My goal as a freelancer was to work directly with clients. I had tried my hand at sub-contracting with studios and it wasn't a great fit for me and the life I was trying to achieve.

This meant being the lead producer for clients.

Throughout the last several years of leading projects and delivering work, I've started to see a pattern of things that will result in happy clients.

Here are 7 areas you need to be on point with to make clients into raving fans, which in turn helps your referral prospects moving forward.

1. Lead the discovery process with some intensity

Simply sitting back and passively receiving their notes and information is a recipe for disappointment.

As the lead producer you need to get in there and find out what's really going on.

You need to ask great questions and find out what really matters to the client and their team.

Some things to consider when leading discovery:

  • Find out the goal (more revenue? More sign-ups? More awareness?)
  • Use visual references for clarity
  • Be able to listen past their words (what are they really asking for)

If you jump into the project with passion and confidence, you're setting the experience off in the right direction, with you as the lead.

2. Be transparent about what you can and can't do

Posturing (or just plain lying) about your abilities is a terrible idea.

Don't nod your head and say, "Of course I can do 3 minutes of complex character animation," just to make the initial meetings go smoothly.

You'll only end up looking like an idiot and ruin any chance of turning that client into a raving fan.

Here's the secret to know, "People don't expect you to know everything, they would prefer that you be honest."

So be authentic as the discovery and pre-production phases are happening, and don't try to seem any different than you actually are.

3. Impress with your process

I love apps like Wipster and Wistia, for just this reason.

Instead of sharing a dropbox link with a video file, I send over a branded wipster link for the clients to leave their notes.

The little extra touches can really impress clients and make them confident about bringing their business right back to you.

I love pitching clients on the powerful features of data tracking their video with Wistia and showing them exactly how we can measure our performance over time.

Having an impressive process at each stage, from production to tracking results is another step in building a happy client base.

4. Deliver high quality work

This one is a bit on the obvious side, but i'd be lying if I didn't include it here.

No matter how many extra things you do, if the work is crap, that client isn't calling you again anytime soon.

The quality has to be there, so make sure you're ready to work hard on each production to make it happen.

5. Be able and willing to bring in sub-contractors

On some projects, your skill set or personal style isn't going to be the perfect solution for that job.

In this instance, you need to have the ability to bring in the right people who can deliver the right solution.

I'll give you a short example.

My strongest ability as a designer is to create minimal and flat compositions. I had a client who wanted to work with me, but was looking for a more hand-made, rough feel to the design (pretty much the opposite of my portfolio at the time).

So I brought in an Illustrator (David Stanfield) to do the visuals, while I did the animation.

The client was so excited about the final piece that I ended up doing another couple projects with that client.

The lesson for me was: Even if I don't personally have the skills, I can still find a way to deliver what's right for the client.

6. Stay positive throughout the entire process

It's easy to wear a million dollar smile when you're hoping for that first deposit check.

It gets a little tougher when you're 2 months into the project and are on version 5 or 6.

This is where you separate the professional's from the amateurs.

The amateur will moan and groan, while the professional (who acts like they've been there before) will stay positive and continue to work towards the right solutions for the client.

If you can go into the trenches with a client and come out positive on the other side, you'll have a client for life.

7. Communicate well throughout the production

This might be the most important aspect to consider.

One thing I know for sure:

Nothing sours a relationship faster than going missing for a week from emails.

Don't suddenly drop off the face of the earth during a production, this can send the client into a panic that you might be unreliable and they might be in trouble with their team.

If you do this to a client, they will seriously think twice about working with you again.

Strong communication is a sign of respect to the client and an acknowledgement that using freelancers is a risk for businesses. Make that risk seem small when it comes to you, by being available and consistent during office hours.

Bottom Line

Each production is an opportunity to win clients over and build a strong long-term relationship.

All the aspects of the production matter.

When that first inquiry email comes in, it's time to be on your A-game.

Make sure you are organized, efficient and honest, and you give yourself a chance for repeat business.