As a freelance writer, you can’t ever settle. Even if you have a handful of clients keeping you busy for 60 hours each week, you can’t back down. Even if you’re working as an independent contractor, those jobs can go just as quickly as they came. If you want to be successful for a long time, you can’t just focus on client acquisition. You need to place a heavy emphasis on client retention.
How to Keep Long-Term Clients
There’s a commonly perpetuated myth among writers that once you have a client, they’re yours forever. While most freelancers won’t come out and directly say this, they essentially believe it. After all, most writers heavily invest time and resources in client acquisition and then hit cruise control once the client inks a deal.
When considering clients, you have to think of them as people, not businesses. If you treat a client like a business, you’ll eventually lose their interest. However, by treating them like the living, breathing individuals they are, you can give them exactly what they’re looking for. Keeping that in mind, here are a handful of effective client retention tips specifically designed with freelance writers in mind:
- Be smart about whom you work with. Most writers get 80 percent of their work from 20 percent of their clients. It’s your responsibility to identify and focus on this 20 percent. Don’t neglect the other clients, but spend most of your energy building healthy relationships with your highest-producing clients.
- Build offline relationships. If you work with local clients, it’s extremely helpful to develop offline relationships. You’re much less likely to be let go or passed over if you have a face-to-face relationship with the client. It may take time and creativity to transition from online to offline, but you’ll feel much more secure when you’re able to do so.
- Be responsive. One of the best things you can do is make responsiveness a priority. People want to work with people they can depend on. During the week, you should make it a point to respond to every correspondence within a matter of hours. You may not be able to fully address an issue immediately, but shooting out a quick email that reads “Got your call – will get back to you ASAP” goes a long way.
- Ask for feedback. Do you have a feedback generation strategy? If not, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to improve. If you’ve been working with a client for a while, ask them for feedback. Not only does this provide you with valuable insights, but it also shows your clients that you’re actively seeking to improve.
- Implement anticipatory service. Instead of waiting for problems to arise, your goal should be to implement anticipatory service that proactively identifies issues and alleviates the causes. One example of anticipatory service is when airlines send out texts to customers to notify them that there’s been a delay. You should be looking at common problems and identifying ways to stop them before they start.
Never Let Up
When you think about client retention, it may be helpful to consider the analogy of a race car driver. All racers are focused on two things: going fast and winning. In order to win, they have to press the gas pedal down and kick the car into full throttle. In doing so, the driver may build a significant lead over the course of the race. However, if they decide they’re going to let up on the gas on the final lap, the rest of the pack will certainly catch up and pass them.
Just because things are going well, doesn’t mean you can let up on the gas. No matter how long you’ve been in the lead – or had a client – a single decision to get comfortable may come back to bite you. Don’t worry; use these tips and you’ll be just fine.