Freelancing means you’re in charge – which is great. But it also means that the job of building trust and maintaining client relationships is entirely up to you. This can feel like a big responsibility to bear, especially if you’re new to freelance legal work. But this challenge doesn’t have to be insurmountable! Here are some ideas to help you build trust with clients and ensure a successful freelance business:
Communicate like the pro you are
When it comes to building trust, effective and open communication is your most powerful tool. How many times in your career have you witnessed a failure to communicate? Miscommunication leads to confusion, anger and a whole lot of other emotions we don’t want our clients to have. When building relationships with a new client, make sure you start off on the right foot by making sure your communication is clear, concise and honest.
Being succinct in your communication, whether it’s by phone, email or in-person, demonstrates that you respect the other person’s time. If you need something from your client – contact info, documentation or data – make sure it’s clearly articulated. You don’t have to be pushy about it – just let them know that your goal is to stick to the timeline that’s been agreed upon in advance. Documenting your policies, processes and procedures, even if acting solo, really helps.
And we can’t stress the importance of honesty enough. Some people confuse the meaning of honesty in a professional setting. Flattering your client doesn’t do them any good if, in your professional opinion, they need to make some changes. On the other end of the spectrum, professional communication means being diplomatic. You can’t always just say the first thing that comes to mind – particularly if it’s negative feedback. The important thing to remember is that even small bits of dishonesty – such as shirking responsibility for an error, or not being direct with a client – can add up and tarnish your reputation. Make a commitment to be honest in your business dealings and people will respect you for it.
Be a thought leader
One way to build trust and relationships as a freelance lawyer is to share knowledge and ideas – for free. This seems counterintuitive for a lot of people, but there’s actually a lot of value in sharing your expertise freely on the Internet. This demonstrates transparency and a willingness to help others.
So, how does one become a thought leader? You could start a blog, or share ideas via a public social media account. You could write an article on how to find a good lawyer, or even share an article on something relevant to the work you do. The key is to give people value. What, as an expert in the legal field, can you say about a topic that will help people understand it better? You don’t have to give away free legal advice. In fact, you can include a call to action at the end of your post that tells people where to contact you if they want (paid) legal counsel.
Another benefit here is the boost to your personal branding. The more content you produce, the more you increase your visibility. This makes it easier for potential clients to find you, and could lead to other exciting opportunities, like being asked to speak at a conference.
Decide what kind of freelancer you want to be
One of the most fascinating and liberating things about becoming an independent consultant is that every aspect of your business is really up to you. You get to pick and choose your projects and work hours, but you also get to decide how you do your job. How will you interact with clients? What values will you prioritize in your business? What kinds of expectations will you set for support staff? When working for yourself, you get to set standards for your business and how you will interact with clients and colleagues.
Perhaps when you worked at the firm you were all business all the time, but now you want to make a habit of asking after a client’s kids every now and then. You may decide not to answer emails after 7 p.m. to maintain a better life balance, or maybe you want to be 100% available to your clients and give them the go ahead to call you anytime day or night.
As a freelancer, these choices are yours to make. How you conduct your business says a lot about you as a person. By identifying the values that are most important to you and standing by them, you are demonstrating to others what they can expect when working with you.
Join a community that can vouch for you, and vice versa
Community can be a powerful force when it comes to building trust. If you are looking for a financial adviser, and your sister recommends someone she trusts, that means something. You can benefit from this type of community by joining a professional organization, or through an online network of lawyers like Freelance.Legal.
Being part of a network of other lawyers is hugely beneficial, particularly for freelancers. If you can’t help a client with something they need, it’s easy to refer them to someone else. Being part of the group can also demonstrate your credibility with future clients.
Freelance.Legal offers some other great benefits as well. Within our platform, clients and lawyers are both part of a larger community. You as the freelancer can quickly review clients and projects, making it easier to find work that’s a good fit. There is less time lost in the pitching and reviewing of new business, which is a win for both lawyers and clients.
We designed Freelance.Legal to help build trust in the process for both lawyers and clients. In addition to offering a community for sound legal work and savings on legal costs, our platform inherently builds trust through ratings, reviews and curated membership.