Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't Forget Your Clients at the Holidays: Eight Tips for Freelancer Gifts

One of the happier moments in the work days leading up to Christmas is when a package arrives from a freelancer or vendor. Coworkers swarm in like termites to snatch a sugary goody before they're all gone. Everyone gets a sugar buzz and thinks happy thoughts about the contractor who took the time and trouble to show how much they care.

We have a faithful indexer who always sends us something fun from Harry & David, and a printer that never fails to send yummy cookies from Cheryl&Co. In fact, it was while I was happily munching a chocolate cookie with peppermint buttercream frosting that it occurred to me: I did a lot of freelance work for Frommer's this year. Perhaps I should show my gratitude.

And so I did. Online ordering made it relatively easy (despite a couple of bugs in the site). Within three days, a big box of little cookies found its way into the hands of the grateful Wiley production editors. Before I even got arrival confirmation from UPS, they were e-mailing me to thank me. Now I'm not saying that this is going to guarantee me more work next year (doing a good job, of course, is more important); however, maybe it makes them smile a little when they think of me. And that can't hurt.

Here are a few tips on freelancer gifts, from someone who both gave and received this year:

  1. Time it right. Make sure your gift will arrive before most people take off on vacation. You still have a little time to get a gift out to your best clients--but not much. There won't be a lot of people in offices past next Tuesday.
  2. Avoid perishables. I've gotten sausage and cheese a few times and wondered whether it had been refrigerated adequately. It kinda ruined it for me.
  3. Don't be too chintzy. If you file Schedule C, you can deduct the cost as a business expense, anyway. So why not get something nice?
  4. Packaging isn't so important. The adorable gift towers are fun. But people are really just interested in the food. Opt for more food over fancy packaging.
  5. Tie it to your personal or company brand. If you have a logo for your business, send a gift or card that communicates it. DeBrand's Chocolates will even make custom candy in the shape of your logo. (I'm not sure I followed this rule. Maybe my brand is traditional, dependable, and sweet. And what says that better than cookies?)
  6. Be sensitive. Don't send something that will offend or exclude anyone. If you know that any of your recipients has allergies, avoid sending them something they can't eat. And those packages of sockeye salmon are always revolting-looking to me.
  7. Don't forget a note. Make sure they know who it's from and that you are grateful for your working relationship.
  8. Keep it up. If your gift is a hit, send the same thing next year. Your client will look forward to getting your gift as the holidays approach.


Heather said...

We were especially grateful for your cookies, because they were the only gift we received this year from the freelance pool. Not like days of yore...

Anonymous said...

The people I work with said they would be unable to accept gifts this year.

Lori Cates Hand said...

Ah yes--back in the day, we were inundated with gifts, weren't we? I had noticed a dropoff here, too, and I'm sure the economy is to blame.

Lori Cates Hand said...

@anonymous: Wow--really? I wonder whether it's some sort of ethics/payola thing? Still, it's pretty presumptuous to say "Hey, we know you were thinking of sending us a gift, but please don't."