Seven Tips to Keep Your Clients Coming Back for More

grinIn any business, existing customers are always more profitable than new ones. The same is true for freelancers. If you want to pump up your income, you’ll find it easier to get more business from your existing clients first, rather than looking for new clients. So, you should constantly be working to turn existing clients into repeat clients.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to persuade previous clients to hire you again. If you’ve been doing your job properly, they already know, like and trust you.

On the other hand, it takes much more work to find new prospective clients. And then, after you find them, you need to more aggressively “sell” your services to them.

How Well Are You Doing?

The number of repeat clients you have is a good gauge for how well you’re doing your work. Do most of your clients come back, or do you find yourself scrambling to find new clients most of the time?

If it’s the latter, then you may be doing something wrong. Stop and think:

  • Do you finish your tasks on time?
  • Is your work always your absolute best?
  • Do you show professionalism and courtesy in your client communication?

7 Tips to Increase Repeat Business

If you want to increase your repeat business, check out these seven tips to keep your clients coming back for more:

  • Offer packages for recurring work.

It may seem obvious, but if you only offer one-off services then your clients won’t have a reason to hire you again. For example, say you design websites and that’s the only thing you do. Not a lot of people need a website design all the time. So, the most that a single client could hire you might be once a year.

Instead, think of other design needs that your ideal client has. What are the graphic design requirements of a website owner? Email template design? Matching business cards? Headers for special landing pages?

  • Give your best clients special treatment.

Always treat your best clients better than your prospects or new clients.

First of all, who are your best clients? They’re the ones who have brought you the most amount of business, of course. Also, think of those who’ve referred you to new clients.

“Special treatment” may include discounted rates or unannounced gifts (particularly digital products). You can also offer exclusive services for them, something that isn’t even listed on your professional website. Always make time in your schedule for last-minute requirements from existing clients.

  • Revive “zombie clients.”

Haven’t heard from a past client for some time? Give them a gentle nudge. It’s a good idea is to send them an email or snail mail to update them on your work–along with a discount coupon.

  • Mark important dates.

Send existing clients a birthday card (a physical card not an e-card, for heaven’s sake!) or another gift. While you’re at it, why not include a discount coupon or one of your paid products for free. Or, you could do something similar on the anniversary of when you first worked together (either the six-month or one-year mark).

I know, it takes work to keep track of these things. But, this detail is what makes you stand out from your competition. You know what else can distinguish you from your competition? Handwritten notes. There’s nothing like it.

  • Foster a feeling of belonging in an exclusive club.

Create an email list for existing clients (ask their permission first or have them confirm their subscription) so you send them helpful tips without expecting anything in return.

Another way to achieve this sense of belonging is by creating a special information package for clients when they engage your services. Depending on what services you offer, it could be a guide, list of tips, anything that will help your clients make the most of your services.

If you’re particularly creative, you can even come up with a special name for your clients.

  • Create promos throughout the year.

Notice how traditional businesses have sales several times a year? You can do the same, depending on your needs. You could celebrate your own birthday or wedding anniversary by giving existing clients a special discount coupon.

Or, do this on any special holiday. I highly recommend Thanksgiving, because everyone is usually too distracted at Christmas time. Besides, you’ll be getting a head start on those who wait until the holidays to have a special promo. It’s your way of saying “Thank you” to your clients.

If you don’t want to keep discounting your services, invite other freelancers (who offer different services that complement yours) to provide discounted rates to your clients. Put together a discount coupon book and send it to your clients as a gift.

Also, take the time to create a digital product and give it away to clients–but sell it to everybody else.

  • Ask for referrals.

I’ve talked about referrals before: having a referral system in place can be good for your business. What I didn’t say before was that there’s another reason why this is so. Aside from bringing you new clients, having an existing client refer a prospect to you increases her loyalty to you.

It’s kind of sneaky, but it works. You see, by vouching for you, your current client is saying “I stand by this person 100%.” Therefore, it’ll be difficult for him–almost impossible–to hire somebody else when he needs your services again.

You can offer incentives in exchange for referrals, such as a discount on a future project or an outright commission.

If you’d rather not offer an incentive (some clients don’t want one, either, because it makes them feel like they’re selling to their friends), you can simply give them discount coupons they can send to their friends and associates. It will make them look good and they’ll feel good as well because they’ve been helpful.

If you don’t offer an incentive, always send the referrer a simple, but thoughtful, gift with a nice handwritten note. As a general rule in life, it’s always worthwhile to show your appreciation to people who have treated you well.

If you will notice, there’s a common theme running through these tips. They’re all about making your clients feel special, appreciated and loved. So always ask yourself, “What can I do to show my clients how much I value them?”

Share Your Tips

How do you appreciate your clients and get repeat business? Post your ideas below, so we can all benefit.

Image by carinaice

Comments

  1. says

    Great article yet again Lexi! I would also lean more towards the important dates (at least at my stage of “freelancing”). I missed the whole Merry Christmas and Happy New Years at this point, but future dates I’ll be sure to keep track of. :)

  2. says

    Never under-estimate the need to have multiple, decision making contacts in your client base. This is especially true today with larger organizations that often experience higher employee churn. To borrow an often overused (but tried and true) expression, “go wide and deep” in an organization. Make sure more than one person and/or division know you exist and the value you bring to their company. This way if employee X leaves or if new leadership is installed, you have multiple advocates for preserving your freelance talents on existing and future projects. Another way to keep you clients coming back for more!

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing these helpful tips, Lexi. I’ve also found that being responsive goes a long way in earning repeat business. To me, it’s basic customer service to answer e-mails and phone calls promptly, but it certainly seems to leave a positive impression on clients!

  4. says

    @Rik – Don’t worry about missing Christmas and New Year’s. Everybody’s too distracted then, anyways, and besides most businesses go slow and won’t be responsive. Glad you’ll be tracking other important dates from now on.

    @Mike G – Thanks for your input. I don’t work with companies, so I really appreciate the added wisdom.

    @Jesaka Long – Oh yes, being reliable and responsive helps us stand out from other freelancers. Sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised how often clients complain about service providers flaking out on them.

  5. says

    These are great examples of how to run a small business and manage great client-vendor relationships. And, in some regards, today’s freelancer should operate just like a small business would. This does mean extra work in the long run but the end results will be fruitful.

  6. says

    I liked this article a lot! Some new ideas, some things its always good to be reminded of. I like to bake things for my clients. Our logo is a lemon tree, so I like to bake lemony things for people.
    I totally agree that handmade things make a huge difference.

  7. says

    @Erik Ford – You’re right, freelancers should remember to think of our occupation as a business, and to learn essential business skills.

    @Miriam Thomas – You bake lemony things, eh? You’ve just inspired me… maybe I’ll bake cookies or knit something for my clients. Hard to ship cookies to South Africa and the Caribbean (yes, I have clients from there!).

  8. says

    This is good stuff! I went back to previous clients towards the end of last year and it turned into 2 unexpected projects for me. It is easy for them to forget about something that needs to be done and that you are there to do it for them. Good relationships = good business.

  9. says

    @RJ McCollam – I love what you said: good relationships = good business. We should turn that into a poster and hang it up on all our walls.

    @Latia – Reviving zombie clients really works. We should do it more often. It’s a win-win situation, which is what every business transaction should be, don’t you agree?

  10. says

    Great post, great advice! I’ve just sent Christmas cards to my former clients. Many of them really liked the gesture.

    You are absolutely right! Showing appreciation brings appreciation right back at ya.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. says

    The point about special treatment for your best clients really rung true with me. I’ve got a (very recent) anecdote surrounding this which I hope some people will find amusing.

    One of my clients, whom we’ll call Chris, because that’s not his name, is something like 60 years old, and the uncle of one of my good friends.

    He and his wife had been pretty good clients, yet I’d never actually met them in person – they travel a lot and we had hardly ever been in the same country at the same time.

    Anyway, I went up to meet them for the first time around New Years. I wanted to thank them for their custom, so for the wife I ended up buying some delicious christmas cake off one of my earlier clients, and for Chris… well.

    I did some research ahead of time, and discovered from my friend that Chris loves to smoke – tobacco and otherwise. Being a fan of the occasional toke myself, I knew what I had to do.

    After dropping a few carefully worded references to good ol’ Mary Jane, (and a discussion of the merits of Cheech and Chong), my client said “I wish I had some bud, I’d offer you a toke. Last time I smoked was a few months ago with my son.”

    When I pulled the joint out, he looked like a little kid on Christmas day. I got blazed with a client older than my dad, and then we went and got pissed down the pub.

    The next day, he offered me two new projects, referred me to not one, but two of his friends (one design gig, one photography gig) and asked me to write a paper for a journal he edits. Thanks to a tiny little bud of a very special plant, I’ve won a customer for life.

    It pays to do your homework.

  12. says

    Lexi, excellent suggestions for people to grow their business. Its much easier to get a former client to come back then to have to constantly find new clients. Plus the more clients come back the more they think of you for referrals.

    One thing you didn’t mention is to use email newsletter to keep providing your clients with valuable information. It positions you as the expert as well as keeps you “top of mind” with your client.

    You should also consider starting a blog and to get your clients to sign up for the RSS feeds. WordPress is one of the best software products to build your blog with and its free and very easy to use.

    Thanks,
    Roy Weissman
    Publisher:BuildMySiteforFree.com

  13. says

    Great article. I’m always attracted to being personal when it comes to freelancing. I love the idea of giving people unexpected digital gifts or just sending a Christmas card.

    I’m planning on doing something extra special for my clients on the 2nd birthday of Traxor Designs :).

  14. says

    These are some good insights into getting recurring work.

    The one thing that I have found is the ABSOLUTE most important, is to create a relationship with your clients. Ultimately, if you make kick ass creative work – it doesn’t matter if the client isn’t happy… Do what ever you can to make sure your clients are happy, even if that means having drinks after hours or making some updates over the weekend or holiday.

  15. says

    The problem I was facing last year was lack of repeat business because of rate increases. My rate was so low when I first started that by the time my previous clients would need my services again, my rate would almost double. They couldn’t accept that plus wouldn’t refer me to anyone. I hope to get out of this predicament this year.

  16. says

    I think communication between yourself and the client is vital to maintaining a good work relationship. Keeping your client up to date and treating them politely and civilly, doing all you can to keep the client happy and confident that they made the right choice.

  17. says

    The relationship between the freelancer and the people who hire him is a very significant one and is to many as important as the job itself.

    These 7 tips will get you to be the one who’s called back. As in any relationship, it’s all about communication!

    Bien dit, Lexi Rodrigo!

  18. says

    Great tips! I always say ‘over deliver for what you charge’. Not to say to do free work, but definitely do a nice quality job, give advice, and perhaps do a few small things free of charge every once in awhile. This can make any freelancer seem more human, and definitely generous. What I often times do is offer some great business advice if I have a startup company client.

  19. says

    Lexi,

    Thank you for this article. It is very educative and to the point. I think it is essential to be reminded that a professional approach is one of the main keys to success, especially in the freelance world. A lot of individuals forget that marketing is one thing, the “human” factor is another.

    I have shared this article in my own blog. Thank you!

  20. says

    Great article. I think we as freelancers get so caught up in “new work” that we too often leave work from our current clients on the table. So often this is a result of our not handling the client relationship well and the want to get out of that partnership.

    I made this one of today’s three links on my Design Thought for the Day blog:
    http://designthoughtfortheday.blogspot.com/2010/02/02-26-keep-clients-hungry-for-more-tips.html

    All the best, Ted

  21. says

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything for example this preceding to.
    So nice to obtain somebody with original thoughts
    on this subject. realy we appreciate you beginning this up.
    this amazing site is a thing which is required via internet, a
    person with a little originality. beneficial purpose of bringing interesting things to your
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  22. Zane Gierhart says

    Through my observation, shopping for gadgets online may be easily expensive, however there are some guidelines that you can use to obtain the best discounts. There are usually ways to uncover discount discounts that could help make one to possess the best electronic devices products at the cheapest prices. Thanks for your blog post.

  23. says

    Hey Great !
    Amazing article Lexi i found myself in great confidence . I am a Freelance UI/UX Designer running my own agency at – http://www.infotechworld.net
    Basically it is a freelance virtual agency. Where me and my colleague works as a freelancer.
    I am a regular reader of freelance folder and its amazing great work from you guys keep it up!

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