Pros and Cons of Sending Christmas Gifts to Clients

For the last two years I’ve sent Christmas packages to many of the clients I’ve worked with during that year. Now I’m debating whether or not to send anything this year.


Two years ago I sent out a fairly elaborate package (pictured). I bought giant-sized Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bars, removed the labels and replaced them with labels illustrated by me. I then put each candy bar in a cardboard box filled with green-and-red shredded paper, along with a couple of candy canes, a Christmas card also illustrated by me, and everything sealed up with a sticker also illustrated by me.

Last year I bought fancy tins filled with Life Savers (didn’t replace the label), reused the last year’s Christmas card, and left out the sticker.

This year I’m illustrating a new card and that’s probably all I’ll send. (Provided I can get them printed in time.)

Whether or not to send gifts to clients is an important question. Based on my own experience and after reading a few blog posts on the subject, here’s some of the thinking behind why you should or shouldn’t send Christmas gifts to your clients:


1. It lets the client know how grateful you are for their business.

2. It sends a personal message that you appreciate them as a person and not just as a way to get a paycheck.

3. It’s a great way to self-promote. In theory, the receiver of the gift will be more likely to think of you for their next project.

4. It’s also a fun opportunity to show off your creative skills (i.e. designing a Christmas card, or a candy label, or the wrapping paper, etc.)


1. Everyone else is doing it, making it harder for you to stand out. Some clients may even start to resent all the gifts. “Oh great, more Chirstmas junk food. That will help my diet!” Same goes for cheezy gifts, cheap gifts, and unoriginal gifts. (“Oh goody, another mug.”)

2. Some say you shouldn’t need to send out gifts to get business. Your doctor, your accountant, and your plumber don’t send you gifts and yet you still do business with them. And you are just as much a professional as they are.

3. Some clients (especially those with whom you have a close working relationship) may feel obligated to send something back in return. No one likes to be put in the position of thinking “Gee, I didn’t get you anything”.

4. Sending Christmas gifts is expensive and takes a great deal of effort. There may be easier and more effective ways to invest your advertising dollars.

What do you think? Do you send Christmas gifts to clients? Why or why not? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.


11 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Sending Christmas Gifts to Clients

  1. We send out a Xmas card that we designed ourselves. Just something simple and wishing them a happy holiday. We also wish them a successful new year because if they are successful it means more work for us.

    But it’s funny because a number of clients actually display their Christmas cards at the reception or in the office somewhere. So when I visit them, hey there is your card for everyone to see. And of course your card stands out because you designed it yourself unlike those other companies that bought those cheap ugly looking cards.

    Basically it’s just a good bit of PR and relationship building with the client. I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money but just make it look awesome.

  2. I’m freelance now, but I used to work at a company that that used freelancers.
    Every year at Christmas time, the “suits” at our company made a point of letting us know that it was against company policy to accept gifts from any/all outside vendors. Freelancers included.
    So another con for your list is that you might get your client in trouble by sending them the gift package.

  3. Another useful entry! This is my dread in years past. I’ve always been uneasy sending gifts to clients, so thanks for more viewpoints.

    I think Christmas is too commercial in the U.S. Other countries avoided this by giving gifts on Nicholas Day, Dec6 or “Little Christmas,” Jan6.

    My dad reasons that thanking a customer is best done at Thanksgiving. So, long before the Christmas mailing crush he sends out dozens of cards, hand signed.

    I don’t know about the working relationship snarls it may generate with a new client, but I’m impressed by sending notice that a micro loan has been made in the client’s honor to places like The Heifer Project, and similar sites that help the world’s poorest economies.

    Similarly, I’ve been considering tickets to Community Theater. I know from working with these very tiny businesses that they struggle every day… it’s a micro loan to my own backyard. Even if she’s not a City Orchestra fan, she can use the tickets to gift her own clients. I’m not offended; it is hers to do with. Pay It Forward.

    If it’s a client that I really appreciate but is very small at the moment, I intend to (get my act together next year,) gather the finished creative I did (that was successful), matte and frame it for presentation. A tiny client who was too small to pay me regularly was very pleased when a PR firm did this to his very first published article. Very potent– the company’s now worth millions yet it was hung in the new lobby. That PR firm is still working with him.

    I almost forgot– I am always surprised at the people who have the envelope framed! If I know a person well enough to have a laugh with them, I can wink at something we endured in a drawing next to the address. I get sketch practice, he gets a memento for his office bookcase. With store-bought cards, I ape the art style so the envelope is a personalized companion.

    It’s catchy fun– one such Christmas envelope arrived canceled on the unstamped side, from a major post office. Some worker enjoyed it enough to take care not to ruin the art! I hadn’t considered bringing joy to a stressed postal worker!

    Sounds fun, huh? Time management is my fault. I don’t start soon enough, and the technician in me frequently strains out the gnat… >sigh<

  4. Yeah, it’s a tough balancing act. I have more often been on the receiving end of this since I used freelancers and this is my first year in that position myself.
    From a recipient’s perspective, I liked getting gifts from suppliers and vendors. I’ve never worked for a company that sent more than a card in return. Gifts are usually interpreted as a simple thanx… or a legal kickback. After all, they hire you all year long, getting a tin of lifesavers in return actually feels good. (I still have a few left over, thank you very much). But I never felt slighted if someone didn’t send a gift. I like holiday cheer. I guess I’m sappy that way.
    However, I always feel odd about cards that are too corporate. You know, if it’s just a company logo and feels more like an ad. Your cards felt very personal, and that’s what I appreciated about them. It never felt like you were drumming up business.
    Now that I am on the sending end, I don’t have the budget this year to send more than a card. I hope they like it.

  5. It’s funny I decided to chime in and comment on this post earlier, as you may know I’m a freelancer, I don’t send out anything because I always think of it too late.
    But just yesterday I received a box in the mail from on of my clients, who has been giving me a good amount of work over the past year. It was a basket of chocolately stuff.
    So in this example the process actually worked in the opposite way.
    The client sending the freelancer a gift.

    It’s a nice basket, my wife is jealous.

  6. I think a holiday card featuring your own artwork is the best way to go. It fulfills all the pros and none of the cons except #1, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

  7. Pingback: Advice On Choosing The Right Holiday Gift For Your Clients | Understanding Marketing

  8. I think giving or receiving an Amazon Gift Card is the best gift of all. It is so easy to shop online and there is no limit to the choices of purchases. You can’t loose giving this as a present to anyone.

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