All too often, freelancers look at their clients as one-off opportunities. They do a job, complete a project, and when payment exchanged, they wave good-bye and never look back. But regular contact with former clients should be an integral part of your freelance business.
Call it public relations or just good business practices, but treating your clients as part of your regular business network– not just as cash cows– can be a wonderful strategy.
Not only will clients feel that you care about them for more than just a paycheck, they will also feel more inclined to recommend you to their colleagues for future projects. The time you devote to nurturing those client relationships becomes a kind of investment that can lead to returns later down the road.
If the rapport is particularly strong, you can also ask clients to be active promoters of your services by having them write recommendations and testimonials that you can later use for your own marketing efforts. In other words, maintaining good client relations means more and better business for you.
Here are five tips for strengthening your business relationship with clients.
Keep track of everyone.
For my own business, all my editing clients get recorded on a spreadsheet that details existing and past clients, as well as their projects. It includes the client name, the project description, client contact information, such as e-mail address, telephone number, social media accounts, and a “client notes” column.
The notes column is where you can write in comments about each client, listing personal details (interests and hobbies; family details), as well as your impressions about each one (were they difficult to work with? Did they have trouble communicating over e-mail and prefer in-person meetings?).
Drop a line to your clients.
When is the last time you were in touch with an old client? It doesn’t take much effort to send off a short e-mail message or to make a quick “touching base” phone call. More often than not, your client will have some thoughts about a prospective project or may send a few leads your way.
During any meeting or interaction, avoid the aggressive sales pitch, and focus the conversation on the client by asking questions about their business and work (be sure to review your “client notes” from your spreadsheet for any useful “intelligence”). Read more on how to create value for your clients and to get quality referrals.
Get the big picture.
Take a holistic look at your clients needs. First-time clients may have hired you to solve specific problems or to work on a particular project. But you can often generate more business by pitching new ways to help them.
If they have a business and are growing, they may have needs that you can help them fill. One time, after I had completed a ghostwriting book project for a client, I found out through casual conversation later that the book was now part of a larger effort to launch a website and to reach out to fellow professionals.
It was clear she had no idea how to start a promotional campaign around her book. I offered her a few bits of advice and she ended up contracting me on a mini-marketing project where we worked together to craft several press releases for different audiences.
Make it easy for clients to get updates on you.
Maintain a blog and write about your experiences with your freelance business; write about the industry you’re in; address common problems your clients might have and write about potential solutions.
Push those blog posts and any other relevant content out to your clients via a newsletter or regular e-mail updates. Fire off this communication campaign on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. If you have a big roster of clients, use an e-mail marketing service like MailChimp, AWeber, or iContact.
Aside from blogs and regular updates, you can also show your engagement to clients through your social media channels. Make sure you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn and find out if your clients have the same accounts– and interact. Read more on how to maintain a dynamic social media presence.
Don’t be stingy.
If your client mentions a problem, be generous with advice. You don’t have to conduct a full-on consulting session, but if you’re meeting over coffee, you can give a few pointers.
I had a colleague ask me to read over web copy for his new social networking community group. I gave him some pointers to help him tweak the writing. While the meeting didn’t lead to a job, the colleague bought one of our books and has been active introducing me to his network on LinkedIn.
Sometimes doing a little pro bono work earns bigger rewards over the long run.
Tags: client relationships