Throughout my life I’ve struggled with depression.

Don’t be fooled by all my witty banter, smiley photos or my colorful wardrobe, that I’m a naturally “happy-go-lucky” kinda person, Internets. 

I’ve learned to manage it with a fairly rigid formula of getting enough exercise, eating properly (I can still take down a plate of nachos with the skill of an Olympic athlete), getting enough sleep, and having plans with friends once to twice a week.

It’s taken years to figure out this optimal routine, and lots of trial and error, but it’s worth keeping it up when I know what happens if I let even one of these things slide.

Another thing that helps with
keeping my depression at bay, is gratitude.

Every morning, and even before I go to sleep if my mind is particularly restless, I have a daily meditation gratitude practice that I got from Omvana, a free app on my phone, with lots of free meditations available to use.

After a relaxation exercise, I pick 5 things I’m grateful for in my personal life, which can range from the mundane, like “I made a really good dinner tonight”, or “Wow, I loved that episode of Westworld!” to the more complex, like “I had a really good conversation with Katie tonight and I’m so glad she’s been my best friend for 22 years.”

Then, I pick 5 things I’m grateful for in my professional life, which again, can be pretty superficial like, “I’m so grateful I don’t have to commute to work since I work from home!” to something more meaningful like, “I got a really nice e-mail from a client thanking me for all my hard work.”

After doing this practice for quite some time now,
it occurred to me that this ritual of mine has actually helped to build my business.

In fact, without even trying, I’m implemented gratitude in all kinds or ways over the years, like:

  1. When a client refers me to one of their peers, I send them a personality-appropriate gift to something I know they’ll love. For dog lovers, a BarkBox, for foodies, a gift certificate to a truly delicious local restaurant. For beer lovers, a craft beer club membership, for book lovers a gift certificate to Amazon.com, or for fitness buffs, a subscription box to their favorite sport. Whenever I’m stuck with what to get someone, I look no further than their Facebook page. I check out the pages they “Like” and see what I can purchase and send their way.
  2. When a client’s website has launched, I like to send a bottle of Oregon’s finest sparkling wine to help celebrate our work together with a nice “Thank you” note. In some states/countries where I can’t ship wine (I’m looking at you, Arizona!) I’ll send flowers instead. If a client is local, I like to take them out for a fancy dinner so we get some quality face time together.
  3. During the holiday season, I send out hand-written cards to ALL of my new and existing clients. Is it a hand-crippling task to write personal messages to sooooo many clients I’ve had over the years? YES. But it’s oh so worth it to spread a little holiday cheer and to let people know how truly thankful I am for their business, even if we haven’t worked together in awhile.
  4. If a client of mine is undergoing a big event, like having a baby or getting married, you better believe I send gifts then, too! I have a habit of becoming friends with my clients, and I want to be a part of their joy and big news even if I’m on the other side of the country!

Now, before I get accused of bribing people with presents so they send me more of their friends to work with, let me just say this: That is not at all my intention.

These expressions of gratitude are not just about the gift, it’s about the thought that goes in to them and celebrating the relationship I’ve created with my customers and clients.

Since 75% of my clients are not local to Portland, Oregon (my home base), it takes an extra effort to cultivate long-distance relationships that are outside of Skype and e-mail, although those are great, too.

And that’s what gifts and snail mail does:
It’s a tangible item that steps out of the online world and in to the physical world so you, your business, and the relationship you created with your client stays at the top of their mind.

Because, hey. Turns out? We’re all real people craving real connection, and we all want to be cared for and thought about.

When you go out of your way to make other’s feel special,
you can be sure they’re excited to share you and their experience with their friends.

Now, I could bore you with all the social psychology Law of Reciprocity things at play here, but I won’t.

All I know is, when you care enough to remember that one of your favorite clients happens to love the Salt & Straw ice cream they had during their last visit in Portland, it’s so fun to get an excited e-mail of thanks when you ship some delicious pints directly to their house in Seattle because they referred someone to you. And you better believe that as every pint of ice cream gets devoured, that client is thinking about and loving you for sending it. And being at the top of someone’s mind? Let’s face it. That’s pretty nice.

So, how can you implement gratitude in to your business?

The first thing you can do is start now. You don’t have to send notes. You don’t have to send gifts. Though that works for me and my personality, it may not work for you!

A simple e-mail saying “Hey, thanks for sending your friend my way to work with me!” goes a long way. Or even an e-mail that says “Hey, thanks so much for hiring me for this project! I can’t wait to begin!”

Perhaps every time you ship a product to a customer, there’s a handwritten “thank you” note placed in the box with a nice sentiment.

At the end of the year, you could throw a “Client Appreciation Party” at a local park.

Maybe when a friend or client refers someone to you, you send them a little gift that will mean something special to them. It doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars, it just has to have a little thought behind it.

Next, I wanna hear from you.

Head on over to my Facebook page and tell me if you already integrate gratitude into your life and business, and how you do it. If you don’t have a gratitude practice, tell me if you plan to start and what ideas you have. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Natalie McGuire is a Web Designer + Digital Strategist for purpose-driven solopreneurs because she believes the world is a prettier place when people make money doing what they love. If you’re ready to look legit, go pro, and take your biz to the next level, let’s talk!

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