Some freelancers would rather work with a whole range of different clients, while others focus on two or three only. In any case, as a freelancer, it’s in your best interest to keep your clients. On the one hand, because if a client contacts you on his/her own, you save precious time as you didn’t spend any time prospecting. On the other hand, because it is also always easier to work for a client with whom you have already collaborated in the past. The most effective way to retain your customers is to develop an effective retention strategy to show them that they have everything to gain by working with you on a regular basis.
Let’s take a look at five tips for building client loyalty and making your freelance business thrive.
1. Communicate consistently and proactively
As with many relationships, communication should be at the heart of the collaboration between a freelancer and their client. If this is the first time you’re working with this client, reassure them from day one : show them that you’re making progress and that you’re moving forward with your work. The simple fact of sending a clear email on a regular basis will reassure them that you are serious and committed.
With your regular clients, it is also an opportunity to talk about your availability, your expectations or your questions. Benjamin Andreosso, PHP / JS developer and freelancer on Malt, explains:
“Actively communicating with my clients is an important part of my job, it allows me to maintain a dialogue and move forward more quickly on requests.”
This communication effort should become part of your customer retention strategy, until it becomes a daily habit.
Once the job is completed, it’s up to you to maintain the connection with the client. Depending on the relationship you have developed during your collaboration, check in or send an email from time to time to remind them that you are available if they need your services. A good habit to get into is to make a list of your clients with the dates you want to contact them again. Depending on the situation, allow a week, a month or even six months to pass before contacting them again. You can also follow up with a former client if you develop new skills that may be of interest to them, such as training or certification. This is a great way to show them that you are interested in their needs and that you are continuing to learn.
2. Take good care of your favorite clients
Remember to create a climate of trust when you start a collaboration with a new client. Be as transparent as possible about your working methods, listen to their expectations, but don’t be afraid to contribute your ideas as well. By being proactive, you show your ability to work independently.
You can suggest to your clients to exchange by email, to discuss on the phone or on Zoom, or even to join their company’s Slack channel. If you have the opportunity to meet your clients in person, over coffee or lunch, it’s even better! We know, so French…
Anticipate your customers’ problems
You are not just a “resource” available on demand to complete a list of tasks. You bring an external point of view on your client’s project, while being an integral part of their teams : give your opinion, offer advice, and point out difficulties that you notice or that you anticipate thanks to your expertise.
Lisa Miquet, photographer, director and freelancer on Malt, testifies on this subject :
“You are the expert in the requested field. It is therefore important to give your client the benefit of your knowledge before and after the mission. Things that may seem obvious to you are not always obvious to people who do not have your experience”
3. Focus on the long term
To meet their clients’ needs, the vast majority of freelancers must be flexible. This doesn’t mean you have to sell out : be super aware of your values and share them with your prospects. But keep your adaptability up : this quality will always work in your favor. Benjamin Andreosso states :
“Sometimes you have to make an effort on certain points, whether it’s the work environment or the hourly rate. Because doing a first mission with a client is like creating the first link with them, which can lead to other opportunities.”
So be smart about it !
If you choose to lower your usual daily rate slightly for a new client, suggest they go through Malt. The client will benefit from a secure and convenient platform, and you will gain visibility, until you earn the Super Malter badge that will help you easily find other clients.
In any case, avoid overselling yourself, and only accept projects that you are capable of completing. However, if you have a good connection with a particular company or client, consider positioning yourself for possible future assignments. You will need to be patient, but your efforts will eventually pay off. A client who has appreciated your services will be happy to contact you again, even months later.
“You can’t always fulfill a client’s request, but you have to be able to sell your other skills for future projects. If I’m a particularly good fit with the company or my contact, I’ll make sure to keep in touch with my client so I can be available for another request.” – Benjamin Andreosso, PHP / JS developer and freelancer on Malt
For a client to become a loyal one, it must be easy and pleasant for him/her to rely on your services. The Malt platform offers tangible advantages to make your clients’ life easier, but also yours. More specifically as it integrates a system of quotes, invoices and recommendations between clients and freelancers on the website. By choosing the “Recurring assignment” option, you will be able to secure your relationship with your most loyal clients, while being paid at the end of each month.
4. Promote your clients’ news
Exchange and discuss with your clients about their different projects. If they release a new feature for their application for example, leave them a comment on their social media to congratulate them. If they’re looking to develop a new product, maybe you could recommend the profile of an expert you’ve worked with in the past? If they are recruiting a tech talent for a specific position, you can share their job posting with your professional network. These small gestures don’t cost you much, but they do strengthen the connection with your clients.
Monitoring is a great habit to get into as a freelancer. Subscribe to newsletters specialized in your field (and read them!). You can also follow news about brands that interest you and profiles that inspire you. LinkedIn is a great place to start discovering profiles similar to yours and brands that could one day become your clients. You can also attend Malt Academy conferences to develop your skills and grow your network.
If you enjoy working with a particular client, get to know their company, their brand and their competitors. Monitor their industry, which should align with your area of expertise. If you see something relevant to your client, share it with them – it’s a great way to show your interest in their business, maintain the connection and create new opportunities.
5. Learn to say no
Building client loyalty doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every request. On the contrary, it is essential to question the requirements of an assignment that does not suit you. If you are not comfortable with the client’s approach, pricing, deadlines or the nature of the actual assignment, discuss it with them. If you can’t find a middle ground, it’s best to refuse the assignment : accepting a project reluctantly doesn’t do any good (for you or for them).
In the case of a client with whom you have already worked, be as transparent as possible and share your doubts with them. If you have to refuse one of their missions, remember that you are saving your client’s time : they will be able to find someone who better meets their expectations before launching their project. Saying no is also a way of underlining your expertise, by showing that you know your own limits.
For your longer projects with your most loyal clients, the Malt platform offers a “Recurring assignment” function that allows you to split and invoice an assignment over several months. You will have a unique interface in front of you, which centralizes the different order summaries and invoices with each of your clients.
Following these tips will help you retain your favorite clients and find new ones. Communicate proactively with them, build trust, anticipate their problems, include them in your industry monitoring and research, and show that you know your limits. And above all, be patient : building client loyalty will take time, but it’s worth it !