Retention During The Recession: 20 Ways to Get And Keep More Clients

The recession is a scary thing. Mentioning the word recession makes peoples’ eyes bulge and their body language switch from open and happy to reserved and timid. Is it the fact that the super big businesses across the world are closing or filing for bankruptcy? Or could it be that the smaller businesses are closing shop and leaving entire strip malls across America vacant? LegalZoom Reviews has tons of information about these kinds of devastating hits.

Whatever the reason behind it, I am sure the recession has scared all of us at one point or another. The nervousness we get when we look at our financial records and wonder if they’re going to be dipping to an all time low. The uneasy feeling we get when all of our leads have dried up and we do not know what to do next. Or the view of the freelance world from the outside looking in — the first time freelancer who doesn’t know if they should take the jump now because times are so hard.

Before continuing with this article, you should be sure that you want to freelance during a recession. From there, the steps in this article will feel a lot easier for you. My goal is to help calm all of those fears with ten sure fire ways to get more clients and keep them. The steps are simple — and in some cases, downright easy, however most of us have either overlooked them or have been too wrapped up in other things to apply them. Now is the perfect time to change all of that!

10 ways you can GET more clients today

Here are ten great ways to get clients today — not tomorrow, not next week, but TODAY! Who said that the recession only brings people down? They’re liars!

  1. Message Boards — Utilize the signature of your posts to showcase links to your portfolio/resume and also your twitter account if you have one (you do have one right?). Find a message board that relates to your target market — and chat with people. Don’t push your services though, just let the conversations flow. People will follow your signature link if you’re posts are worthwhile on the board.
  2. Networking — Again, you have a twitter account right? What about a facebook profile or a stumbleupon profile? These are all great places to network online. Meet new people, chat with them and build relationships. The same thing can be said about offline conventions, chamber of commerce meetings and general meetups in your area.
  3. Cold Emailing — When I first started my business, this is what got it off the ground. I found a list of 100 of the top bloggers in the niche I was targeting and I emailed every single person on the list. Out of those 100, I believe I have designed 10 or so (with 3-4 immediately hiring me within the first week or so of chatting). You can search google, technorati or any other source that will pump out a list for you to cold email. Be personal and be short-winded; nobody likes a 20 paragraph email of regurgitated bull that everyone else is also getting. SPAM = BAD ;)
  4. Job Boards — This one is a no-brainer. People post listings about jobs they need completed and you email them. Simple, right? I thought so too. The main complaint I see (and have experienced myself) is that people send off cookie-cutter emails to everyone on the job board and don’t personalize their emails. Make it personal and win clients!
  5. Blogging — People want the best. People want the smartest. People want to know that the person they’re hiring has the knowledge to fulfill the job that they’re looking to have completed. What better way than a blog where you can showcase your knowledge and skills?
  6. Local Contests — This is one I’ve used and have gained clients from every time. Get a fish bowl and go to any store in your area that your target market frequents. Put the fish bowl up with a sign that says “drop your business card for a chance to win ______” (I chose a free dinner at a nice restaurant — but you can do anything: books, tickets to movies, ect). Once you have the bowl filled up, pick a winner. But also send a letter to each person (or call if you’d like) and let them know they didn’t win but you are keeping their business card for future reference in case you need them. Also include your business card — let them know they can contact you as well; they will.
  7. Cold Calling — Similar to cold emailing above, but now you can actually get into your local market. I am web designer and have called every business within a five mile radius to my home about their website design. I ask them if they have menus online and generally they’ll reply with a “no, we do not have a website” type of answer. This is where I hook them in. Once you know they don’t, and they can see that having a website is a positive thing (I called asking about it, right?) they’ll be more eager to meet with you. Danny Outlaw has a great video on cold calling if you’d like more info on the subject.
  8. Public Speaking – Host a free seminar on something related to your target market. Showcase your skills and knowledge. Don’t believe this works? Find out how Mason (the owner of Freelance Folder) made $5,700 from 15 minutes of speaking!
  9. Be Different — Everyone dresses alike. Everyone sounds the same and has the same lines when trying to land clients. Be different. Change your style up and stand out from the pack. In a group of 100 black suits, do you think you’ll stand out wearing a Hawaiian shirt? I bet you will and I bet that’ll get you to the front of the line in the viewers mind.
  10. Ask current clients for referrals — DUH! I failed at this for a long time. Now, every time I finish a project for a client, I always make sure to mention in the thank you email that they would be doing me a great favor in mentioning me to anyone they know who might need my services. Word of mouth is strong — utilize it.

10 ways you can KEEP more clients today

So you have your clients, but how can you keep them? How do you make sure you’re the person they turn to every single time they need work done? Below are ten things you can do to make sure you’re keeping those valuable clients

  1. Newsletter List — Politely ask if the client would like to be added to your newsletter list to receive free bonuses and discounts when they’re not available to anyone else. 9 times out of 10 they won’t mind, just make sure you let them know they will receive zero spam.
  2. Finish Early — If you told the client it would take a week, make sure you finish in 5 days. This will leave a lasting impression in their minds because the trust factor in your time frames will skyrocket.
  3. Give Extra — One thing I am trying now as a web designer is to give a bit extra. When I design a website, I am going to include a free twitter background to match their website. Hopefully the generosity will stick in their minds in case they ever need anything else in the future (plus, every time they see their twitter web page, they’ll think of me).
  4. Keep In Touch — Every couple months just check in and see how everything is going. Do not ask anything business related — just check and make sure the previous work you did for them worked out well and ask how they and their family are doing. Ask if they’re enjoying the summer or if they’re tired of winter. You know, small talk.
  5. Send Birthday Notes — I am also now always making a note to get the clients birthday and putting it in my google calendar. When their birthday is coming up, I will send them a card in the mail (if they’re local) or at the very least send them an email wishing them a happy birthday.
  6. Offer Discounts — Let your client know that if they ever need any work, you’ll give them a free hour or 10-20% off the normal fixed rate you charge. No matter if it’s website updates, copy changes or brand new work — let them know you appreciate them coming back to you and cut them a break.
  7. Help Promote Them- – If you design, submit their websites to CSS galleries. If you write copy, make sure you promote those websites to anyone you know who might be interested. Just make sure you’re promoting them as much as you hope they promote you. It’s a win/win for both parties involved.
  8. Keep your word — Did you say the deadline is Friday? Make sure you get it in on Friday (or sooner). Missing deadlines and not being responsive when it’s needed most is the biggest let down you can give a client. Don’t promise something unless you can deliver it.
  9. Send “Thank You” Gifts — Anything from a basket of fruit or flowers to a free gas card will work. Just make sure there are no strings attached and make sure they know you just wanted them to know you appreciated their business.
  10. Network with them — Yes, this one is so good I feel it needs to be mentioned in both lists. Networking on twitter or other social media sites (as well as offline events) will keep your name — and face — fresh in the clients mind and help steer them in your general direction whenever they need new work or they’re faced with the question “hey, do you know a good ______?”. Make sure you’re there and you’re the answer to that question.

How have you won clients during the recession?

Are there specific things you have done to ensure you’re still getting (and keeping) clients during the recession? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section — your experience surviving in these times could be business-saving advice to another freelancer. By communicating together, we can all benefit :-)

Photo by saintbob


  1. Mark Peterson says

    I found an easy way to just get your name out there is to use this service called AdWido, where you can list your name and promote yourself for free as well as sign up for cheap advertising.

  2. says

    The recession is the greatest time ever! At least for a web developer. Now that people are not buying as much locally, they realize the power of the web.

    So I’m making more while getting taxed and charged less, plus loans are really cheap, really a blessing.

  3. says

    This is a great post. I would like to also add that Volunteering your time and services is a great way to gain new clients and benefit the community at the same time. As a volunteer, you will come to know people that are outside of your normal circle of associates. Even if they are unable to utilize your services, they may know of others who can. Another benefit is that people recommend people they know and like and although they may know personally of the services you offer, many will recommend you because they have had a good experience volunteering alongside you and appreciate the job you have done volunteering.


  4. says

    I have to chime in on “finish early”. This technique has kept more clients coming back for more than I can count. A BULLETPROOF way to keep the money rolling in. I also recommend looking for any other “extra mile” service you can throw in there in the first gig or project…

  5. says

    Thanks those are handful suggestions. Another tips I found professionals do, is starting a new brand, like starting a new blog or a website and even using the similar portfolio items and content, it’ll give some kind of refreshment to the business.

  6. says

    Excellent tips!, one which I use is to make sure you communication so regularly that your clients turn info friends. Always make sure this is a phone call (no email) a 5 minute call just to ask how there business is doing. After all your friends will never leave you, and if your clients are friends then they should stay with you!!

  7. John says

    I’m curious how shopkeepers react when you stroll in with a fish bowl, a sign and the intention of using their store to collect business cards for your business. This has to be a joke, right?

  8. says

    Great tips. I am not sure about the “Thank you” gifts suggestion. I think it’s a good idea but you’d have to be really tactful when going about it so it doesn’t put off some clients.

  9. says

    Lo! We have given thee Abundance;

    So pray unto thy Lord, and sacrifice.

    Lo! it is thy insulter (and not thou) who is without posterity.

  10. Lexi Rodrigo says

    Excellent suggestions!

    Yes, I have managed to find and keep clients in this economy. All of them are repeat clients so I no longer spend time, energy and money to market my services.

    The strategies that worked for me are networking with prospects and always over delivering.

    It’s also a good idea to invest in your professional development and keep improving your skills. This sets you apart from the competition and you will get clients even if you charge more than others.

  11. says

    I have found this downturn in the economy to be good for business as a freelance writer. I’ve had more work than ever. I think that rather than hiring people, companies have been outsourcing some of their work…at least that has been my experience.

    Great post–full of good advice! I also find that touching base with editors periodically is helpful, just to see if they have any projects available. They often do!


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