Freelancer Mini Series: Getting Repeat Business

Landing new clients is a great way to boost your income as a freelancer, but you can do just as well, if not better, by selling to your existing clientele. One of the realities of freelancing is that most projects are not long-term. This is what causes the major income fluctuations from month to month for many designers. 

Maintaining existing clientele is the most effective and low-cost form of generating customers; you're able to market less, and earn more. 

Why Repeat Clients Matter

  • You've worked together before and are familiar with each others tendencies.  
    • This makes proposals, invoices, deadlines, etc. the second time around a breeze. They are familiar with how you like to work and were respectful of that the first time around.
  • It costs less to retain current customers than to market to new ones. 
    • Like, way less! If you're still in the stages of having to hustle to find your next freelance project, you know the pains of having to market yourself in between client work. Whether it's through referrals, job boards or social media, it's very time-consuming to land new proposals. 
  • Repeat business helps stabilize your income.
    • Even if just for a few months.  

Do a Good Job

This is probably obvious, but it's the most important factor in securing repeat business. Client liked your work = they come back for more. Client didn't like your work = you never hear from them again. Pretty simple. 

Always deliver on your promises, both of you are trying to run businesses. This means if you can be held accountable to finish tasks on time, they will have less of a reason to look elsewhere. Simply being reliable, prompt and communicative throughout the process is a huge factor in getting re-hired.

Secondly, take feedback and criticism like a boss. Be professional and honest. Relationships are a 2-way street be accommodating with revisions and welcome feedback. It could improve your correspondence and satisfaction levels with your client. 

"71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service"  - KISS Metrics

Offer Incentives

This could be a good idea for a client who always has work on-the-go. Offer them an incentive of 5 or 10% off their first invoice if they sign a new project within 30 days. You could also offer a "bundle" on your services at a discounted rate. These small incentives give you an edge over competition and saves your client loads of time.

Offer Retainer Options

Don't assume each project will be a one-time thing—  always assume long-term from the beginning. Try to find out how you could help them out on a monthly basis. 

Retainer options are good if you know you will always have a set amount of work to complete for that client month after month. You both agree to do a certain amount of work for a pre-determined price each month. This takes the guesswork out of when you'll be paid! And if you know you'll always be receiving $2,500 from the retainer contract every month, it gives you more freedom in deciding what other projects you want or don't want to take on.

Partner With Your Clients

Even though a project has been completed, you don't want to terminate the relationship. Genuinely caring about the success of your client's business will allow them to see you in a new light —  as a partner —  instead of a contractor. Share ideas on how they can build value within their business through your services.  

Follow Up & Upsell

People are busy. Unless your client has an urgent need for a designer, you'll probably fall off the radar after the project is complete. Contact your client within a week after the project, just to see how happy they were with your work. This is also a great time to upsell them on another project. You could suggest something like: "If you were to complete X task, it would improve your conversions. Let me know if you're interested in having me send over a proposal."

Placing them on your e-mail newsletter list is also a good way to keep in touch with them periodically. Try not to be too sales-y, but rather, just provide them with something of value. "I came across this article and thought of an earlier discussion we had. Hope it helps!"

It may not lead to another project right away, but hopefully you will be at the top of their list when they are ready.