5 Fast ways to boost credibility with clients (and get more business)

As freelancers, it’s easy for us to forget what it’s like to work with other people. After all, we did go solo, and often because we grew sick of being stuck in an office with a bunch of yahoos.

Luckily for us, now we almost always get to choose the yahoos professionals we work with, whether other freelancers, clients, or agencies.

Sure, we know we’re professionals, but since we don’t have to physically enter the professional realm on a day-to-day basis, sometimes we slip — a little lax on our organization, a lot freer with our dress code, and far less rigid on our day-to-day routine.

These little slips can mean a big difference:

  • the difference between being the go-to freelancer or being overlooked for someone more credible.
  • the difference between having your opinion trusted and valued and being told to do what the project manager says.
  • the difference between being a designer and being a tool who knows how to use Photoshop.

So instead of being the yahoo, impress with your professionalism and land a valued role in their next big project with these five tips.

(Have you ever landed a job or referral because of your professionalism? Share with us in the comments!)

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Be on time

This sounds pretty obvious, but at least 30% of the peers (and clients) I interact with aren’t. Whether it’s being available when you said you would be or arriving for a coffee shop meeting, be ready at least 5 minutes early.

If you can’t make it or will be late, give everyone else the earliest heads-up you can.

How not doing this ruins your credibility: When you’re late or cancel with little/no warning, you’re telling everyone else that your time is more important than their time.

Pro tip: NEVER be the cause for rescheduling twice in a row. If you must reschedule, make absolutely sure the new time works for you.

Dress like a professional

When your peers will see you, dress like a professional. You don’t have to wear your Sunday’s best, but at the very least put on a nice shirt, do your hair, and wear clean shoes.

Much better to be a little overdressed than underdressed.

How not doing this ruins your credibility: It appears that you aren’t taking the project seriously or don’t take your job as a freelancer seriously.

Pro tip: This is almost vital for working with friends or family. If you dress the part, everyone will understand that you mean business – this is a business project, not a 3 year-long website-when-we-get-to-it-after-a-few-beers project.

Pro tip #2: Even for video conferencing, wear a full outfit. You never know when you’ll have to get out of your seat and reveal that you’re wearing a nice shirt and sweats.

Be organized

Imagine if you walked into your lawyer’s office and they said, “yeah, umm, so your stuff is around here somewhere. I don’t remember where I saved it.”


Now imagine a client calls you out of the blue to request a file, logo, or reprint of something you worked on a year ago. Are you organized enough that you could you find the final version and open it while on the phone with them?

Abilities like these are what keep great clients coming back.

So stay organized and when collaborating on a project or sharing files, remember to:

  • Use layers
  • Name layers accordingly
  • Use legible file names (i.e. MCS Logo [revision 1].pdf)
  • Comment not-so-obvious code

Bonus! Your future self will thank you, too.

How not doing this ruins your credibility: Any professional who opens the file is going to consider it an absolute mess and will waste their time cleaning it up so they can begin to use it.

Be prepared

This goes hand-in-hand with being organized. You’re about to talk to someone as a professional. You want them to trust your opinions and intuition.

Know what you’re going to say. (Or at least have an idea – an outline, a few bullet points, etc.)

Whether it’s a phone conversation, a video conference call, a presentation, or an initial consult, do your homework and be prepared to discuss whatever it is you need to cover.

How not doing this ruins your credibility: You risk sounding uninterested, too busy, or unorganized. It may appear that this project is not important to you.

Pro tip: It’s okay to have a cheat sheet – I recommend it, in fact, especially when you have something specific you can’t forget to say or fumble.

Pro tip #2: If you’re shy or an introvert – practice, practice, practice!

Stay focused

This is the number one reason 30-minute meetings turn into 2-hour meetings and everyone leaves feeling drained, grumpy, and probably hungry, too.

  • Stick to the pertinent information everyone needs to know
  • Know what you’re going to say (see above!)
  • Avoid getting off topic or getting too detailed
  • Briefly cover or avoid topics that exclude people if there are multiple people at the collaboration
  • Stop talking! (It’s common to feel the need to continue to speak even though you’ve explained your portion, especially if your explanation is shorter than others. Resist the urge and move on.)

How not doing this ruins your credibility: Everyone dreads working with you.

How do you look like a pro?

What’s your secret to earning credibility? How do you convince clients you’re a professional? What success stories can you share? Join the discussion!

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  1. You forgot two of my “A-List” professional attributes:

    Be courteous (i.e. basic respectful courtesy, use business standard English, no slang);

    Be a good listener. REALLY LISTEN! Listen more than you talk: listen to their ideas, make notes (which makes you attentive AND detail-oriented in the clients perception), and don’t interrupt (which makes you seem impatient and a know-it-all.)

  2. I always make time to read my ‘graphicdesignblender” emails. The articles are short sharp and very useful. I really had to comment on this one. Many times business clients have commented on the how such and such a designer had a good idea or design presentation. However, they pulled back from working with – (usually him), because their personal presentation failed to inspire confidence, in the person charged with commissioning a designer for the contract.
    Business people dress like that for a reason, it is a form of communication. Learn to communicate so you can get right down to business.

    1. Brian,

      Thanks for the kudos! We’re glad to hear you’re such a fan.

      Your comment hones in on a great point: most people make the decision NOT to work with someone based on a personal preference, regardless of their portfolio or ability. And you NEVER want to be the freelancer that’s a hard sell for your contact to make with their boss.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. A well written article i must say! I must stress on the point the freelancing industry is booming like never before. The competition is getting more intense. it’s vital that the freelancer shines in his or her field. The freelancer needs to engage in the online communities and show their advocacy. This would make them shine and be more vocal. It also increases the credibility of the freelancer, which would in turn help the freelancer get more contracts.

    A big shout to all the freelancers! Towoglo is offering a free 1 year premium membership to all the freelancers and companies. So dont miss this opportunity and join in soon! http://www.towoglo.com

  4. Nice article. I totally agree.
    One cannot call himself a ” good professional” if he doesn’t respect his clients and himself. He will always remain a talented (if he is lucky) amateur.
    In my opinion, being on time, organized, prepared (that means totally cool and in good mood), clean and nice dressed and have a clean, tidy and nice decorated working place (also very important for a designer, especially for an architect like me) is an easy way to give a good impression, before even drawing a single line.
    But, first of all, anything that helps us save time and energy makes us more productive and creative.

    1. Most people make a snap judgment when first meeting a person on whether they’ll work well with them or not. It’s always smart to put your best foot forward!

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. I knew these but they can be easy to forget too. Thanks April, for a valuable list and timely reminder.

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