When it comes to freelancing, you need clients to make money and stay in business. As it's usually more challenging and expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones, it's probably wise to look after your current clientele.
This means you should do everything you can to keep them happy and gain their loyalty. Because loyal clients will come back to you again and again, helping you to survive long-term.
But how do you win their trust? How do you ensure your existing customers never go elsewhere? The following advice will help...
Always be available
Ensure all your clients are able to contact you direct and answer them promptly. Really go the extra mile to provide a personal service, so you build a strong relationship with every client. By always being available, you become known as reliable, friendly and someone that people enjoy doing business with.
Nothing beats adding a personal touch to your customer service, so be nice at all times and be genuinely interested in your client. Remember little details about their lives and ask them relevant things, such as 'How are the children doing?' or 'Did little Barney enjoy his visit to the vets the other day?'. By getting personal you're remembering that there's a human behind the business and people love nothing more than to talk about themselves.
No one likes a negative person. It's draining and, quite frankly, annoying. Be a positive and bright character. Be someone that is kind, considerate and polite. If appropriate, be fun and crack the odd joke. Let your personality shine through. You're dealing with humans, after all. So be someone people enjoy dealing with.
Nothing gets a client more excited than talking about their own business – except, of course, when someone else is talking passionately about it as well. Make your client feel extra special by being just as passionate about their products and services as they are. Sincerely care about them succeeding and get excited about their business.
Use the right language
When communicating with clients, use the 'we' approach rather than 'I'. This means you are subtly becoming a solid part of their team and someone they can't do without. For example, 'I think we should look at how our website is doing' or 'Our quarter has been the best yet hasn't it!'. It might seem daft but it really does work.
No one likes a liar, so always be transparent and honest – no matter what happens. This means if you make a mistake, hold your hands up and say you're sorry. And if you don't think something is going to work you should tell your client why it won't. Be open and you will gain your customer's trust.
Things in business always change and new challenges always arise, which means your client will need you to be flexible. If you're not, you can become a thorn in their side and someone that is stopping them from moving forward. Be adaptable no matter what happens. It will show that you care and aren't just interested in taking their money. For example, if a project gets put on hold say something like 'That's no problem at all, I'm here when you need me!'. Or if a client has you on a retainer and needs to cut back one month, smile and say that's no issue. By being flexible, your client will appreciate you and continue to hire you in future.
Come up with new ideas
If you really want to boost customer loyalty, always think of new ways in which you can help your clients. Pitch ideas to them and show that you care about their business becoming more successful. For example, 'You know that software we just added, well I was thinking over the weekend that we should add this cool, new tool as well... What do you think?'. By striving to impress whilst sincerely wanting to help, you will retain customer loyalty and also potentially win more work.
Provide special offers
Now and again it's a good idea to offer special discounts to loyal customers. This shows that you are loyal to them in return and respect their business. For example, if you're a graphic designer – offer a 10 per cent discount on your client's next project. Obviously this won't work for every freelancer in the creative industries, so use your discretion and come up with different ways to show your loyalty.
Gain a reputation for quality
We all know that buying cheap products or services might save us some money in the short-term but quality is always ends up being the most cost-effective solution. Clients will be aware of this, so to gain their loyalty become known as a 'quality provider' and you should always benefit from repeat business.
Go the extra mile
Finally, work hard to provide excellent customer service. Accommodate your clients' needs and do everything you can to help them become a success. Exceed their expectations and go above and beyond to really wow. Because if you go that extra mile, you'll not only win their loyalty, you might also become someone they recommend to all their friends and associates.