7 Ways Freelancers Can Keep Clients Coming Back for More

In the freelancer-client relationship, sometimes, neither side has any idea what the other wants. This is particularly true for freelancers working with brands for the first time, many of whom come from a journalistic, marketing, or PR background. While all three disciplines teach you something about writing for corporate clients, brand content has its own idiosyncrasies.

Sadly, not understanding what each other wants can lead to break-ups that never really needed to happen. A freelancer may provide great content, but because of their communication habits or some other mistake, the client doesn’t want to work with them. Luckily, these kinds of things are usually easy to fix.

Why Freelance Client Retention is So Important

When you first start out as a freelancer, it's a bit like learning how to swim for the first time. You jump in the water, flail about, sink a few times, and eventually you either learn how to stay above water or you get out and give up.

Eventually you will reach a tipping point where you need to streamline your day to day operations if you're going to continue to grow. And that’s where client retention comes in. Retention is such a critical component to your freelance success that we decided to dedicate an entire chapter of the guide to getting it right.

So what is freelance client retention and why does it matter so much?

Retention simply means keeping your clients around (retaining them) so that they continue to work with you and continue to pay you. If your clients aren’t renewing their contracts or are walking away from your campaigns, that means you have to constantly go out and get new clients to stay in business.

Alternatively, retaining current clients takes a lot less work and is more cost effective than constantly chasing after new clients. Getting a new client requires hours of work, possibly an advertising budget, and a ton of effort to onboard them, whereas keeping a current client happy is far less laborious. We believe this is just as important if not more so for the average freelancer who relies on 1 - 5 clients.

Here are a few ways to ensure your clients ask for you first.

1. Be proactive
Are you working on a logo? In the meanwhile, study your client, take a look at their communications material, their website, do your research on the company. Suggest improvements, make them notice any errors in communication, provide advice based on your experience and competence. Good chances are they will ask for your help on other projects before you finish your first job!

2. Be available
To be a freelancer means to be free to manage your time, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have duties and do not need to commit. Even if you’re on vacation, try to be available for your customers. I do not mean that you have to interrupt your leisure time, but make sure you respond to their queries wherever you are. Reply to a message even if that day you cannot or won’t work. You could answer “I’m on holiday, but I’ll be back for you on Monday”, this will make them willing to wait. Cut out a half hour for a video call, to hear what they need, and to schedule an appointment.

3. Be honest
Customers really appreciate the honesty and sincerity. Sometimes it happens that a customer asks for something that they really don’t need. Do not accept every job only to milk money, tell them honestly that their logo is fine and maybe instead of creating a brand new one, you can just do a restyling for a lower price. If you know that a job will be very expensive, talk to your client and try to find a cheaper solution if it’s possible. While this will decrease your earnings immediately, you will ensure a return in the future.

4. Be gracious
Let the people who pay for your work feel good about it. Thank them for the opportunity, say you enjoyed working with them, and at the end when a project is about to wrap up, don’t be afraid to try and get another assignment by expressing genuine interest.

5. Understand that clients have their own pace
With some clients, you submit a piece and it’s published days later. With others, it takes a few weeks. I’ve even seen clients publish work six months after it’s done.

You have to understand it’s not personal. Almost always, the timeline has nothing to do with you or your piece. Compliance can be hellish on the brand side. Maybe internal strife is affecting a piece’s publication. As a freelancer, you’re always part of a larger machine, and this is especially true for brand clients. If you’re badgering a client about publishing a piece, you’re just adding to their problems. There isn’t much you can do to help the situation.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to getting paid. If your part of the work is done, you should expect appropriate payment.

6. Read and listen carefully
If a client gives you instructions, a style guide, or anything else that tells you how to complete a project—please listen. Take notes. Pull up the style guide in a separate window as you write. Whatever you do, follow the client’s instructions as closely as you can. You’d be surprised by how many freelancers get this wrong. They’ll submit a piece using their own style quirks, forget to include a headline, or fail to include any reported sources—even though the assignment required them. Clients are giving you instructions for a reason. If you follow them closely, they’ll want to keep working with you.

7. Ask questions, but don’t be helpless
Too often, freelancers get lazy about answering their own questions. It could be something directly related to the content or the direction of the project, in which case, Google and many other sources exist. Sometimes it’s related to a style question—if your client never gave you a style guide, ask for it and always reference it before coming to them. If it’s a process question, make sure your client didn’t already answer it. It’s good to remember that whoever you work with deals with headaches on a daily basis. Your job is to not be one of them. Always try and figure it out on your own first, and then ask if you think it’s truly material to you being able to complete your side of the bargain.

If a client enjoyed working with you, more often than not, you’ll get the assignment. And showing immediate interest after working with them gives them tangible evidence that, yes, you really did enjoy working with them. Freelancing is as much about producing good work as it is maintaining strong working relationships—so treat it that way.


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© 2019 Zeroo Sdn. Bhd. All Rights Reserved.