What You Need to Know About Gratitude and Freelancing

Gratitude helps you get more freelance work

Lisa Baker, PhD, CMPP, is grateful for her freelance success this year. She’s showing her gratitude by sending her clients holiday cards and gifts and sending cards to key colleagues.

“I really appreciate all the people who’ve supported me—both as clients and as colleagues—in my first few years as a freelancer,” says Lisa, a freelance medical writer specializing in publications. Lisa is also sending cards to prospects who’ve expressed interest in her services but haven’t hired her yet.

Gratitude Builds Relationships with Clients and Colleagues

Annie Kai I. Cheang, PharmD, MS, BCPS, is also sending out holiday cards and gifts. “It is a way to continue to build relationships, to let the recipients know that I am thinking about them,” says Annie, who is a freelance medical writer. Her clients include publication agencies and HEOR analytical firms.

Building trusting relationships with clients (current and prospective) and colleagues is one of the keys to getting more referrals. And getting more referrals in an easy way to succeed in freelancing.

If you send holiday gifts and cards, then it will be easier to build trusting relationships with clients and colleagues.

“Hopefully the recipients will be more likely to think of me for future work, knowing how much I value them,” says Lisa. “And prospective clients will appreciate that I am still thinking of them.“

Sending holiday cards and gifts is an easy, friendly way to stay in touch with clients and colleagues, and to ensure that they think of you first when they’re looking for a freelancer or have an opportunity to share. I’ve been sending holiday cards and gifts since I started my freelance business back in 1997.

More Ways to Stay in Touch and Show Gratitude

Learn about other great ways to stay in touch with clients, prospects, and colleagues:
How to Be the First in Line for Freelance Work.

Gratitude Makes Us Happier and Healthier

Along with helping you grow your freelance business, showing your gratitude can also make you happier and healthier. Studies show that being grateful can:

  • Increase your energy and happiness
  • Boost your self esteem
  • Strengthen your resiliency
  • Improve your immune system.

And gratitude can also reduce depression, lower blood pressure, and even prolong your life, says The Tremendous Collective in The Benefits of Being Grateful That You May Not Know About.

Annie, who is creating her own cards, has already experienced the power of gratitude. “It feels good to be writing hand-written cards while listening to my favorite Christmas jazz music (drinking hot chocolate next to a fireplace),” she says.

Impress Clients with the Right Gift

Each year just after Thanksgiving, I visit Philadelphia’s famous Italian Market to order holiday gifts from Anthony’s Chocolate House. My clients always look forward to getting the gourmet chocolate-covered pretzel trays I send them. One client always calls to tell me how quickly the treats disappear after they put them in the break room.

Like me, Annie and Lisa are sending food gifts. Annie is sending gourmet chocolates, from a local chocolate shop called Zak’s Chocolate.

Lisa is sending food gifts from Harry & David. “Gifts from corporations are common, but how many freelancers spend their own money to thank their clients for their business? The gift will say that I really do appreciate my best clients and the work they send me,” she says.

So here are some other ideas for client gifts:

  • A motivational book, art, mug, etc. Try Successories, which has many interesting business gifts, including a section of thank-you gifts. But I wouldn’t choose anything with your logo for a holiday thank you.
  • A donation in honor of your clients, to an organization like Doctors without Borders or UNICEF. For clients interested in culture and the arts, you could make a gift to a local (to the client) museum, theater, etc.

What You Need to Know about Client Gifts

Some clients can’t accept gifts or have limits on the value of gifts. Foundations, for example, are not allowed to accept gifts. I found this out the hard way, after I sent a foundation client a gift the first year that we worked together. My client was very nice about it, and asked me to only send cards in the future.

Government agencies can accept gifts but the cost can’t exceed $25. Some private clients may have gift limits too.

If your clients don’t have gift limits, you can spend as much as you want to, but know that you can only deduct $25 per client per year, says the IRS. The cost of my gifts varies by the size of the client (amount of business they give me and number of people who work there), but none cost more than $50. You can buy a nice client gift for under $25.

Who to give gifts

When you give clients gifts, be strategic. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. A holiday card is sufficient for a client who gave you one small project this year.

Lisa, Annie, and I all give gifts to the clients who give us the most work. I recommend gifts for all clients who give you at least $10,000 a year worth of business.

And keep a list of the gifts you give and who you give them to. You’ll need to refer to this next year.

Show Appreciation with Holiday Cards

When you buy your holiday cards, make sure they’re high-quality and for business. UNICEF’s Business Collection, where I buy my cards, allows you to support a good cause while sending beautiful cards. Minted, where Lisa bought her cards, is another good place to buy cards. Minted will address the envelopes for free.

Vistaprint is less expensive than UNICEF or Minted, but the cards aren’t as nice. If you’re really on a tight budget this year, this is an option.

Sign each card and write a short personal note

You can have your name and company name, or your logo, printed on the cards, but also sign each card.

And add a short personal note to each card, at least for your clients, prospects you’ve had contact with in the past year, and your closest colleagues.

Send your cards early

My cards are in the mail the Monday after Thanksgiving, so people get them before they’re inundated with cards. Jonathan Long suggests having your cards in the mail by December 10 in “Tell Them You Care With a Holiday Card. Use These 5 Tips to Do It Right.”

Resist the temptation to send eCards

Put some thought and effort into your holiday cards by selecting, ordering, signing, and mailing traditional holiday cards. “In the electronic age when it is so convenient to send an e-card, sending a hand-written card is so much more special,” says Annie.

Lisa agrees. “Thoughtfully chosen e-cards are nice, but paper cards feel more personal and special to me. I think paper cards make more of an impression than email, which is easy to delete. Also, a paper card may linger on people’s desk for a while, keeping me top of mind.”

Be Grateful All Yearlong

While the holidays are a natural time to express gratitude, the more grateful you are regularly, the more benefits you’ll get. That’s because gratitude is self-perpetuating, says The Tremendous Collective.

Gratitude actually rewires our brains, kick-starting the production of dopamine and serotonin. These feel-good neurotransmitters activate the bliss centers of the brain, creating feelings of happiness and contentment. Dopamine and serotonin also help you deflect negative thoughts.

Way to be grateful every day, from The Tremendous Collective, include:

  • Celebrating minor accomplishments
  • Being kind to others (e.g., opening a door for someone or flashing your smile)
  • Appreciating the small things.

“I really took pleasure in creating the list of recipients and remembering all who supported me this year. It’s a nice way to end the year,” says Lisa. 

Learn More About Gratitude and Freelancing

From The Mighty Marketer

How to Be the First in Line for Freelance Work

Why You Need to Say Thank You to Get More Referrals

Holiday Cards and Gifts

UNICEF’s Business Collection





“The Benefits of Being Grateful That You May Not Know About,” from The Tremendous Collective

“What Are the 9 Best Types of Gifts to Give Your Customers?” by Andrew Griffiths

“Tell Them You Care With a Holiday Card. Use These 5 Tips to Do It Right,” by Jonathan Long

Learn More About Lisa and Annie

Lisa’s website

Annie’s website