Once you’ve mastered the art of writing proposals, getting clients becomes easy. The next challenge is keeping them.
If you aren’t making an effort to keep your clients around, you’re literally throwing money away. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, the cost of acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than keeping a current one!
Particularly for solopreneurs, the time involved in landing new clients can become substantial. Once you add up all of the time you spend marketing yourself, contacting prospects, and networking – you may discover that each new client requires 10+ hours of work!
Despite this, most people focus on finding new projects rather than keeping and growing the clients they already have. A bird in the hand is not nearly as appealing as the two in the bush.
However, if you’ve decided that keeping clients is as important as landing new ones (or more so), you’ve come to the right place. The following seven tips will help you keep your freelance clients happy and coming back with more work.
1. Find and do projects you enjoy
It’s tempting to take any and every job that comes along. This is a bad idea.
If you start filling up your schedule with dull and mundane tasks, seeking out new clients becomes a form of day dreaming.
And while you want to keep your schedule full, remember that you decided to be self-employed for a reason. The moment you start working solely for the money, you may as well take on a real job. After all, it will likely pay better.
By focusing on jobs that you want to do, the work will energize you, you’ll give it your best, and the client will want to keep you around.
2. Maintain clear communication with clients
One of the fastest ways to lose a client is to stop communicating. If they go days or weeks without hearing from you, they will have little interest in working with you further.
As someone who has hired freelancers before, I can tell you that I am willing to be flexible and forgiving when the contractor tells me what’s going on. However, if you simply disappear, don’t expect to receive more work when you do return.
Meanwhile, when a client realizes that you are easy to work with, prompt in your responses, and give notice before missing the occasional deadline, they will feel comfortable providing you with further projects.
3. Under promise, over deliver
How would you feel if I told you that I was going to pay you $50 to write an article for Money Nomad, but, after you submitted it to me, I gave you $100? Ecstatic!
The same holds true on the client side. Too many people over promise and under deliver – which results in disappointment. By giving the client more than they hoped for, they’ll be thrilled to work with you further in the future.
Although there are many ways to ensure your clients are impressed, several strategies I use include:
- Increase your hourly rate: It may sound counter intuitive, but by increasing my hourly rate, I’ve been able to spend more time on projects than I actually bill for. If I want to make $40/hr, but charge $60, I can actually spend one and a half hours for each hour I bill! Thus, the client ends up with 90 minutes of work when they paid for 60.
- Take on jobs you understand: While it’s good to stretch your abilities, don’t try to hit a home run the first time you’re up to bat. Gradually increase the complexity of the projects you accept. Either that, or be willing to spend a lot of extra time completing these projects.
- Once finished, spend 5 minutes to make it better: After the project’s completed, ask yourself how you could make the deliverable better in 5 minutes. Then do it. Perhaps it formatting things differently, redoing something small, or providing a link to a helpful resource. Whatever it is, spend five minutes to do something that will impress the client.
By consistently impressing your clients, they won’t want to work with anyone else.
4. Offer bulk pricing
Everyone loves a sale! And because keeping a client is cheaper than finding a new one – it shouldn’t be difficult to realize that a 10-20% reduction in your fees is a good investment.
Don’t offer discounts to everyone. If a client takes up a lot of time, requires multiple revisions, or is otherwise difficult to work with, keep your price – or even up it.
However, when you find a client that you enjoy working with, let them know by giving them a discount on future orders.
As a writer, I might say that, instead of $150 for a 500 word article, if you order five at a time, I’ll give you a $25 per article discount. This is a win for both of us because it allows the client to save money and it gives me more work from a client with reasonable expectations.
5. Share your knowledge liberally
Anytime I’m talking to a new client, I am more than happy to answer all of there questions regarding content marketing.
I’ll tell them exactly how I write my articles, where I come up with ideas, how I check for SEO and social optimization – the whole nine yards.
But aren’t you afraid that the client will just take your advice and do it themselves?
Not at all. Why? Because I write for people who don’t want to write. They are busy with other elements of their business. By sharing my knowledge, I’m giving them confidence in my abilities.
And if they do decide to go do it on their own? Then I’m one heck of a teacher!
When I work with a client, I do more than just give them content advice. I’ll share my thoughts on their product, their social media campaigns, and anything else I have an opinion on.
Why? Because if I can present myself as a consultant, then they’ll want to keep me around (and even give me more projects).
6. Make suggestions that lead to more work
If you’re a graphic designer, can you also make infographics? If you’re a social media manager, are you also willing to do blog posts?
While I give advice on just about everything, if I see an opportunity where I can provide my client with additional services, I’m quick to share.
Of course, you need to know your client. Someone struggling to pay you for a small project won’t be able to afford hiring you for more work. However, a larger company seeking to expand will be happy to send more work your way – provided it has a measurable ROI.
7. Develop the client relationship
You don’t do business with an organization, you do business with people.
Although you want to keep it professional, get to know your clients. Find ways to relate and support them as individuals. If they mention their kids, ask about them.
As long as you let the client guide the depth of your conversation, feel free to ask questions and provide brief anecdotes about your own life.
We all prefer to do business with people. That’s why brands try to personify themselves. Be a person, and treat your clients like people, and you will be their go-to person for future projects.
It doesn’t take much to keep your clients coming back. Provide quality work and decent customer service, and you’ll keep your clients around for a long time.
For the comments: What have you done to maintain relationships and grow your business? On the flip side, if you’ve chased off clients before, what have those experiences taught you?