What if you could cut down on time spent pitching for new clients, while still managing a healthy workload? Sounds fantastic, right?
Good news, freelancing friends, you can!
The secret to achieving this dream scenario is to improve client retention.
While working for varying clients keeps your workload anything but monotonous, creating longstanding client relationships can go a long way in keeping your business a flourishing one.
Recurring clients are a great addition to any freelancers portfolio because of the (somewhat) steady work they bring your way. The ideal set up is to have a standing agreement for a set amount of work per week (month, quarter, etc.), also known as an anchor client.
Anchor clients are the proverbial holy grail of freelancing. They don’t come along very often, but when you land one, you’ll likely want to keep them around as long as possible.
However, dear freelancer, we have to walk before we run, so let’s start with getting clients to become repeat customers. Having a client make you their go-to for writing assignments is an absolutely attainable goal.
So, how exactly do you turn those one-off clients into recurring ones? We’ve got you covered with these five tried-and-true tips for improving your client retention.
As it is with any good relationship, communication is the key. Clients want to feel heard and understood. One way you can meet that need that is to stay in touch.
I’ll preface this tip with the obvious; no one wants to be bombarded with questions. However, most will agree that getting a good understanding of the clients’ wants and needs are vital aspects of a successful client connection.
Beginning at the start of any working relationship, asking the client about their overall goals is a small move that can pay off in spades down the road.
The objectives you learn about in the outstart of a job can translate to a continuing relationship. For example, if the client is interested in getting more eyes on their website, steady, SEO-rich content is the way to go. Note the key word here, “steady.” Right there is an automatic “in” to highlight how your continued service can better help them grow.
If you understand what the client wants, you can better inform them about how you can help them reach and exceed those goals over time, not just in a one-time way.
In addition to reaching goals, fully understanding a project (and delivering on it) makes for a happy customer. A satisfied customer is more likely to re-hire you or keep you on.
If you need clarification to present your best work, ask for it!
Do some prep work first
Before you send that email asking for clarification, be sure you get your thoughts in order. The last thing you want to do is send a client five or six emails in a row and risk looking unprepared and scattered.
Look through the details of the project and make a bulleted list of where you’re unclear and draft up the email (or notes for a call, however you work!).
Then take a break and return with fresh eyes.
With a little perspective, you may find you’re able to answer some of your own questions. Whichever points are still unclear are the ones to nail down with the client.
It should go without saying but don’t ignore your client! Just as you want clarification, clients also want to be heard and have understanding.
If a client emails about a project, do your best to respond within 24 hours. Timely responses are just one small way to keep a customer happy, and as we mentioned, happy customers are likely to become repeat customers.
Word of warning
There’s a fine line between being responsive and giving into an overly-needy client, so be mindful. If the client seems to be hounding you non-stop, it may be time to discuss the details of the project to ensure you’re on the same page.
If emails are coming in at all hours of the day and night, consider instituting “office hours” and make it clear what time you set aside to respond to client correspondence.
Keep aware of requests that can quickly turn into serious scope creep, which is something every freelancer should actively be on top of.
Check in with progress
Especially helpful in projects that stretch over time, checking in with a client can go a long way in establishing trust.
A quick note saying “I’m on track for submitting the final draft on the specified date” can be the reassurance the client may need to make you their go-to person.
When you keep in touch with a client during a contract, you also can lessen the likelihood of frantic, 25th-hour requests.
Having a line of communication open throughout a project allows for the development of a trusting and productive relationship between you and your client. After all, who wouldn’t want a fully informed, responsive, and responsible member on their team?
2. Show Your Worth
Another way to boost your chances of becoming a repeat hire is to show your client the value you bring to the table. Many clients will appreciate cold hard facts, so be prepared to show up with statistics.
Play the numbers game
You can show value your work brings to clients in several ways, whether it be through past or present work.
For either, you’ll want to convey how your posts performed to the forefront. Using statistics on already-published pieces, you can sell your worth by highlighting their ROI (return on investment).
Determining if a post performed well is more than a piece going viral or not. How many views or shares on social media did it get? Can you show how many clicks it produced or how you stacked up among keyword rankings?
ROI in other ways
Even if a piece doesn’t hit brag-worthy views, there are different ways to prove value. You can highlight engagement as well, which can be a game-changer for companies. Comments, likes, and questions on posts are a great way to increase brand awareness, a definite selling point for keeping you on staff.
3. Exceed Expectations
One of the more straightforward methods to increase your client retention is to deliver high-quality work. Again, are you seeing a theme here? A happy client is a returning client!
Even if your writing goes through an editor before getting published, clients appreciate quality, error-free work. By putting your proofreading abilities to work, you can next-level your finished project.
Whether you proof by hand or use an app (personally, I suggest doing both), catching common errors before they reach the client is ever-important. I often use Grammarly to write drafts where all types of errors are detected and corrected before I even get to my first read-through.
Be sure also to pay attention to readability scores and tailor them to your target audience as part of your proofing. Editing is just as essential as proofing!
Once your work is grammatically “up-to-snuff,” be sure you have your facts right. Being factually correct can make the difference between your client becoming an authority in their sector or a purveyor of “fake news.”
Research is often a large part of assignments, and while it does take up time, it really is a step you can’t afford to skip.
If you are citing facts or studies, be sure to link back to the appropriate sources. Always cite original sources as close as you can rather than regurgitating facts from a second-hand source.
On top of flawlessly written work, you can overdeliver in other ways too.
Firstly, aim to submit work ahead of deadlines.
Clients appreciate a timely turnaround as it shows you run your business like a well-oiled machine. Additionally, showing that you make your clients a priority is an excellent way to make yourself stand out in a crowd.
Small touches of personalization also go a long way in fostering a strong client relationship. For example, if you put special attention to optimizing your post for a particular medium be sure to point it out to the client.
Overdelivering on exceptionally written and flawless work is a surefire way to have a client coming back for more.
4. Additional Services
While writing with SEO in mind may be part of your base assignment, there are ways to use your specialty skills to level-up your client retention.
Many times clients are looking to one-stop shop not only because it’s cost effective, but it saves time as well. Your client may have hired you to write but is unaware you offer services beyond that.
Without upselling too much, let them know you offer other things like content strategy or social media management, for example. You may just have the skills or know-how they didn’t even know they needed.
Use your network to provide additional resources for your client. Perhaps you know a professional organization you think your client might benefit from or a web designer that could help out with an issue they may have mentioned.
Having referrals and a useful network around you shows a client you have a professional business with value (aside from your fantastic flair for words.
5. Follow Up
The time after a project has wrapped up can easily be the most crucial time when it comes to securing a repeat customer.
Immediately following submitting your work is always a good time to let your client know you’ve enjoyed working with them and that you’re available for further projects should they need.
Even though the project has finished and you’ve extended niceties, your job isn’t done quite yet.
Periodically checking in with past clients can keep you fresh in their mind, often leading to a re-hire. Especially true if you’ve taken the advice above and they were pleased with the finished product and results.
Improving your client retention is an overall feasible objective that can help both your portfolio and business grow by leaps and bounds. Implement some of the actionable advice above and see how fast you can go from “one-off” to “go-to.”