10 Ways to Win Back a Former Client

Win Back Previous Freelancing ClientsYou may have heard this before: The fastest and easiest way to get work is with your former clients.

Makes sense. Assuming you’ve done your work well, your former clients already know and trust you. They no longer need to be convinced that you’re a good freelancer.

Unfortunately, clients don’t always come back to us with more projects. It happens for many reasons, but not all of them are beyond our control. Sometimes you just need to give them a little nudge.

Below, I’ve identified some of the reasons former clients don’t become repeat clients. I’ve also given ideas for how you can woo their hearts back. And none of them require going down on your knees.


They’ve Forgotten About You

Even if your client was completely happy with your work, it’s possible that the rest of their lives and work have taken over, causing them to forget about you. No wonder they haven’t hired you back! If you suspect this is the reason a former client hasn’t given you more projects, try the following:

  1. Send them useful information. Look for information that your former client would find relevant and useful in their work. Email them with links to blog posts. Clip a magazine or newspaper article, and mail it to them. Send them a book they absolutely must read.
  2. Add them to your mailing list. This is best done soon after you complete a project for a client. Call them and ask if it’s okay for you to add them to your mailing list. When you do this, make sure you’re able to consistently send useful information to your list subscribers.
  3. Call to catch up. Call a former client or meet for coffee, just to catch up. Find out how their business is going and what their future plans are. Have the mindset of wanting to help them–even if it means referring another freelancer to them. Sometimes, you’ll have an opportunity to say, “I can help you with that!” If so, then that would be wonderful! But if not, and you know somebody who can be an asset to them, then connect them with each other. It may be counter intuitive, but remember, what goes around, comes around.
  4. Connect in social networks. Connect with previous clients on the social networks and engage with them regularly. Comment on their updates. Share their links. Ask them questions. This will keep you in their minds and gives you an opportunity to remind them of what you do. Of course, be careful which social networks you use to connect with clients. Add them to your business-like network. You know, where they won’t find drunken pictures of you. And whatever you do, never ever complain or badmouth a client in any social network. Never.

They Don’t Need You Anymore (Or So They Think)

The project has been completed. Therefore, your client thinks they don’t need you anymore. Show them how else you can help them.

  1. Offer a complementary service. Since you have an intimate understanding of your client’s business now, you know what their goals are. Think of other services you can do for them–services that would help them get closer to those goals. For example, if you designed a website for them, offer to design their Facebook page and Twitter backgrounds. Do they already have business cards, letterhead and brochures? How about a logo? Also think about what you could do for them continuously, say on a month-to-month basis. Here’s an example: If you’re a wedding photographer, go back to your clients in a few months and offer a monthly photo service for their children. Put together a package that will help new parents document their children’s growth and development. They’ll love this!

They Can’t Afford You Anymore

If you’ve taken our advice, you’ve been increasing your fees steadily through the years. Naturally, some (or many) of your clients will fall off, because you’re no longer affordable. You can still win them back:

  1. Offer an introductory discount. If you’re launching a new service, offer it to former clients at a significant discount. You can do this, especially if you want to build your portfolio and collect testimonials for this new service.
  2. Bundle your services. If you charge a premium for a service, why not add a couple of smaller services to it and charge the same fee? This will make the total cost of your services smaller than if your client were to pay for them individually. Naturally, you don’t want to end up getting underpaid. Bundle services sensibly. For instance, after you’ve done all the research and prep work for one particular project, what else could you easily do for your client? The added services should not take up too much time or effort, yet still be valuable to your client.
  3. Partner with them. Think of ways you can work with your former client–no longer as a service provider, but as a partner. One way I’ve done this is by becoming an affiliate for a previous client. I promoted my client’s program in one of my webinars. She sold her program, and I received commissions.
  4. Ask for referrals. Sometimes, no matter what discounts you offer, former clients simply cannot afford you anymore. In that case, maybe YOU can give them some money. If you pay referral fees, then contact past clients and ask them if they know anybody else who could use your services. You should be doing this routinely for every client anyway. But even if you haven’t been in touch with a previous client, you can still go back and ask for referrals.

They Were Not Happy with Your Work

Oops! Maybe your styles clashed. Maybe you weren’t in the zone. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is your client was dissatisfied with your work. There’s hope yet.

  1. Interview them. Consider it market research. Ask for 15-20 minutes of their time to chat on Skype or the phone. Use that time to find out how you can improve your services. Be open-minded and guard against getting defensive. This exercise is all about improving yourself and having more happy clients. Doing this shows you’re a professional who doesn’t hold grudges. Who knows? Your previous client may see your earnest efforts and reward them by giving you a second chance.

As you can see, you can do many things to keep in touch with previous clients and keep them warm to your offers. In general, be relaxed and laid back about everything. Don’t focus on getting new projects all the time. But occasionally, do make them an offer. If they take it, great. If not, keep going. It’s the constant and consistent application of effort that will keep bringing clients back to your door.

Your Turn

Have you won a client back?

How did you do it?

Image by mackarus