When freelancing, it's important not to burn any bridges, no matter what happens in business. Yes, you’ll come across challenging situations and difficult people, but you have to tread carefully.
From the way you meet people to the way you communicate via Twitter or write emails – everything you do should be carefully considered. The creative industries can be a tiny pond, and you never know who you might bump into again.
Here are some tips to help you carve out the best relationships and protect your reputation for the long-term, so you will only prosper.
Be friendly to everyone
Everyone you meet or speak to – from the receptionist to the MD – is essential and worth knowing. Be friendly and approachable with everyone you come across. Don’t ever dismiss someone because you think they don’t matter. Treat every individual equally and be someone people enjoy meeting or dealing with.
It's the most obvious tip, but gossiping or talking about others behind their backs will only lead to trouble. If there's gossip, stay out of it. And if someone asks your opinion about someone, always say something positive – even if you don’t mean it.
A favour here and there is always welcome. If you go out of your way to help a client, colleague or contact to solve a problem, then you’ll get a serious pat on the back. Karma is a beautiful thing, and people will remember your generosity.
Manage your reputation
Received a complaint via Twitter? Do your best to deal with it effectively. Don’t react emotionally. Just see whether you can help solve the problem. Had some lousy press elsewhere? Deal with it by providing a positive statement to the journalist. Your reputation is critical, so do everything you can to maintain a good one.
Be wary of emails
Written communication can be permanent and used against you, so whatever you do – don’t write anything in emails that might backfire in future. The same applies to tweets or direct messages on Twitter. If you’re not sure, pick up the phone. Some topics are best left unrecorded.
Deal with complaints the right way
If you receive a complaint from a disgruntled client or contact, stay calm. Listen to their feedback and try and help them. No matter how angry they get, don’t retaliate. Eight times out of 10, they should calm down, and you’ll be able to solve the problem. And if they don’t calm down? You don't deserve any abuse from anyone, so know when to put down the phone or stop answering emails. Life is too short.
Be kind when you complain
Equally, if you’ve got a complaint to make to a fellow freelancer, client or colleague, make sure your email or phone call doesn’t attack the recipient. You will gain nothing positive out of being nasty to someone in the heat of the moment. Instead, stick to the facts. Leave emotions at bay. If you’re negative, people will remember that forever. Worse – they’ll tell all their contacts too, which will only destroy your reputation.
Avoid unnecessary situations
So you’ve seen an article online, and it’s made you angry? You’re fuming about something, and you want to vent? Or someone has tweeted and irritated you? Take some deep breaths, step back and don’t immediately react. Your reputation is far more important than getting your opinion across. Avoid making scenarios out of nothing by staying cool and calm.
In business, a lot of egos will be at play. People love to feel important; so don’t make yourself unpopular by treading on any toes. Learn to understand how different people’s personalities work and adapt your approach to each one. Never talk about how well your business is doing or how much money you’re making, for example. It won’t do you any favours. Be humble and sincere – it’s always the best approach.
Let bad clients go without drama
Sometimes, clients can become a nightmare. They make ridiculous demands, cause too much stress and can even upset you. It will be pretty clear when you’re ready to get rid of a client, but it’s always best to let them go gracefully. Don’t lose your cool and fall out with your client. Just finish any outstanding work and then plan your escape route, so the next time they ask for your help – you can turn them down.
Help your competition
When you freelance, you’ll have many competitors on your doorstep. Make an effort to be kind to all of them if you can. Yes – they’re the competition, and you should put your business first, but it won’t do any harm to recommend their services now and again, particularly on those occasions when you’re too busy.
Love your enemies
You know what they say – keep your friends close and all that. Don’t avoid people you don’t like. Build a relationship with them instead. You might learn something from them, and they may become a useful contact.
Use social media wisely
It might be tempting to tweet something about a particular client, colleague or contact whose annoyed you to get things off your chest. But this passive-aggressive behaviour will only be evident to the person in question. And it will be most off-putting to everyone else that follows you because negativity only repels people.
Look at some Twitter profiles, and you wonder how they have any followers at all! My point? Use social media positively and without malice. Being angry, bitter, or even just political can give you a bad reputation. That smiling face on your avatar that once seemed friendly could now be perceived as insincere. Remember, it takes lots of time and hard work to build a good reputation and just seconds to destroy it! So bear that in mind the next time you’re on Twitter.
Karma does exist
There is no safe, hiding place these days, so be careful what you say, do and write at all times, primarily online. Your negative words or actions will only come back to haunt you. Instead of losing your temper or falling out with people, do something nice instead. Being positive will also make you happy, and it's good for the soul.
Don't believe me? Well, how do you feel when you've lost your temper compared to when you've done something sweet, like helped someone? You feel horrible when you do bad things and great when you're nice. Plus positive behaviour only attracts greater things. Be kind and good things will happen.
Remember, people talk
No matter what you do in business – people will always talk. Make sure they’re saying great things about you by being a professional and happy person. And if someone’s rude to you or is encouraging you to misbehave, be the bigger person and stay positive. Finally, don't worry if people are saying bad things about you when they're unjustified. The green-eyed monster usually is at play, so don't take it personally.