Earlier this month, I got to top my “career highlights” list by talking with Ed Gandia on his High-Income Business Writing podcast! What about? Why, client gifting, of course! (You know that’s my thing right? OK… I might not have mentioned it until now, but it’s definitely my thing.)
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t joking when I said in the introduction of the interview that I had 10 pages of notes in front of me. And since it’s not quite natural to read 10 pages of notes in an interview where you’re having a conversation with a person, naturally I left a bit of what I’d prepared out of what we recorded. So, here’s a quick recap with a few additional points that didn’t make it into the show but that are still very important to consider when you’re building (or refining) your approach to client gifting:
My Business Story
One thing I didn’t mention on the podcast too much is my reason for wanting to freelance part-time (besides the obvious, of course). First, I have an autoimmune illness that makes an 8-hour workday a thing of the past for me. Now I can get 8-hours of work done in 3 or 4 and take a good rest… and on days when I feel terrible (which are more and more infrequent, thank God!) I can just not work entirely.
Second, I now have a son! (And a second one due at the end of this year). As you can imagine, the process of becoming a mother has completely transformed how I look at my time. Every minute I’m wasting time on the internet or stuck in a meeting I don’t want to be in is a minute away from watching him grow and getting smashed banana in my hair. Being “as autonomous as possible” as a freelancer, being able to scale my hours (and income) up and down over the months and years is invaluable to me.
Being able to scale my hours (and income) up and down over the months and years is invaluable to me.
(The Sweet Spot goes into that a little more — I’ve scaled from $57K to $89K and back down to about $63K, though of course this year isn’t finished yet. In fact, I out-earned last year in just the first 6 months of this year because I knew I had to ramp it up for my end-of-the-year maternity leave. A full-time job won’t let you do that.)
3 Major Reasons Client Gifting Is a Good Idea
In my excitement to talk to Ed, I don’t think I made it clear what the three major reasons are! So, in short list form:
1. Expressing appreciation makes you stop and feel good and it makes your client stop and feel good
No matter how little we work or how much money we make, a lot of the time freelancers get into a “busy and broke” mindset. I did that, too! So stopping to thank people became a way for me to step back and look at my P&L and say “No, things are going great, this is a viable business.” And sending new clients a cute little package in the mail is a small way to let them know things are going great for them, too. And think about it: can you really say that you can’t find time or money to send a $30 gift to a client who gave you $20,000 last year? That’s just bad math.
2. “Showing up” in this way makes you stand out
As freelancers, we’re always worried about being replaceable, or being a face in a sea of rising freelancers. Sending a tasteful (read: not brown-nosing) gift can really make clients stop and see you as a professional, not just another pen. Sometimes clients haven’t said anything or acknowledged the package at all, but sometimes they’ve email and I could hear the delight and surprise in their tone — it’s really stuck with me.
3. It’s the right thing to do
The most important reason I send client gifts is because I think it adds humanity to what we do and what our clients do. Especially in the B2B world, it’s easy to forget there’s a human on the other end. Meaningful, infrequent gifting is a way to restore that connection and help people feel recognized.
Especially in the B2B world, it’s easy to forget there’s a human on the other end.
And on a deeper level? While we as freelancers have an incredible amount of freedom in our day and in who we work with, the people we work with often don’t.
Think about this: most freelancers had a full-time job at one point. So, imagine your worst day. Feeling dull and a little trapped. Maybe frustrated with your co-workers, or just kind of like, “Why can’t all of these projects just come together already!” Then imagine how you’d feel about a vendor who went out of their way to be enthusiastic to hear from you, grateful for the work in a professional way, and obviously interested in you and your job, not just getting a paycheck and peace-ing out.
I see tasteful gifting as the freelance community’s opportunity to be the bright part of a client’s cloudy day.
Potential Risks to Avoid
There are a few more risks I wanted to point out about client gifting:
1. Avoid kissing up
There’s a really fine line between “That writer who sent us that thoughtful gift” and “That gift giver who writes for us.” You don’t want to cross it by sending gifts that are too expensive or sending them too frequently.
You need to have your own internal rhythm, but for me that means not going over $75 ish, and the only time I did that was a very specific thank you for a client taking on a big expense for me. Normal for me is around $30-50 because the goal is, “Nice to meet you/know you!” not, “Nice to take your money and give me more please!”
2. Get a mailing address without being too creepy
I’ve found getting the address can be a little awkward because I often don’t need a formal mailing address to get work started when I receive deposits digitally. So the trick is to ask for a mailing address in a way that makes it clear it’s business related and not that you’re going to send spam or show up outside their door.
Something like, “Can I confirm X is the best mailing address for your office,” is better than “What’s your address?” with no details. Otherwise you might have a client worrying they’re about to get spammed, put on a catalog list, or that you’ll show up outside their door one day.
3. Deduct wisely Only deduct $25 per client per person year, so not all of this is deductible.
Only $25 per client per person per year is deductible, so you may find you’re spending more than you can claim as a business expense (I know I do). But like I said, if someone is sending you thousands of dollars, is it that crazy to send them a small gift even if you can’t expense all of it?
Here are some rules I use to make sure it’s “worth it” for me:When I’m looking at onboarding gifts, I’m looking for projects that are at least $800-1K with a strong likelihood of a long term relationship. When I’m doing year-end gifts, I’m looking at clients who spent more than $3-5K with me and will likely have recurring projects in the coming year. I also look for key people who have referred those clients to me to make sure I am saying “Thank you!” in a tangible way.
That’s all, folks!
Thank you for stopping by, thank you for listening, and thank you for thinking about thanking your clients!
Like I said in the promotional section of the podcast, my biggest project in development is a baby! This will be my second maternity leave in two years happening this October, and I hope to write about that soon.
And before that happens, I’m working with Andrea Emerson on a webinar where we’re going to take a energetic look at how to sell when you’re a regular person, not a business person, and share our experience going from selling nothing (in my case getting sweaty and doing an awkward dance after sales calls) to comfortably landing new clients several times a year. The best place to get updated about that is on the Five Figure Writer mailing list, which you can sign up for here.
Until then… waste some time on the site with my most popular three posts, and let me know in the comments if they help you!