Give Your Clients The Whole Package

Monday, March 24, 2008 by Mistlee

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Give Your Clients The Whole Package

By Brett Derricott

When I began freelancing I thought it was important to make my fledgling business appear bigger and more established than it really was. My website used phrases like "our designers" and "our programmers" in an effort to make a one-man show look like a full team of professionals. No matter what a potential client wanted I felt the need to make them believe I had all of the resources to do it.

You're probably a lot smarter than I was at that point, but I eventually learned two important lessons that changed my approach.

First, contrary to my assumptions, clients actually liked that I was an independent freelancer who could respond quickly and help them avoid the costs often associated with engaging a fully-staffed firm. In most cases my clients were considering hiring me precisely because I was a freelancer!

And second, my clients weren't stupid. They were rarely fooled by my attempts to appear bigger than I was or to appear to offer every possible service under the sun. Once I stopped worrying about looking small, I started figuring out that forming strategic partnerships with other freelancers and companies was a better way to help my clients get everything they needed. And it allowed me to focus on what I did best (and enjoyed most).

When done correctly, partnering with someone who provides a product or service that you don't provide can be a great business tactic. There are a few important things to consider, though, before engaging a strategic partner to work on your client's project.

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Make Client Ownership Crystal Clear

Before you partner with another vendor or freelancer it pays to get the details of your relationship out on the table. The main thing you want clear (ideally in writing with signatures) is that this is your project and your client. You may even want to go so far as to have the vendor sign an agreement that they will not solicit business from your client. You should also agree upon what should happen if your client chooses to contact the vendor directly.

There is a fine line between being paranoid about everyone stealing your clients and being smart about doing business with other vendors. You'll have to decide what you're comfortable with but the key is to decide and to clearly communicate your decision to any outside parties that you’ll involve in your client's project.

Choose Vendors with Complimentary, Not Competing Services

If after reading the last section you're still worried about bringing other freelancers or companies into your client's project, you can gain some peace of mind by being very selective about the vendors you decide to partner with.

The only vendors you need to worry about are those who offer the same services you offer your clients. When you work with a printer, for example, you don't typically worry that the printer will take business away from you because they don't offer your creative services. In fact, you're probably so comfortable with the printer being involved that your client is fully aware!

There is greater risk, however, when you bring a vendor into your project who offers competing services. Either the client or the vendor could, at some point, decide to make direct contact with the other and cut you out of the loop.

If you're a designer, partner with a programmer who doesn't do any design work. If you're a web designer, partner with a print designer for those situations where clients also want business cards or letterhead, but find one that doesn't do web design. By hiring only freelancers or vendors who don't offer competing services you'll avoid this risk entirely.

Leverage the Value of Your Partners Brands'

You certainly want to keep your brand front and center for your clients but there can often be a benefit in having your brand associated with other great brands. When companies place a client list on their website they're hoping to convince the website visitor that they are an established, reputable vendor by association. It's as if the company is saying, "You can trust us because Coca Cola trusted us to do work for them."

Likewise, if you are working with a well-known vendor or using a 3rd party application (like an analytics tool, CMS, or email campaign system) you can actually enhance your image by letting your clients know you've partnered with these industry-leading partners to meet your clients' needs.


Naturally you may be hesitant to involve another vendor in your client's project, but if approached correctly this can actually strengthen your image in your client's eyes. It's a mark of confidence and professionalism when a freelancer can say, "I don't offer that service but I have a great relationship with someone who does. I'll bring them in on this project."

Clearly communicating with any vendors you use will help prevent confusion and will serve to establish your terms up front. Partnering with vendors who have complimentary, not competing services removes the risk of losing your clients. And recognizing opportunities to associate with great brands can strengthen your image with clients.

To deliver the best possible solution for your clients, it may occasionally require enlisting some help from non-competing professionals. The key to successfully working with other freelancers or companies is to find an approach to partnering with other vendors that is comfortable to you and meets both your needs and your clients'.

So what do you think about partnering with other vendors? Do you ever enlist the help of other freelancers? Do you disclose that fact to your clients? What are the pros and cons?


About the Author:
Brett Derricott is the founder and CEO of Agency Fusion, a web development company with a sweet content management system. Brett blogs about technology at Agency Byte.

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