#159: Client Gift-Giving — When You Should Do It … and How to Make a Big Impact with a Small Budget

Should you give your clients a gift?

If so, when is the best time to do this? And what should you give them?

Holidays? At the end of your first project? Some other time?

I just recorded a great conversation with my colleague Sarah Greesonbach on this topic. Sarah gave me some great ideas for how make this decision … which clients you should put on your list … and how to give gifts that make a huge impact without spending more than $20 or $30.

She’s a true gift-giving master!

Sarah is a successful and very talented freelance writer out of Richmond, Va. And in this interview, she explains when to consider giving clients gifts (hint: there are other great opportunities outside the holidays) … which clients you should give gifts to … how to do it right … and how to pick gifts that will make a big impact without spending more than $20 or $30.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Sarah Greesonbach originally trained as a teacher but ultimately didn’t like it. She had enjoyed writing papers when she was in college, so she changed direction to writing and editing—then eventually to marketing.

When she was later laid off from her marketing job, she decided to go freelance. That was over five years ago.

Since then, Sarah has earned more than her previous full-time income while working part time.

How do you feel about giving gifts to clients?

Gift giving can be valuable to freelancers for three main reasons:

1. Gifts show your appreciation. They make you AND the client feel good. They force you to slow down, show your appreciation and demonstrate that there’s a real person on the other end of the email. You might find the process of writing thank you notes and giving gifts to be awkward, but they’re more appreciated than you might think—according to this article in the Word Economic Forum.

2. Gifts help you stand out. To be a good freelancer, you need to be proactive and differentiate yourself. Sending a tasteful gift can help clients see you as a professional partner who takes initiative.

You want to be a partner to your clients, not just a pen.

3. Gifts add humanity. Giving gifts can help establish good feelings and grow your network—even when projects fizzle out. By giving a gift, you show you care about more than just the project, you care about the people.

When is a good time to give clients gifts?

The onboarding process is a good time to surprise and delight your client with a gift. You can send a small gift when they sign on or pay their first invoice. This helps to show that your goal is to build an ongoing relationship.

Christmas or other major holidays can be another good time. However, you run the risk of your gift blending in with others.

You can also gift during important industry dates, e.g. tax season if you write for accounting clients or cyber Monday if you write for tech.

Generally, you want to give a gift when you onboard a client and then once per year after that.

You want to avoid the perception that you’re trying to buy the client with your gift—so you don’t want to spend too much.

What makes a good gift?

1. Good gifts are unique. Choose something that’s special to you. Gifts of local foods or from local boutiques are good choices. Sarah has a local tea shop that she likes to gift from.

2. Good gifts are consumable. Even if the client doesn’t like your gift (maybe they don’t drink tea!), a consumable item can be easily shared with others in the office.

Most of the impact of gift giving is in the act of giving, not in the value of the object being given.

Consumables also have the advantage of not contributing to clutter. Candy, food, notebooks and pens can all be put to good use.

Gift cards are common and won’t stand out as much. But in the right context, these cards can work well (e.g. giving a Home Depot gift card to someone who’s just moved into a new home).

Giving gifts to clients is about recognizing the other person in the relationship in a way that’s unique to you.

Another option is to donate to a charity in the person’s name, especially if you know the causes that are important to them. This approach is easier (and less “stalker-ish”) if you already know each other well.

Are there any companies or websites to consider when looking for gift ideas?

Sarah really likes local Richmond gift stores Mongrel and Tweed. Any retailer that sells items that are unique and local to where you live is a good place to start.

Sarah will also pre-purchase items that she likes to gift regularly, such as tea and Moleskin notebooks.

She also buys local letterpress cards and postcards in bulk. She will also give books if her clients are big readers, and she knows them well enough.

How much should you spend?

Aim for something that’s tasteful and meaningful, not showy. Sarah usually spends about $7 to $10 per person. She may spend $30-$50 if the gift is for an entire marketing office.

You want the message to be “I’m thinking about you” rather than “I’m gifting you a percentage of my project fees.”

Avoid being tacky. There’s a fine line between heartfelt gift giving and giving too much, too often.

How do you feel about birthday cards, holiday cards, random thank-you cards?

If you have something meaningful to share, then that’s fine. But sending a standard holiday card won’t do much.

Give gifts to clients to 1) differentiate yourself and 2) let them know you genuinely appreciate their business.

If the gift comes from the heart, it will be received the right way.

How can we turn this into a process so we don’t forget?

It helps if you anchor gift giving with certain events. For example, Sarah sends gifts as part of her onboarding process. She will also send gifts around New Year’s. Pairing the two events helps to make sure they get done.

You can also set reminders or alerts in your calendar.

What are you up to these days?

Sarah is currently working with another writer to develop a webinar on how to sell as a freelance writer. You can find out more on her website:

Five Figure Writer



By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1. Grab a free copy of my training class for writers who are new to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” Click Here

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