Do you want to chase freelance jobs down one gig at a time forever? Neither do I. It’s more valuable to have repeat work from familiar clients than it is to try to scare up work from scratch each time. I have a handful of clients I know I’ll be working with into the foreseeable future and, I’ll tell you, I deeply appreciate them.
All of my repeat clients started as one-offs. I wrote one article for them, then another, then another, until I organically moved into being a regular contributor. Along the way, I gained insights into what makes clients give repeat work to freelancers.
1. Hit Your Deadlines: I put this one first because it is vitally important. If you’ve agreed to deliver on a particular date, hit that date. If you’re not going to hit it, communicate that to your client as soon as you know so you two can work out a new plan.
2. Be Responsive: Respond promptly to emails, show up for optional meetings, return phone calls. These things demonstrate that you are reliable and professional. They’re also the qualities of a good team member, which is what you become when you’re doing repeat work for a client.
3. Be Professional: In all calls, emails, and meetings, be your best, professional self. That doesn’t mean that you can’t develop friendly rapport with your clients, it just means that you take your work and your client interactions seriously.
4. Stay Connected: Keep in touch with clients, stay on top of what they’re up to, be proactive about communicating with them. You can do this via email, social media, a newsletter—whatever suits your style and schedule. Keep lines of communication open and insure that you and the client are clear on expectations, timelines, compensation, and deliverables.
5. Strike When the Iron is Hot: When a client expresses appreciation for a job well done, let them know you’re available for more work. Ask if you can pitch them a few ideas. Let them know you’ve been thinking about ways to strengthen their business, then offer up some killer ideas or insights.
6. Over-deliver: If there’s a way to delight a client with an extra touch or feature, go for it. For a writer, this might mean including an idea for a sidebar article or suggesting some good photos for the piece. For a designer, this may mean putting together a sheet of recommended font combinations or sketches for a social media graphic.
7. Be Honest About Your Strengths: If a project is not a good fit for you, recommend a freelancer who would be better. This establishes you as someone who cares, not just about taking every job, but about what’s best for the client. If you facilitate a valuable connection, you are valuable.
8. Help Out In a Pinch: This is a great way to gain the trust of a client: help them out when they need it most. Years ago, a publication I had pitched but not received a response from contacted me with an urgent situation. They had a huge issue coming out and one of their writers had left with no notice. They asked if I could step in. I spent the whole weekend writing, they went to print on time, and I ended up writing for that publication for years.
9. Communicate All Your Skills and Offerings: Be sure your clients know all that you can do. If you’re hired as a writer but are also an experienced social media strategist, let your client know that. They may need help with social media or know someone who does.
10. Make a Human Connection: While you’re doing your best work, and bringing your professional self to the table, be sure to also share your humanness. You know the old saying that people do business with people they like, right? Well, a good way to let someone get to know you is to connect with them on a human level.
11. Let Clients Know You Enjoy Working with Them: If you enjoy working with a client, let them know you’d like to do more. They may not need you at the moment, but you can keep yourself top-of-mind for future projects if you express interest in being involved. As much as freelancers like working with familiar clients, clients like working with familiar freelancers as well.
What did I miss? What other tips for getting repeat freelance clients would you add to this list?
Photo: Marcus Spiske (CC-BY)