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Creating new client opportunities can never be scoffed at. With a work life that guarantees very little, the need to survive in the freelance world demands that the hunt for new leads should never go cold.
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Experience and research has shown that the pursuit of new customers could take (and cost you) precious time. A far more lucrative and stable income for your freelance business is already in the palm of your hand – your existing portfolio of customers.
New clients take an age to transform from potential lead to paying customer, and even then you are being given easy jobs for low rates while they test the waters. With returning customers, on the other hand, you have a head start. You’ve met, you’ve had coffee, conversations, you are set up as a payee on their accounting system and, most important of all, you’ve worked together.
"WITH RETURNING CUSTOMERS YOU HAVE A HEAD START"
In a nutshell, you’re both invested and, having made that initial commitment, to maximize and upconvert that into new work is in both your interest. Here’s how to make the leap from first-time freelancer to better-paid regular…
1. Think before you pick.
Choosing your customers carefully is where the battle really begins. Whether you are at the top of your game or in the early stages of your freelance life / career, getting into the habit of evaluating the long term prospects with a client before you take them on will help you in the bigger picture. Are they part of a big organisation with other teams you could work with? Is the particular project going to add more strings to your bow? Is this project a recurring project? Is the client a prestigious company to be involved with that would look good on the CV?
These are all things to consider when trying to assess what the future will hold with a possible client and if the work is, in fact, worth your while. You may not be in a position to take your pick just yet, but there will come a stage where you can prioritise clients of higher quality with better prospects and it is good getting into the habit from day dot.
With the long term in mind you will start the job feeling like you are investing and that, in itself, will have a positive motivating effect of which your client will reap the benefits. It’s win-win for everyone.
2. Work like your business depends on it.
Because it does. So over-deliver – be consistently professional, be on time and work towards a positive relationship with your client. If you feel that you may have some areas that need improving in your skillset, invest in yourself with new courses.
If you are worried that you will be left behind with your business admin, download apps like the free invoicing app Albert that will make your invoicing process efficient and easy & Sign easy for these documents that clients regularly send you that need to not only be looked over but often also to be signed when you are abroad or in a different location that your clients.
When your client sees you investing in yourself across all areas, they are more likely to want to invest in the long term with you too.
3. Get your client talking.
With existing clients, you are in a prime position to do the ground work for the future so keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Do some ground work in casual conversation and see if you can spot any areas where your customer is lacking and could do with some more help. You may be able to suggest ways of helping them with services you can offer, or you may make recommendations of others who could assist.
"KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED AND YOUR EARS OPEN"
Even if you are not directly gaining, when your client sees you have expertise in your industry and are willing to advise them without direct gain, this can only contribute to a good, working relationship that will be lucrative in the long term. They are also likely to similarly recommend you if there are upcoming opportunities on other projects in their company or elsewhere.
4. Make it worth their while.
It’s smart to go the extra mile for clients and make their choice in you worth their while. Whether you are offering an extra half an hour of SEO as a blogger, or if you are delivering some additional system maintenance as an engineer, your efforts will be noted and will build client loyalty.
You can also offer incentives for returning customers, like providing reduced rates for bulk bookings, giving even better value for money. Involving your customer in these bulk buys will offer some commitment of sorts and will also give you the time to create a better bond, if you don’t have one already.
Maybe you'll find this useful: How to become a successful freelancer.
The 3-Point Summary
- With returning customers, you have a head start.
- When your client sees you have expertise in your industry and you are willing to advise them without direct gain, this can only contribute to a good, working relationship.
- When your client sees you investing in yourself across all areas, they are more likely to want to invest in the long term with you too.