Once you have landed your first few clients, you might be asking yourself:
How do I turn these one-time interactions into a thriving business clientele?
Or more specifically:
- How can I get these clients to keep me in mind when additional work comes up?
As any seasoned freelancer will tell you, moving up on your new customer’s call list requires more than just turning in a good job (although that is a significant part of it).
However, if you can implement the right strategies, then your first-time freelance clients will not only want to continue working with you but will also likely refer you to their business connections.
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1. Send Over A Comprehensive Proposal
One useful tool that is often overlooked by new freelancers is the detailed work plan.
Simply put, a work proposal outlines the scope of work the client requires and the freelancer’s plan to complete that job. A practical proposal should be no more than 1–2 pages and should demonstrate the following:
- Who you are, your background, and what you can contribute to the project.
- A clear understanding of the client, the client’s needs, and the details of the project.
- An honest estimate of how long the project will take, what work will be required, and how much the project will ultimately cost.
- How you plan to complete the project; what steps you will take to ensure on-time completion.
A sloppy, vague, or impersonal proposal can hurt your chances of establishing ongoing relationships with your clients.
Writing a comprehensive proposal, which requires careful attention to detail, can take several hours—so don’t rush it.
Therefore, your suggestion will be so much more persuasive and credible when:
- a) you show a clear understanding of your audience.
- b) your document is completely free of grammatical and spelling errors.
2. Always Be Professional
The hope of every freelancer is to develop a good rapport with a wide variety of clients. While knowing how to interact with different clients in a friendly and professional manner may not necessarily distinguish you from the crowd, unprofessionalism certainly will (and not in a good way).
While no two clients are ever exactly the same, consider the following general guidelines that will help you maintain both your professionalism as well as your integrity:
- Keep Communication Lines Open: Whether your client has persistent questions, suggestions, or requests, providing periodic updates is crucial; however, don’t let frequent correspondence get in the way of your work.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Clients may want a project done on the cheap, at a sprint pace, or to accomplish the seemingly impossible. While it is important to keep the client’s needs at the forefront, don’t let yourself get pressured into delivering subpar work just to meet a deadline or budget.
- Know Whom You Are Talking To: Is your point of contact an expert on the subject, a near-clueless entry-level employee, or a curious executive venturing into uncharted territory? Understanding where your point of contact is coming from knowledge-wise will lead to more efficient communication, as well as a healthier working relationship.
3. Send Reports and Invoices Promptly
In all forms of communication—emails, phone calls, reports, proposals—promptness is crucial.
Extended periods of time between correspondences may leave clients scratching their heads as to whether you understand the scope of work, or are working on the project at all.
The same goes for communication that takes place after the work is over, namely, through invoices.
Sending prompt invoices following completion of the project indicates to clients that you are paying close attention to the details of the plan — it provides accountability for the work you have done.
More than anything else, it shows that you care about getting paid.
If you do not show clients that you are eager to get paid for your hard work, chances are they will not care as much about paying you on time.
Organizing and sending out invoices can be tricky and maybe even a little intimidating for the newly self-employed. That is why it is helpful to use online invoicing tools which allow you to organize project details, billable hours, clarifying notes, and custom emails for each client.
4. Establish Goodwill
One of freelancer’s primary motivations is to make as much money as possible. However, while earning money should be one of your highest priorities, establishing goodwill with your clients is just as important (if not more).
Building goodwill among your clients will not only make you more money in the long-run, but will also generate strong word of mouth, and secure yourself a position as a top brand.
You can establish goodwill in a few ways, but one great way is by giving out freebies.
For example, offering discounts and occasional free work will show your clients that you appreciate the fact that they are looking to save money.
Moreover, if you can back up these freebies with quality work, your clients will recognize what a deal they are getting and the news of your services will travel fast.
5. Build Relationships
To do this, however, you need to treat every customer like your most important client and more than just a faceless email address that receives work orders and sends invoices. All B2B relationships will have a better chance of thriving when three conditions are met:
- Time: Building a stable working relationship will not happen overnight, so don’t be discouraged if new clients are not calling you first. It is worth spending some time getting to know your client’s business and background, as well as the industry your customer needs your help thriving in.
- Balance: It is also important to remember that no matter how well you know your client, the work always needs to come first. Developing friendships can work to your advantage—just don’t let it come at the expense of delivering fantastic work.
- Consistency: If you want clients to keep coming back for more, you must provide consistent service. No exceptions. Remember, you are building more than just a business relationship; you are building your personal brand.
Wrapping It Up
Building up a solid network of satisfied return clients is not easy; it requires some time, a little give-and-take, and promptness in your deliverables. However, showing your clients that you truly care—about them, about the quality of your work, about your professional integrity—is a surefire way of putting yourself on their speed-dial for a very long time.
What do you do to show clients that you’re capable of repeat work? What other points would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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