In freelancing, retaining clients is everything. Each time you pick up a new client, you have to learn about their business, brand, products, voice, tone, and so on. Their systems and business processes are foreign and must also be mastered. This leads to countless hours spent stressfully trying to adapt to something new — all while still trying to get work done.
In contrast, a well-established client is familiar. Once you’ve figured out their needs, systems, and expectations, you can regularly deliver dependable and accurate work for them. The stress of meeting unknown expectations or learning how to use new workflow platforms and online submission forms is largely eliminated.
The problem is keeping clients once you have them. Here are a few tips to help you win over and retain a new freelancing client.
Everything starts with a good first impression. You want to wow each client right out of the gate. Always strive to put your best foot forward when starting with a new client by:
First impressions do matter. If you want to build a solid customer base, make sure to start things off with a bang every time.
Communication is one of the most critical aspects of freelance work. If you don’t communicate well, it can tank a relationship no matter how good you are at your craft.
This doesn’t just refer to answering emails and picking up the phone when your client calls — although those are both good starting points. You also want to maintain communication in other ways.
For example, don’t just offer your client your isolated solutions. Invite them in on group brainstorming sessions, as well. Come up with ideas, build mindmaps, and generally explore important subjects together so that you both stay on the same page.
The way that you communicate is also important. For instance, always use things like active listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence to connect with your clients.
It’s easy to feel like you’re working with a partner or even a peer when you’re freelancing. The truth is, though, at the end of the day a client is your customer before they’re anything else.
As such, you need to provide them with good customer service. You may not be a giant corporation with a dedicated customer service team, but there are still plenty of ways to show your clients expert quality care, such as:
Just because you’re working in a one-on-one relationship doesn’t mean you can’t provide stellar customer service. On the contrary, if you want your clients to stick around, quality care is key.
Finally, always set clear, reasonable expectations. The best way to do this is to include everything that you can in writing. This includes things like availability, rates of pay, expected quantity of work, how you’ll invoice, and so on.
Sitting down with clients to hammer out contracts is never fun. But it’s always worth it, all the same. Spending a short, uncomfortable time working out a few critical details can smooth the path to an amicable relationship that can last for weeks, months, and even years.
Building consistency with your clients requires being consistent with your clients. From making a positive first impression to being communicative, providing good customer service, and setting clear expectations, there are many ways that you can work to keep a quality client in the fold.
At the end of the day, though, all of these recommendations boil down to that all-important aspect of consistency. Clients always value reliability and trustworthiness. This is especially true in the freelance world where rapid turnover is perpetually a concern.
If you want to establish a sustainable freelance career, it all starts with retaining a solid group of clients. So step back, consider your current activities, and look for where you can come through for your clients better. If you can do that, the increased stability will be well worth the effort.