As a freelancer, you are in charge of everything—from invoicing and collections to fun stuff like giving yourself an annual bonus. So, when it comes to giving holiday gifts to your clients, the choice is entirely yours. On the one hand, most clients don’t expect to receive gifts from small vendors or independent contractors. On the other hand, unexpected extras are a great way to remind your clients why they love you.
Just one note of caution: Don’t fall into the trap of “promotional gifts.” Nobody wants to receive a gift that is an obvious gimmick. Steer clear of the cheap and cheesy. This means: No refrigerator magnets; No desk calendars with your logo on the front; and by all means, please, no plastic letter openers. These things aren’t gifts they’re marketing. I’m not saying that promotional gifts don’t have their place, we all love free schwag, but holiday gifts shouldn’t scream “Look at me!”
Instead, give your clients something that shows how creative you can be without looking like an advertisement—in other words, something they’ll appreciate that won’t wind up in the garbage the minute after they open it. Here are some unique gift ideas for clients to spark your imagination.
Design a Gift Card for Your Clients
There are many companies now that make gift cards for small businesses. Talk to one and strike a deal. Instead of giving a gift card for your services, buy a batch of gift cards to a local coffee shop or bakery on the condition that you can design a custom card. This gives you a chance to show off your design work, while still giving your client something personal that they can enjoy that is not business related. Score double-points if you have a client that offers local gift cards.
Limited Edition T-Shirts — Without Your Logo
Just about everyone likes t-shirts. Not everyone, likes t-shirts with your logo. Instead, show off your design skills by making a kick-ass t-shirt that has nothing to do with your company. Make it an annual tradition and long-term clients will get to “collect them all.” Make a few extras and store them for the future. Then, in a few years you can have a contest and give away the “entire collection” of limited edition shirts. If you have a team, consider having each artist create a design and let your clients vote online during the month of December. Then, give the shirts away as New Year’s gifts.
Give Your Client a Gift Of the Month
Of-the-month clubs are a great way to give a personalized and unique gift. This is an especially good gift idea for office environments because it’s something that everyone can enjoy together. If your client is a foodie, give them a subscription to receive a different bottle of gourmet olive oil every month. Best yet, because of-the-month gift clubs can last anywhere from three months to a year, your client will be reminded of your generosity long after the holiday season is over. To get the most impact with maximum value choose a “seasonal” gift club that is delivered quarterly. It’s still a year’s worth of gifts, but less costly than a 12-month subscription.
Give it to Charity
Offer your client a service they will really appreciate by offering a pro bono design to the charity of their choice. Many people have a charity that is close to their heart, and almost all charities need design work. Keep it small and set parameters if you plan on offering this gift to multiple clients. Something simple like a free business card design, or a free event flyer with up to 4 hours of design work. You may even be able to team up with a local printer to include the printing for up to a certain amount.
Another option is to “give big”, but offer the gift to one charity. Make it a game which only your current clients can enter. Let clients submit suggestions or creative briefs then choose one lucky winner to receive a free design. If you decide to “give big,” don’t miss out on the opportunity for free publicity. Issue a press release announcing the winner, and another when the job is complete. Be sure to give credit to any partners—such as the printer or the client who nominated the charity.
Corporate Gifting: To Give or Not to Give
For many freelance designers and small agencies, the decision of whether to give gifts to clients comes down to cost—especially when the economy is slow. However, when it comes to gift-giving you have something going for you that is rare in the corporate world. Creativity! Have a glass of mulled cider and let the creative juices start flowing. Chances are, you can brainstorm a couple of creative gift ideas for your clients that don’t cost too much. The return on investment is invaluable. You’ll generate goodwill and be top of mind when your client sits down to make the marketing budget for next year.
With a little creativity, you can offer something to your clients that they’ll remember for years to come – which means they will also remember you. What are the most creative gift ideas that you have seen or given to clients over the years?