When you decide to work as a freelancer, you can have the impression that your life is hand to mouth. You dedicate yourself to a customer and then once the work is done, there grows up the fear of the future. If you have bills to pay and monthly fixed costs, it is normal to worry. But don’t panic. One way to avoid this situation is to create a bulk of regular customers that can provide a monthly income.
Here are my 8 tips to retain your freelance customers.
Be their Barman
I’m Italian, and here everyone has their own barista they trust, the one where you go to have a coffee every day (or actually several times a day) and who already knows what you want, without even having to ask.
Even if they are geographically distant, customers are looking for someone to trust. No matter if you never saw their face, even working remotely, time after time, you can build a relationship based on trust. As a good barista, you have to build a special relationship with new customers. Try to understand even the things they don’t tell you, make an effort to remember their preferences and try to anticipate them. If they need a new job, they will be happy to go to a freelancer who already knows their company, instead of starting everything again.
Apply special prices
When the first job for a client has been done, it’s time to make sure that instead of saying goodbye, your client says something like ah, I have a new job for you… Your job does not end once you’ve received the first money transfer!
One way to do this is to propose special prices for your freelance customers. Tell them that if they continue to work with you, you will offer very affordable prices, discounts, monthly standing charges and credit terms.
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!
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.
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.
Give a treat for free
In Italy (did I tell you that there are more bars than people?), in some bars, they offer free small treats with your cup of coffee. It’s one of the ways to persuade a new customer to choose that bar again the next day, and at the same time, a way to pamper loyal customers too. You should not be a freelancer like every other for your customer – you should be a valuable resource. Once you finished the job, offer your free treat, a kind of small gift. Give them something more, for free, and this will make the customer feel really satisfied and happy to work with you again.
Be their reminder
If a customer does not call you again, refresh his memory with some reminders. Maybe you could send a personalised email to communicate a special offer, customised discounts, promotions. You can inform them that it’s sales season for old freelance customers, or just talk about what is new about your job, new services you offer.
Sometimes people just forget they need you!
Be a Person
Many people will disagree with my last tip, as they think that only a professional relationship should exist between the freelance and her client.
In my opinion, giving a glimpse of the person hidden behind the screen creates a deeper and therefore, lasting relationship. This does not mean that you have to confide your problems to the customer or that your client should become your best friend.
Often, my projects last for very long. In 90% of the cases, I deal with people who have never seen my face and probably never will. So between an email and the next, I insert personal comments, such as: “ah, you’re from Dublin? My sister lives there, I love Ireland”. Based on their reaction, I add some personal detail from time to time. You’ll be amazed at how a client could become more than someone who pays you, and how many things they will reveal about themselves… and of course, they will ask for your help in the future if they need to!
The moral is: if you care, they come back to you!
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