Most freelancers understand that without their client relationships, their businesses won’t last. However, even with this knowledge, many fail to realize that solid client relationships require meaningful engagement at each stage of the client lifecycle.
Freelance workers must pay attention to the entire client lifecycle, meaning networking, prospecting, landing a new client, and retention, if they want the best chance at a flourishing freelance operation.
Navigating the client lifecycle requires patience, intention, and a strategy for getting the most out of each stage. This article will give you five tips for successfully navigating the different phases of the client lifecycle.
First, no matter what you do in the networking and prospecting stages of the client lifecycle, you must get to know your ideal clients.
You can find your ideal clients by exploring who other freelancers in your industry are serving. Then, you can take advantage of networking groups and events that your ideal clients attend and connect with them there. Also, leverage digital channels like social media and your website to communicate with your ideal clients. Updating your social media channels is one of the most effective means of attracting customers to your business.
For example, do they prefer social media, email, or a phone call? How often should you contact them? What messaging and tone resonates with them best?
Next, here are a couple of tips for landing a new client.
Landing a new client is a lot easier when the initial meeting is exceptional. When someone schedules a consultation with you, use it as an opportunity to vet them. Find out all you can about the potential client to see if this working relationship can be mutually beneficial.
For the initial meeting to go well, you first want to ensure you’re in a good space, mentally, emotionally, and physically. For instance, pay attention to your self-image and self-esteem. Both must be in a good place for you to feel good about yourself and what you can offer a potential client.
Low self-esteem and a negative self-image will likely leave you feeling down. That energy will find its way in your initial meeting and probably turn your potential client off. However, when you’re feeling good about yourself, you can bring that energy to the consultation and positively interact with your potential client.
Also, be sure to research the client before the meeting and use a consultation outline to ensure you’re covering everything you need to in the discussion.
In addition to conducting an initial meeting, you can land clients with good follow-up techniques.
Even if the initial meeting goes well, it may not be enough to land a client. So, instead of waiting on the potential client to reach out to you first after a consultation, follow up with them.
Don’t be pushy or annoying with it. The next day, simply send an email thanking them for their time and recap what you all spoke about during the meeting. Encourage them to take the next step in hiring you and give them any additional information that may help them make that decision.
If they don’t respond to your first follow-up attempt, you can send another email a week or so later or give them a call. If that follow-up attempt goes unanswered, try one last time to contact them, and then leave them be. Keep the client on your list of potentials but consider them inactive.
These last two tips will help you with client retention.
Retaining clients is highly dependent on your ability to communicate effectively. Therefore, when you take on a client, it’s best practice to set communication expectations at the beginning and live by them.
Your communication expectations should include:
Setting communication expectations upfront will also help you handle tricky situations.
For instance, if a client is unresponsive, you at least have a list of communication channels they provided to you that are best to reach them at, and you can go through them one by one to contact the client.
Or, let’s say a client is late with their payment. Again, you can refer to the expectations you set for invoicing and reach out to your client with your concerns in a professional, understanding manner.
Finally, you will have a better chance at keeping your best clients when you go above and beyond.
The best way to retain clients is to give them something they can’t get anywhere else. In other words, give them the best experience they’ve ever had with a freelancer. You can do this by going above and beyond in all that you do.
For example, you can take the client through an engaging, professional onboarding process. Also, exceed their expectations for the project. Be incredibly detailed and consider throwing in a freebie that will help them along the way in their business. Also, be sure to get feedback on their experience and keep in touch until the next project arises.
Successfully navigating the client lifecycle requires a commitment to nurturing relationships at every stage of it.
When networking and prospecting, identify your ideal clients, get to know them, and learn how to reach them best. Then, to convert potential clients into actual clients, conduct an outstanding initial meeting and wow them with excellent follow-up.
And finally, to retain clients, set communication expectations upfront, and live by them. Then, you can focus on going above and beyond your client’s expectations to keep them coming back to an experience they can’t find anywhere else.