“Do the Little Things”: Lessons from Big Papi

This week, our beloved Boston Red Sox won their third World Series championship in a decade, and their first at Fenway Park since 1918. Leading the charge was veteran slugger David Ortiz — a/k/a Big Papi.

Papi owns his game. He strides to the plate like Godzilla. He stares down every pitcher with a fierce confidence that comes from knowing that odds are, he can hit anything thrown his way. So what if he struck out his last time at bat? Minutes later he was back on the field, celebrating with younger players he’s inspired. Papi’s message: Don’t give up. Give it your best. Believe, no matter what.

One quote from Papi in Boston.com really hit home:

“We have a lot of players with heart,” Ortiz said. “We probably don’t have the talent we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys that are capable, stay focused, and do the little things. And when you win with that, it’s special.”

That got me thinking about being a freelance writer in a big, competitive market such as Boston.

There are many talented writers in Boston who specialize in any number of genres. So how do we freelancers compete? Like Papi says, strong players are capable and focused. They also “do the little things.” Little things can add value to clients’ experience when they work with us.

Here are a few little things clients seem to appreciate.…

Send a hand-written note card from time to time. This can be at the end of a project, to say thanks for a referral, or to introduce yourself to a new staff member or prospect. In these days of endless text and email messages, an old-fashioned card with a stamp stands out. (I get custom ones made at Snapfish with my dog’s picture, in hopes of appealing to clients who also like animals. I use more standard fare for clients whom I don’t know that well, yet.)

Visit clients in person when possible. Skype, GoToMeeting, and other business communication tools have made the world a much smaller place. Still, it’s nice to meet new clients in person whenever possible. I always invite myself to a new client’s office for a project kickoff meeting, if they’re in the region. There’s something about shaking a client’s hand that makes the work connection even stronger. Call it old-fashioned, but it’s an important little thing.

Look for ways to make clients’ lives easier. Everyone still lucky enough to have a job in this economy is stretched. Be mindful of clients’ time. Offer to make calls, send emails, find other talent, and move things forward in any way that you can. Make suggestions for getting projects done more efficiently, and suggest new projects that may help their marketing communications efforts (and keep repeat business going for you).

Send a holiday card thanking them for their business. This can be a Thanksgiving card in November, a nondenominational “season’s greetings” card in December or a Happy New Year card in January (to separate your glad tidings from the pack). Thank them for their business the previous year and let them know you look forward to working together more. If budget is tight, send email marketing cards in lieu of paper cards.

What are the little things you do for clients? We’re probably all doing things that aren’t part of our contracts or assignments, but that help our clients get their work done on time and on budget, with the least amount of stress possible.

Maybe it’s as simple as bringing humor and humanity to the work—relating to clients as people, understanding why their work is so important to them. It could be using patience, letting the gaffes roll off our backs, and learning from projects that don’t always go as well as we hoped.

The little things matter, after all. Big Papi says so! For freelancers, doing more of the little things can add up to longer-lasting client relationships. Thanks for reading.


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