeding as a freelancer takes a whole host of other skills. A freelancer has to be his or her own sales and marketing team, accountant, office administrator and maybe even web designer. Among all the roles that freelancers play, it is easy to see why the importance of customer service is sometimes overlooked. It should not be that way, though. Effort put into customer service saves double that effort in seeking and securing clients. 

What is customer service? It is about more than fielding complaints and practicing good email etiquette. Customer service is the art of exceeding customer expectations. Success as a freelance translator or interpreter relies on being able to build strong relationships with clients. You are not just a representative of a business, you are your business. Customer service based on communication, responsiveness, and integrity will help secure new clients, build long term relationships with existing clients, and will contribute to a positive reputation.  

A freelance professional who communicates clearly is easy to hire and easy to work with. You are the expert, so give potential and new clients the information they need to understand your services and value as an expert. Good communication builds rapport and connection, setting you apart from the competition. You are not just trying to secure a contract. You are establishing a relationship that may lead to repeat contracts and recommendations. Good communication is also essential to ensuring that you deliver the service that the client expects, or better yet, a service that fulfils their needs and priorities so well that it exceeds their expectations. Ultimately, this is what generates repeat business and good word-of-mouth.  

Clients will also return to a freelancer who demonstrates that they are responsive to the client’s needs. This may mean being flexible to changes of direction and being open to unique requests. It also means being able to resolve problems and rectify mistakes with a positive, solution oriented attitude. Flexibility and responsiveness to requests will garner new clients. To existing clients, it will demonstrate your ongoing dedication to their satisfaction. Being able to effectively respond to problems and mistakes, which will inevitably occur, demonstrates reliability and integrity.  

Like most relationships, the most successful, long term client-freelancer relationships are based on trust. Integrity is fundamental to establishing and maintaining this trust. This is can be as simple as delivering work by agreed upon deadlines, or as challenging as resolving conflicts or rectifying mistakes in a fair and constructive manner. Becoming a trusted name in your industry will also generate new business.

A strong portfolio and certifications are fundamental to establishing a career as a translator or interpreter. Customer service, however, is what will set a career as a freelancer into motion.  Prioritizing customer service from first contact with a potential client and throughout the entire project pays off in a positive professional reputation, long-term, repeat clients, and new business.