Shaking hands – Photo by rawpixel
Very few of us begin working for ourselves to become a ‘freelance salesperson’ – but in reality, that’s what a large proportion of many freelancer roles involves.
We need to find people who like what we do; then, find more of them. It’s a process that needs to be repeated until our bills are paid, then, we start again next month…
I’m here to tell you there’s a better solution than this continual grind; you’ve just got to keep a tight hold of your current clients. The good news is, there are 5 simple things you can do to make sure they’re happy to see your invoices coming in regularly…
1. Provide a professional standard service
After freelancing for a number of years, I’ve learned something really important that I think every freelancer should know:
There are a lot of unprofessional freelancers out there.
I’m not talking about the quality of their work; I’m really talking about their business acumen. So many freelancers offer an exceptional product but wrap it up in a lackluster service. I know this because my clients tell me their nightmare experiences.
Here’s the thing; a potential client is likely to be more impressed by (and therefore stick with) an average-to-good photographer or videographer who; gets work done on time, to a decent standard, and with good communication; versus a stone-cold visual genius who goes off the radar and delivers the work a month late.
If you want to keep the customers you’ve put effort into finding, you should work on getting some service basics nailed – and make them non-negotiables in your day:
Don’t over-promise on any area of service if you can’t deliver
Create good, but realistic timescales – then make sure they happen
Reply to messages, emails and phone calls as quickly as possible
Work to an agreed brief, so there are no misunderstandings
If you take nothing else from this list, fix these things and you’ll see more clients returning than ever before. Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who want nothing more than solid reliability from a freelancer.
2. Engage in real human interaction
Colleagues Photo by rawpixel
The next thing I’m about to say might seem obvious, but I genuinely believe it’s one of the most overlooked parts of doing business in our digital world:
Your clients are human.
When they step away from their work role, they’re going to be enjoying similar things to you; watching the game at the weekend, spending time with loved ones, taking their kids to school… and so on. The list of life possibilities is enormous, but the important thing to remember is that people are 100% human, and they respond well to the good old-fashioned nice gestures.
When you send an email, why not ask what they’re planning on doing with their weekend? Or offer them a glimpse into your life beyond work. There’s a line between being professional and over-familiar, but, just like with colleagues in the same office, there’s no reason why some personal investment in one another can’t occur.
It doesn’t have to be much, but it’s a psychological fact that when we connect as people, we’re far less like to break that connection further down the line.
3. Understand the working relationship
Sometimes, people turn to freelancers because we’re the expert – and they want us to guide them. Other times, we’re being employed simply to deliver a service. For this next point, it’s important to understand which of those roles you fall into, because misunderstandings can cost you ongoing work.
A lot of the time, when you fulfill a job for someone, they’re the boss. Sure, they might take some guidance based around your experience and skillset, but if they’re absolutely set on that hideous color scheme, an awful image, some substandard content or some other quirk that you don’t like, you might have to swallow your pride and go with it.
I’m not going to go as far as saying the client is ‘always right’ – because let’s face it, they’re not; but they’ve got their reasons for wanting a job done a certain way – and if you argue too much, they’ll cast you aside and find someone who’ll just deliver what they’re asking.
There’s some give and take with the client/freelancer relationship, but since they’re the one giving money and you’re the one taking instruction, you might not want to push too hard for things to be done your way if you want to keep the work coming in.
4. Make communication easy
Photo by Tirza van Dijk
I’ve worked with freelancers, so I can tell you without any doubt, there’s one thing that I hate above everything else – and that’s people who disappear off the radar and become uncontactable.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be online or answering emails 24/7 – but you should set some expectation for contact early in the relationship, then stick to it. Aim to answer questions at least on the same day, and if possible, at points throughout the day.
You should try to understand that everyone’s got their personal preference for communication too. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you saying that you only talk via email, Skype, or over the phone – but you do take a slight risk that you’re pushing a client outside their normal way of working.
If you want to make yourself as easy as possible to work with, try to:
Work with a messaging/communication medium your client prefers
Respond in a timely fashion
Avoid ‘going missing’ for days at a time
Maintain a professional image
You might get away without these simple rules – but, since there are thousands of freelancers like you who provide this service; why take the risk?
5. Look for opportunities for your client
This final point is a serious win-win – but it takes a little effort over and above the normal freelance call of duty.
Look for opportunities for you to deliver work for your client.
You might need to keep an eye on what’s happening in their industry on their behalf, but that can easily be done with a few social media follows. When something comes up that’s in both yours and their area of expertise, get in touch.
“Hey, I saw x company are doing a new x project. I have some great ideas if you wanted to do something similar. No pressure, but you know where I am if you’d like to discuss it in more detail.”
It’s not going to work all the time – but even if it never works as a way of picking up additional projects; by demonstrating that you’ve got an eye on their industry and their best interests in your thoughts, you’re underlining the idea that you’re the right person for the job when they are ready to put their next project into action…