Strengthen your client relationships by doing one simple thing.

How to Grow Your Business by Becoming a “Gift Horse”

Have you been lucky enough to gain a client this year who has sent a lot of work your way?

Maybe you’re new to freelance writing and you recently landed your first client.

Or, maybe you’ve been writing for years and you have two or three clients who keep coming back to you with new work you enjoy doing.

No matter what stage of your career, you can strengthen your client relationships doing one simple thing. Saying thank you.

Not because they’re paying you, but because you have a good working relationship with them and you’re grateful for that fact.

An out-of-the-blue note is one way to say thank you.

But, you can make an even bigger impression by sending a gift.

4 Reasons You Should Make Giving Gifts to Clients a Habit

When you give a gift of appreciation to your client, you do four things…

  • You develop or deepen the relationship. Working with a client means you have to send emails back and forth, talk on the phone, solve problems together… and ultimately, hopefully, celebrate successes together. These are all hallmarks of a strong relationship. And, when you give a gift, you show the client you recognize the relationship as one you’re glad to have. This helps to make the relationship stronger.

  • You open the door to communication. Have you ever finished a project for a client, and you meant to send them a follow-up… but next thing you knew, months had gone by, and you hadn’t made any effort to stay connected? Sending a gift can prevent that from happening, or it can re-open the lines of communication, when you find yourself in that kind of awkward situation.

  • You keep your name in front of them. Like you, your clients are busy. Even if they love working with you, you might not be the first name that comes to mind when they start thinking about who to work with on a project. But, if you stay in touch on a regular basis, you’ll make it much more likely you’re their go-to person. And, sending the occasional gift is one way to stay in touch.

  • You show you’re a person and that you know they’re a person. It’s unfortunately common for business relationships to get reduced to transactions. It’s all about the next project, the next invoice, the next check in the mail. When you make the effort to send a gift, you’re letting the person on the other end know you value them. It makes you both feel more human.

Studies Show Gifting Has a Positive Outcome

Knack, a Seattle-based company specializing in corporate gift-giving, has done the research on their industry.  They surveyed 1,000 business people who received gifts from vendors or partners.

You know what the survey revealed? That 94% of high-level executives were positively impacted by a personal gift, because it enhanced an existing relationship.

Eighty percent of the people surveyed about giving gifts believed business gifts are a GREAT return on investment (ROI).  Plus, they cited gifts as promoting intangible aspects of future dealings.

One person said, “Gifts humanize business.”

Another replied, “It pays for itself two-fold.”

5 Ways to Guarantee Your Gifts Build Relationships

Connections are based on more than sales figures and word counts.

Knowing your client loves old cars, owns a dog, studies baseball statistics, writes Haiku in their spare time, or travels to the islands every chance they get is just as important as knowing the target date of the next project release.

  1. Use your personal knowledge of that client to create a meaningful gift…

    • For someone who loves old cars, give them a beautiful coffee-table book of vintage cars, personally inscribed by you.
    • For a devoted dog owner, consider a BarkBox for the pup in the family. (And, if it’s a high-dollar client, make it a monthly subscription.)
    • For a baseball lover, consider tickets to a game or a personalized hat or jersey.
    • For a Haiku writer, think about a leather-bound journal and nice pen.
    • For an island traveler, monogram a beach towel or beach bag.
  2. Create a unique gift for each customer. Do NOT buy a one-size-fits-all gift in bulk. Nobody will remember a calendar or coffee mug, if there’s no personal connection inherent in the gift.

  3. Leave off your company logo. This gift is about them, not you. A gift emblazoned with your branding is easily viewed as a marketing ploy. It is NOT a personal tribute to your client. Instead, consider monogramming or personalizing your gift with the client’s name or initials.

  4. Spend time creating an attractive package. Part of the joy of a gift is unwrapping it. Make an effort to make the gift-receiving process memorable.

  5. Include a handwritten note with the gift.

Develop Levels of Gifting

Not all clients have influenced your business to the same extent. Develop a level system based on budget. If you have had a few small jobs with a client during the year, a gift of $20-$25 would be appropriate. More business dealings might move that client up to the $50 range. And your top-tier customers might be at the $100 range.

Isn’t a client who brought you $5,000 in income worth a gift of $50?

When to Gift

The traditional time to send gifts to clients is between the end of November and January of the new year. This is a good time, provided you get your gift to your client before the middle of December, when schedules get a little unpredictable.

Even though the holidays are a good time to send gifts, they’re not necessarily the best time. Consider how much more impact your gift might have, if it were to arrive at an unexpected time. Don’t feel like the holidays are the only time to be appreciative. According to Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, “In the business world there are two appropriate times for expressing your gratitude, whether it’s through a gift or simply via a kind word: As the relationship is beginning and anytime thereafter.”

Appreciate your customers every day. Express it often. Occasionally, surprise them with a tangible gift to thank them for the relationship you’re building.

Your thoughtfulness will not be forgotten.

Melissa Gouty

Melissa Gouty

Reading, writing, and the love of books has fueled Melissa Gouty since she was five, stoking a fire in her that burns hot every day. An award-winning former college professor, a columnist with more than 300 published pieces, an entrepreneur and a traveler, Melissa now crafts "Copy with Clout" from her "House that Lives in a Garden" where she resides with her husband, Bill, and two adopted shelter dogs, Zoey and Ella.


  • The company I work for encourages all of us to give gifts to each other several times a year.

    What kind of gifts do we give?

    Electronic ones, of course.

    We send colorful e-cards to thank co-workers for their invaluable efforts, their patience, their kindness, their coolness under pressure, their willingness to help out on nights and weekends, their sense of humor on an otherwise rough day. And by thanking each other, we build strong bonds. Bonds that won’t break.

    Really enjoyed this article.

    • Great comment because it reminds us that co-workers and colleagues are just as important as clients.

      Being valued is always a gift!

      Thanks for the response.

  • Because this kind of thing is so uncommon, the element of surprise alone (especially if there is no marketing associated with your gift) is worth so much to your client. Yes, even in business, there can be a thing called emotional impact. Who knows (s)he may be having a bad day and your timely offering may be exactly what they needed at that moment. One never knows. But one thing is for sure: you WILL be remembered in a very positive light. Excellent insight, Melissa!

    • Thank you, David. And you’re right…who doesn’t love a surprise gift? It’s certainly a good feeling when the importance of a relationship is acknowledged.

  • Great article, Missi! It makes a lot of sense!

    I suppose the timing of the gift is quite important though. I remember when I was looking for my replacement in an admin job, and I got a gift from a job applicant *before* she’d been hired for the job. She was thanking me for introducing her to the job posting (I had posted in in a newsletter she’d subscribed to), but I didn’t know her and it felt like she was trying to bribe me a bit to influence my boss to hire her. Perhaps she didn’t mean anything by it at all – but it would have made a lot more sense to send me a thank-you gift *after* she’d been hired. (She ended up not getting the job …)

    So I’d just throw in my two cents that gift-giving makes a lot of sense after you’ve already been working with a client, and to make sure the type/size of gift is proportional to the project so everyone can feel good about it.

    • Yes, ma’am! There’s a huge difference between a gift that acknowledges an existing relationship and a bribe! Timing is everything, after all. Thanks, Rebekah.

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