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4 Keys to Retaining Clients (as a Freelancer)

  • By Sophie McAulay
  • November 25, 2020

As a freelancer, you can quickly get caught in the stressful cycle of seeking out new work, all the while sitting on a pile of lead magnet gold in the form of previous clients.

It’s always easier to get business from people you’ve already worked with rather than having to scout out new clients.

If you don’t already have a client retention strategy in place, we’ve got 4 keys to help you retain clients and get extra work as a freelancer.

1. Get to know your clients

Getting to know your clients on a more personal level can build a unique working relationship that’s hard to replace. We’re not saying you should follow your clients on social media and have beers on the weekend, but try to establish a personal rapport and get to know them outside of what they do for work.

It’s been said that the number one reason customers leave a company is because they feel like it doesn’t care about them. Your clients will be no different – show an interest in them and you’ll be valued. A good idea is to create a CRM spreadsheet with each of your clients information – here you can note down anything they’ve mentioned to you, from kids’ names to family holidays and pets.

From time to time, ask about your clients’ personal interests, family, and hobbies in the end of an email.It will help build that personal connection and establish yourself as a valuable asset.

2. Send ‘magic’ follow-up emails

You may not have heard from a client in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any work to be done. To help with customer retention, and potentially bring in extra work, send regular follow-up emails to your clients offering to help. Freelance designer, Paul Jarvis (who works with companies like Microsoft, Yahoo & Warner Music), explains this concept in the Retaining Clients & Building Profitable Work Relationships episode of our six-figure freelancer course:

“If I hadn’t heard from a client in a few months, in the beginning I used to think, ‘Okay… If they’re not contacting me, they don’t need anything from me’. And I was wrong, because when I started to contact them and just say, ‘Hey, how’s your business going and is there anything I can help you with?’, most of the time they’d be like ‘Oh yeah, there was actually something that you could do’.

If you created a CRM spreadsheet to help you get to know your clients better, add a column where you can note down your correspondence. If you haven’t contacted a client in awhile, send them a short follow-up email asking how their business is going and if you can help with anything. According to Paul, “It’s just like once a month, maybe 20-30 minutes and boom, I’ve got a full deck for that month from that”. Definitely sounds a lot more worthwhile than painstakingly searching for new clients…  

3. Anticipate issues before they happen

Since client retention is all about stopping clients from leaving, you need to be able to anticipate issues and address them before they happen. Look out for warning signals that a client is dissatisfied, unhappy, or acting out of the ordinary. If a client didn’t like the last piece you did for them, offer a discount to entice them into working with you again before they decide to look elsewhere. If you’ve sent a client work and haven’t yet received feedback, give them a call and ask if everything is OK before they tell you that it’s not.

Picking up on potential issues and addressing them yourself – rather than waiting for the client – can soften the blow and help mend relationships before the client decides to leave.

4. Create a ‘services menu’

This is another Paul Jarvis piece of wisdom from our six-figure freelance audio course. “I’m always very clear with people exactly the type of work that I do. Even in the ‘getting started guide’ that I used to send clients… [I would say], these are the things that you can hire me to do. These are the related things that you cannot hire me to do, because I do not do these things”. How can creating a services menu help with customer retention? Well, it’s a winning strategy for a number of reasons:

1.    Clients won’t ask you to do work you can’t do. Rejecting work can sometimes cause a client relationship to suffer – even if it’s something you’re unfamiliar with. Having a clear outline from the get-go firmly establishes what you can do and helps to stop you from rejecting jobs;

2.    Having all of your available services up on a ‘menu’ means that you’re able to advertise extra skill sets that perhaps the client didn’t know you could do. If you offer multiple services, make sure every client is aware of it. You’ll more than likely be hired to do more than one task;

3.    If you’re able to build a network with other freelancers, the menu of ‘things you can’t do can become a lead magnet for your network and vice versa. When clients ask you to do something you can’t do, you can refer them to another freelancer. On the other hand, should another freelancer be asked to do a job that they can’t do but you can, they can refer you.

Keep your client relationships alive and nurture them well – you will thrive as a freelancer in return.

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