For many freelancers, securing strong, long-term relationships with clients is the key to building a successful business. With strong client relationships, you can spend more hours actually working (and earning money!), and less time endlessly applying for new jobs each month. The question is, how do you get to this point?
When you are first starting out as a freelancer, it can feel difficult to genuinely build strong relationships with clients, and it can feel like you’re bouncing from one-off job to one-off job for months.
Here, we’re going to show you how to build relationships with your clients that will withstand the test of time.
Why is it important to build long-term, strong relationships with clients?
You might be perfectly happy working with new clients every single month – or you might be wondering why exactly having long-term clients can benefit you.
Before showing you howto build strong relationships, let’s first cover why they are so important:
Stable income for your business
Undeniably, one of the biggest risk factors for freelancers is not having a stable income each month. With all the freedom and independence that comes with freelancing, you also have to accept that your income is not going to be as stable as that of traditional job.
However, building strong relationships with clients that give you regular work can get you much closer to a stable income. Having a set amount you know you will receive each month gives you a safety net that is invaluable when you are a freelancer.
Indirectly, stable clients will also allow you to earn more money. You will spend less time looking for new clients, which is time that you don’t get paid.
Build trust with the client and other clients
Having long-term clients not only builds trust between you and that client, but also with other potential businesses that may want to work with you.
If you put yourself in an employer’s shoes, are you more likely to work with the person that has countless one-off contracts on their portfolio, or the person who has worked with the same few brands for years?
Building strong relationships shows that you can be trusted, that your work is of a consistently high standard, and provides you with a strong foundation of testimonials to present to new clients.
Finally, having strong relationships with clients is a great way to increase your referrals for more work.
If you have a client that trusts you and relies on you for a high quality of work every time, it follows that they will be happy to recommend your services to other business owners they know without worrying they’ll be referring someone to an untrustworthy freelancer!
Building strong relationships with your existing clients is therefore an essential way of building strong relationships with new clients.
How to build lasting strong relationships with your clients:
1. Do your best work
To build strong relationships with clients you need to always provide your best work. Remember, a contract will oftentimes not begin as a promise for long-term work – rather, it will look like a one-off project. You must look beyond that one contract and see the potential for long-term work if you do the job right.
Providing a consistently-high standard of work is the best way to show your clients that you are the real deal. If you show you can complete a project to your client’s exact requirements in a timely manner, it only follows that they will return to you for repeat work, rather than take a chance on another freelancer.
2. Little things that make the difference
Doing your best work and building trust with your clients goes hand in hand. In order to build strong relationships with clients, you need to be reliable, great at your job, and trustworthy with the work they give you. However, that stems beyond the simple assignment in your inbox.
Building trust can of course be achieved in a number of ways, from simply replying to emails promptly and professionally, to suggesting an edit you’ve spotted elsewhere on their website. Strive to maintain a professional, helpful presence in your capacity as a freelancer and you will naturally build trust with your clients.
3. Identify what your client needs
A great way to build relationships that last with your clients is to identify what they might need from you in the future.
Most businesses hire a freelancer because they do not have the in-house expertise to do the job themselves. As such, you will be able to offer your expert opinion on aspects of the business that may stem outside your small project.
For example, if you are hired to write the copy for a business website, as copywriter you may then be able to explain the benefits of keeping a regularly updated blog and offer your services for this. They key here is to identify where you could genuinely be of help, and which opportunities are worth your time.
4. Be thankful for the opportunity
Your client surely has many options to work with other professionals in your niche (no matter which one it may be), and they decided to work with you. That’s amazing, and their decision allows you to keep working on your own as a freelancer.
Tell them, or better, show them that you appreciate that business relationship. The simple gestures are what matter, so send them an honest thank you e-mail.
You can also get a step further and offer them something else. For example, if you’ve designed a website for a small business, tell your friends and acquaintances about on in your social media networks. “Hey, go check my last design. [Client’s name] was an incredible client to work with and [its product / service] is amazing!” That’s free promotion for them and a very sweet detail that the client will appreciate.
Very important: don’t forget them in the long term. Do they reach a milestone in their business? Congratulate them. Is your client’s birthday? Congratulate him.
This personal approach will make a huge difference in separating you from the crowd.
How to maintain a good relationship
Maintaining strong relationships with your clients does not need to be difficult, and in fact will feel more and more natural as you secure more long-term clients and need to spread your time pitching for new jobs less.
One of the best ways to maintain your strong relationships is with communication. Regular communication with your clients is the number one way to build trust and identify any issues long before they become detrimental to your relationship.
Make sure you always reply to messages promptly (within working hours of course), address any issues you have, or your client may have, and constantly look for ways to improve your relationship with your clients. If you treat maintaining your relationships with your existing clients in the same way you would handle pitching for new job opportunities, you will not have a problem.
Are you looking for long-term clients to stabilize your freelance business? Share with us the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve tried to overcome them in the comments!