How to Get Long-term Clients as a Freelancer
Master the art of getting recurring projects
The fun part of freelancing comes when you can stop stressing about finding clients and develop recurring client relationships instead.
Searching for freelance work takes time, and it is worrisome when you don’t know when your next paycheck is coming in. You can spend an entire work day browsing through freelance websites to find your next gig. Imagine instead if the work came to you.
Being able to convert a project into a long-term client is a necessary skill for freelancers. It saves you time, creates more consistency and, as you develop relationships with clients, makes freelance work less lonely.
Be someone they want to work with
This might sound obvious, but plenty of freelancers forget to be professional, reliable workers.
A positive freelancer/client relationship is built on top of the framework of good communication. Respond to emails and other forms of communication promptly. Be respectful and honest with your clients, and always hit your deadlines.
Remember that the quality of your deliverables is not the only thing clients are judging you off of. They want to work with someone who is easy to communicate with and listens to their needs. One of my freelance clients told me the most desirable trait for a freelance content writer is their ability to take edits/changes into account and deliver an edited version quickly.
She didn’t care so much about the quality of the first draft, so long as the freelancer was willing to work with her to tweak the piece so it best fit her needs. If you have good communication skills and are pleasant to work with, recurring clients will want to hire you again.
Package your services
Plant the seed early on about what else you can offer a client. Maybe they hired you to write an article, but you are also skilled in SEO, social media marketing and photography. Bundle your services into different packages with a range of rates.
The best way to approach this method is to ask the client questions about their needs. Get to know their current situation, their goals, their brand and their target market. If they hired you to write a blog post because they are trying to grow their audience through content, show them your proposed solutions to help them accomplish that goal.
Create three different packages. The first one includes one article that is optimized for SEO. The second will include three written articles optimized for SEO, plus photography and social exposure. The third option, which you throw out to help with price anchoring, will be eight articles with SEO, photos and social exposure. Tell them they can get lower rates per article while getting more services with the second and third options.
Remind them about their goals, and how consistency will help them reach those goals. Plus, if the long-term client opts for the latter packages, they will be ultimately saving money.
Make yourself an asset
Clients dread searching for good freelancers as much as freelancers dislike searching for work. If you are valuable to a client’s business, they will not want to see you go.
Show that you care about your client’s success by becoming knowledgeable about your client and their industry. If you are doing SEO work for a yoga studio, learn all the information you can about their target audience, competing studios and even yoga terminology.
Tell them about what you learned and offer suggestions for ways they can boost business. These small gestures go a long way to make clients feel like you care about the work.
Recurring clients enjoy working with freelancers who feel like they are part of the team.
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Develop a friendship
If you want to turn one single project into a recurring client, you need to approach the project like it is not a one-time deal.
Get to know your client from the get-go. Ask them basic questions such as where they are from and how they got into the work they did. Look for connections to talk about with them, and tell them a little about yourself. Set regular times to call your clients and talk about their business, but also ask them how they are doing.
Obviously, you need to keep things professional between you and your client, but long-term clients will feel more comfortable working with you if they can put a face and character to your name.
Build out your network
Always be equipped with an arsenal of freelancers you can recommend or partner up with. If you do digital marketing, know some content writers and graphic designers, and vice versa.
You can bundle your services together to save the client money and the hassle of finding more freelancers. Or, if your clients are looking for another freelancer to hire separately, you can suggest some options. They will be grateful because it takes work off their plate.
Plus, if you help other freelancers get work, they are more likely to connect you with good clients.
Throw in a freebie the first time around
Let’s go back to the example of packaging for content. If the client says they want the first option (just one article optimized for SEO), show them what they are missing out on. Offer to do social exposure or include photography as well for free.
This is a great way for clients to see what extra value you can give them and turn into long-term freelance clients. This can be dangerous, though. You don’t want to work with cheap clients. So, rather than say, “I’ll throw this in for free,” tell them you want to give them something extra that you think will be valuable to them.
This strategy will put you in good standing with the client, and help you drive home the idea that you are interested in adding value to their business.