What Should You Give Your Clients for the Holidays?

As this year wraps up, I’m excited to celebrate my first holiday of quitting my day job and being my own boss! Since I started, I’ve worked with some fantastic entrepreneurs, and signed some awesome (and not so awesome) contracts.

Both my clients and colleagues are inspiring and enjoyable to work with. I’ve learned a lot of personal lessons, as well as business lessons throughout the year (more of which I’ll share in an upcoming blog post).

But the question I’m facing now is, what should I give my clients for the holidays, and how much should I spend?

Is a Christmas card or a basket of fruit appropriate, or should it be something more expensive or personal?

Coincidentally, this question was asked in the Careful Cents Club and thanks to the wonderful and creative minds of everyone in there, we came up with following advice:

Gifts based on revenue or length of relationship.

Linsey Knerl from 1099Mom suggests to base your gift on the amount of revenue or length of relationship. Clients with revenue over $5K, for example, will get a better gift than a client that only worked on one or two projects.

You want to keep your gifts in proportionate to the income you received from that client throughout the year. This isn’t to say that one client is better than the other, you just don’t want to eat up all your revenue on a $100 client by purchasing a $100 gift.

And don’t forget that a branded gift is both good for moral and marketing, such as the personalized Sharpie markers with your site’s URL, like Linsey gives to her clients.

Virtual or physical gifts depend on the client.

Missy Diaz from G34 Media asks if it’s better to give virtual or physical gifts. The answer, depends on the client and their personality.

If the type of business they run is mostly online and done virtually, they are probably used to dealing with non-tangible transactions. However, if your client prefers to touch and feel their products, then a physical gift is the better choice.

If you’re looking for a really awesome virtual card idea, check out a service like Paperless Post. They have a huge selection of holiday cards to choose from, many of which are free, and all of them can be personalized with your own brand message.

The best part is the “envelope” feature that personalizes each card with the recipients name on the front — just like a real letter.

Spread holiday cheer without overspending.

This blog is called “Careful Cents” for a reason, so if you do buy a Christmas card or holiday gift for your clients, make sure you don’t overspend. There are lots of ways you can express your gratitude without spending money.

For example, I have a client who has requested any Christmas gifts or money, be donated to their favorite charity. You can do the same thing with your clients.

Instead of giving them an expensive gift, find out their favorite charity and make your money go further with a donation in their name. You and your brand will be viewed as generous, and as an added bonus, you’ll get a tax write-off too.

You could also offer your most exclusive clients and customers, a discount on future orders, consulting services and products — or a host a giveaway.

Make sure you explain it’s your way of thanking them for putting up with you all year (this is what I did for my loyal newsletter subscribers).

And don’t be envious of the big brands that spend a lot of money on holiday gifts. As a small business, you can interact with your clients in a much more genuine and personal way!

Send something more personal.

Speaking of which, the last tip here comes from Jennifer, who suggests sending something much more personal, like a handwritten card, or a small gift that reflects the relationship you’ve developed together (like an inside joke).

This is especially smart to do for clients who are large companies, or if you work with corporate clients, who are overloaded with lots of fruit baskets and gifts for the holidays.

Something creative or thoughtful, will have a bigger impact than something you randomly picked up at the store. Again, take time to say “thank you”. That alone will affect your client, over all the gifts in the world.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten from a client, vendor or service provider? Are you planning to get your clients gifts this year?

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About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and owner of Careful Cents, a site that helps creative freelancers discover the art of making a living. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship and blogging. Since then she’s been featured in sites like The Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, and Kiplinger Finance. In her spare time she enjoys painting, sketching, and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter or Instagram: @carefulcents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Budget & the Beach December 19, 2012, 9:26 am

    Since I’m the one who wrote the question, I’ll answer by saying I gave my main client a candle for his office and some homemade cookies. Eventually I’d like to do more, but my budget is ridiculously tight. Anyway, all of my other smaller clients I sent holiday cards thanking them for their business.

    • Carrie Smith December 19, 2012, 11:46 am

      Yes, thank you SO much for getting the conversation started! It was something on my mind as well. I ended up doing something more personal for the clients I know better and sent everyone else a nice card. Good call @budgetandthebeach:disqus :)

  • 1099 Mom December 19, 2012, 10:52 am

    Thanks for sharing my tip! Love hearing what others had to say, as well.

  • Missy Diaz December 19, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Hi, Carrie:

    I got some very useful and fun ideas from the thread you started on the FB group and now this post. Frugal ideas too. Yay!!!

    P.s. I echo everyone also when I say – thanks for creating the group on FB, love it.



  • Justin Germino December 19, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Mostly my giveaways are physical (is software virtual or physical?) I reward my fans, with gadgets, games, software that excites them and try to give back. I invest at least 30% of my profits into giveaways for my fans to keep them excited and help give back.

  • AverageJoe December 19, 2012, 5:40 pm

    The further we get away from physical interaction with clients, the more cool handwritten notes become.

    • Carrie Smith December 20, 2012, 2:27 pm

      That’s a very accurate statement. Sad but true!

  • Boris December 21, 2012, 11:45 am

    If you freelance writing for a client, how about giving him/her a free article.. that would be useful for the client.

    • Carrie Smith December 21, 2012, 1:45 pm

      That’s a fantastic idea! Really great way to express your thanks :)

  • Jason December 2, 2013, 4:38 pm

    I give gift baskets to all my clients. My clients over 100k get a vacation package for two.

    • Carrie Smith December 11, 2013, 11:45 am

      Oh how fun! Those sound like great “thank you” gifts.

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau December 14, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Interesting, I’ve never even thought about this. Then again, my freelance business is still in the baby phase. Hopefully by next Christmas I’ll be implementing these tips.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter December 16, 2013, 11:24 am

    I would argue that even for people who are used to living in the online-world only, a physical gift has a more lasting impression. You are forced to interact with the object in a way that you don’t do with online-things. Plus, everyone loves getting mail!

  • Dara Lin December 20, 2013, 12:55 am

    Holiday is a once in a year celebration, However in business i think the best holiday gift is a discount on any services or purchase because it’s like giving them the opportunity to buy the value of your products in the way that they can reach with. Maybe it’s not too special but it is a source of engagement.