Clients Want the Solution, Not the Service

I had never been so terrified in my life. There I was, at one of the busiest intersections in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, and my car wouldn’t start. In the middle of the intersection. On a green light. Trying to turn left.
This was sphincter-clenching-I’m-about-to-get-hit-by-three-different-cars-and-ohmygod-is-that-a-semi-truck type of panic.

My car had died again and no one could figure out what was going on. I’d had it. I needed the problem fixed, and fixed now, preferably before any more life-threatening situations. (For those of you wondering, I only got cussed out by a few people and someone helped me move my car to the side of the road and out of oncoming traffic. Hooray!)

The Difference Between a Solution and a Service

I needed someone who was going to figure out what the issue was. I took it into a mechanic, she looked under the hood, messed around a bit with some type of wrench-looking thing, and proclaimed herself thoroughly stumped. I was so upset. But then she turned it around.

She said, “I really have no idea the problem is, but we have a few other people here and I’ll have them take a look. We’ll figure it out.” I think I audibly sighed with relief. Yes. They’ll figure it out!

She could’ve handed me back the keys and left it there. She could’ve told me to look around for somebody else. But instead, she went the extra step.

That was exactly what I wanted. I wanted someone else to take this problem off of my tired and terrified shoulders, and just fix it.

And that’s what your clients want, too. Clients don’t hire a service. Clients hire a solution to their problem.

How to Become a Solution

Being the solution to your client’s problems is all about a mindset shift.

Understand Their Problems

The first part of this is understanding the problem that the person has. If you’re not sure, ask. In my experience, clients have been happy to tell me where they’re succeeding and where they’re struggling. They just want more information so they can make an educated choice.

You can learn more about their problems by asking very simple questions to learn the state of things:

  • How’s the conversion rate on your site doing?
  • Are you seeing a decrease in traffic at all?
  • How are you hoping to grow your business?

Be Trustworthy

I am a very firm believer that the world runs on trust. Without it, we’re all basically screwed.

There are three pretty easy ways to build trust, and I’m guessing if you’ve got successful friendships, familial relationships, or romantic relationships, you’ve got these skills on lock-down.

They are:

  • Be honest and only promise what you can deliver.
  • Be transparent and let people see who you really are.
  • Be accountable and take responsibility for your actions.

You actively build trust with each client you contract with. Sending your work over before the deadline builds trust. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to something but can find it builds trust. Owning up to a mistake you made and fixing it builds trust.

A client that trusts you is not only much more pleasant to work with, since they actually let you do your work, but also tend to come back when they need something else.

Be Their Useful Network

When I took my car into the mechanic, I didn’t want to search for all the mechanics in my area, screen them to find out which one could solve my issue, and then go talk to them. That was about a million times more work than I wanted to do.

I know nothing about how cars run. Literally nothing. (This is the correct usage of the word “literally” by the way. I don’t have the first clue as to why the car even starts. It has something to do with a magic key… or these days some of the cars even have a magic button. Serious voodoo.)

Your client doesn’t want to have to search around for the person that can fix one part of their site. Likely because they only have a vague idea of what needs to be fixed and just want to offload the headache onto someone that knows what they’re doing.

Being that someone will help secure their trust and is a great reason to build your network. That way, you’ll be able to say, “I don’t know how to solve this problem, but Steve can, and if you’d like, I can talk to him for you and manage this part of the project so you don’t have to.”

Hold up. What was that noise? Oh. That was the sound of all the dollar bills hitting your bank account. Kablam. (I don’t know… that’s the sound money makes, okay? Just go with it.)

Give Your Ideas Freely

There are a lot of idea hoarders in the world. They’re the worst.

They have a great idea, and instead of getting excited about it and telling people, they keep it to themselves. They don’t want to share because they’re worried that their perfect idea is going to be stolen by some idea bandit who will take it and reap all the rewards.

But here’s the thing: Ideas only have real value with action.

Giving your ideas freely to clients demonstrates that you know what you are talking about.

Maybe you’re worried that you’ll give the client all these ideas on how to solve their problem and they’ll take it and hire someone else at a lower rate to do the work.

And they might.

But think about that for a second. You don’t want to be low-balled by a client who’s unwilling to pay a fair rate, so you dodged a bullet there. And when they go to someone else to implement your idea, the other person will probably get it wrong. So there’s a good chance that client’s going to land back in your inbox in a couple of months, asking you to clean up the mess.

So give your ideas freely. Tell your clients how to solve their problem. Giving freely helps build reciprocity within the relationship, shows that you know what you’re talking about, and most often will get the client to say something to the effect of, “Yeah, that all sounds fantastic. So… when can you start?”

Add Unexpected Value

We all like getting something for nothing. It’s especially exciting when you unexpectedly get more than you thought you would. You know, like two scoops of vanilla ice cream with your brownie! You remember that amazing stroke of luck and go back for dessert at that place.

The same concept is true for your own freelance business. What else can you add or give to your client that goes above and beyond?

It doesn’t have to be anything huge. When I’m working with clients on marketing, I will often send them extra resources that I found that will help them with their marketing efforts in the future. It takes me five minutes, I love doing the research, and I’ve given them more than they expected, plus saved them time doing the research themselves.

Think about what you offer to your clients. What small thing could you add on to your service as a happy surprise? Maybe it’s extra resources, links, advice, connections? What can you do that will give them just a little bit more?

Being the Solution Pays Off

So what’s the payoff in all this, you may be asking. Well, there are a couple things that being a solution will do for you.

Get Return Clients

There’s a great quote by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will remember how you made them feel.”

This is true for everything in life, including your business. People might remember that you designed an amazing site for them.

But what they come back to you for is the way you made them feel. If you can make your clients feel safe, and like their problems are your problems, and you’re going to solve it together, the next time they have a problem, they’ll want to come to you.

Charge Higher Rates

Being the solution to somebody’s problem comes at a premium. If they can hire you to solve this issue for them by doing some of the work yourself and also sub-contracting out to one other person that you personally know does great work, you’re saving them time and money in the long-run.

Instead of having to spend the time finding three separate people to solve the issue, they can funnel it through one person who takes care of it for them. Good clients will pay a premium for that type of ease.

Be Part of a Great Community

Becoming the type of freelancer that provides a solution for clients and not just a service also comes with people perks. You’ll grow your network, meet more people, make more friends, and with a bigger network, you’re expanding your potential client base, too. Everybody wins!

Invest the Time Upfront

So, take the time upfront with your clients, and be the kind of person that my awesome mechanic was. Figuring out solutions and basically not making my tired and scared brain think any more than it needed to.

If you’re looking to up your freelance game, remember that being the solution through creating trust, being their network, giving your ideas freely, and adding unexpected value will always pay off for both of you in the end.

Post by Marisa Morby

Marisa is a copywriter who loves traveling, working on creative projects, and starting great conversations with new people.

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