Variety might be one of the big attractions of freelancing, but constantly jumping between projects has its downsides. Not only does it lack security but it also means you’re also constantly pitching for new business, which can be a huge drain on your time and energy.
That’s why most freelancers prefer to have at least a couple of long-term, regular clients that they can rely on, or even ongoing retainers if possible. Then, you can always leave time for one-off projects to mix things up.
Long-term clients are the holy grail for a successful freelance career but securing relationships that stand the test of time isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re just starting out. Here are some ways that you can maximise your chances of holding on to clients, beyond that initial project:
- Shared values: Long-term relationships are only great if you enjoy working with the client – and vice versa. And if you don’t, then it probably won’t last long! So, before you spend time wooing potential long-term clients, ensure that you are a good match, by thoroughly researching what they do, and meeting relevant team members to ensure the chemistry is there. If you believe in what they’re doing, and the culture fits with your style of working, then you greatly boost the chances that it will go the distance.
- Get under their skin: The more that you can help a client to meet their objectives and overcome their challenges, the more indispensable you will become. That means you need to get to know them. Communicate regularly over the phone and in-person as much as possible, while always asking lots of questions and listening to what is going on in the business. Clients like to work with freelancers who understand them, who make their job easier, and who they trust to do a good job, so if you can show that early on, it puts you in an extremely strong position for ongoing work.
- Be professional: It sounds obvious but, probably above all else, clients want to work with people who are reliable and honest. This is the foundation on which great relationships are built. So always start as you mean to go on, by doing what you say you are going to do, hitting deadlines, managing expectations, and being honest in your communications with the client. This will engender that all important trust and once you have established that, you’re on to a winner.
- Be proactive: Clients are usually busy people, plus they frequently don’t have a good knowledge of how PR or content marketing works. So, don’t always wait for them to come to you with work, and instead approach them with suggestions and ideas, by being creative and highlighting how they could be doing things better or differently. Doing this will show that you know your stuff, that you’re passionate about helping to grow their business, while also opening up ongoing project opportunities.
- Be adaptable: Nobody can be good at everything, but the more skills you can offer to a client, the more value you will be able to offer, and the more likely you will be to see repeat business. Think about how you can diversify your offering, either by learning new skills yourself, or teaming up with other freelancers to offer a more complete service. This will broaden the type of work you’re able to accept and the size of the projects (and therefore fees) you’re able to take on.
- Add and show value: Always be on the look-out for ways that you can add value to a client, above and beyond what is expected. It might be introducing them to a mutual contact who you think could be useful, or inviting them to an event that you think that they might like. All these little gestures will ensure you stay front of mind, highlighting your connections and expertise, and why you would be such a valuable long-term partner. Further to this, always ensure you highlight the value you are delivering, by making the client aware of what has been achieved in terms of results and impact. Also discuss regularly how you can build on this success moving forward - showing that you are always looking to the future and encouraging them to do the same.
- Keep learning and improving: Finally, even when you’ve secured a regular client, don’t rest on your laurels. Always keep asking for feedback, keep learning and trying to do things better on each project or piece of work. This is how true partnerships are formed, by constant collaboration and working together to keep improving and growing.
Focusing your efforts on a few bigger and better clients brings advantages for your bank balance, your reputation and the satisfaction you get from your work. It might take that little bit longer to win them over at the outset, but it will be more than worth the investment in the long-run.
The Work Crowd features all kinds of opportunities, including long-term retainers, while many of our clients are looking to establish long-term relationships with high-quality, passionate freelancers. So, keep a close eye on our latest posts to see if you can secure your next dream client.