How To Get Repeat Business

Client retention is tied more to character than to talent.

How do you keep clients coming back to you f instead of moving on to another freelancer when a project is completed?

For freelancers, cultivating repeat business and long-term clients is one way you can  stabilize your income.

Make new clients, but keep the old.

Keeping an existing client is always easier than finding new ones. Developing quality relationships with them is as important as creating quality work. One of my primary goals as an independent creative to develop quality relationships with my clients. I want them to keep bringing their projects to me.

Retaining good clients is the result of a number of factors, including the ease of the working relationship, how you handle special requests, how you lead the client during the project, and of course, the outcome of the work.

Client retention is not a price issue; it’s a trust issue. Building trust is foundational to building long-term client relationships.

Building Trust

So, how do you build trust? Well, be trustworthy! There are some qualities that you can develop that will help you in working with clients and keep them on board for several projects or several years:

1] Listening

To create effective solutions for your client, you have to understand their position, mission, product or service, and their ideal customer. Plus, you have to know what they’re struggling with.

To obtain this information ask the right questions and then listen attentively to their answers. I try to take in not only their words but their voice: is it cautious… enthusiastic… measured? How are they using words? What do they get excited about?

In short, what is the client saying, how are they saying it, and what do they mean by it?

2] Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling.

We may think that feelings don’t come into play in business, but they most certainly do. It’s people who do business with each other, and people have feelings and perceptions. Very often big decisions are made based on feelings.

Where feelings come into play with a client is that, just like you, they have emotional connections to their enterprise. If you understand their pain points, you can more easily solve their problems. If you understand how customers feel about a product or service, you will have a strong foundation for creating things that work well for the client.

When empathy is included in your problem-solving, your solutions will be far more effective. Empathy begins with listening.

3] Communication

Keep your client updated throughout the length of a project. Design and other creative work require time for research and idea development.

In the preliminary stages of a project, I’m doing research, developing ideas, and trying things out. The client sees none of this, and It can appear that I have simply disappeared. By staying in touch and letting them know where I am, I keep the client involved and build their expectation. I send updates and questions regularly.

4] Excellence

When you do excellent work, you will become known for it. Clients will recommend you.

Do work that enables your client to reach their goals. A pleased client will return again and again.

What’s excellent work? It’s work that solves the client’s problem, and is carefully crafted. I believe that excellence is the result of combining wisdom, knowledge and skill in a triple-play. We can have skill but lack knowledge and create shoddy designs. We can have knowledge but not skill and are limited in what we can create because we don’t know our tools (software, etc.) well enough. We can have knowledge and skill but lack wisdom, which is how to apply the knowledge and skill appropriately. The point of this article is to give you some wisdom.

5] Humility

It’s easy for creatives to be haughty and condescending. We do this amazing creative thing, after all.

But many times in the past I’ve been asked to step in a take over like a relief pitcher because another designer has not related well to the client. A graceful manner goes a long way, and is more valuable than talent and training.

Use your creative giftings humbly. Know your value to the client, but deliver it in a winsome way. Influence the client, but don’t drag them along.

6] Honesty

Who of us does not make mistakes?

Relax! Make it right without delay.

I’ve learned that it’s wise to take appropriate responsibility and act quickly to fix an issue, and avoid passing blame on my suppliers or the client. If I own it when I mess up, my client will stay with me because they trust me. The same is true with my suppliers.

Sometimes, your mistakes will cost you… like that one time when I worked with a print broker (the only time I worked with a print broker) and they used a low-quality printer to save them money. The printing had some flaws, and the broker had re-packaged the work inside the delivery boxes so that the flaws weren’t noticeable without digging deep. I had to pay out of pocket for a re-printing (different printer, no print broker). I made it right, lost money on the project. But the client gave me all their business for a number of years after that.

8] Gratitude

A note of thanks sent at the end of a project is priceless.

Thanking people is a common courtesy that has become very uncommon in our time. Doing it in writing — with pen and paper — makes it personal.

Talented creatives are not in short supply; clients have thousands to choose from. Client retention is tied more to character than to talent. Your creative gifts, passion, training and experience are secondary issues compared to how you treat people. To keep your clients coming back, be the kind of person they want to work with.

What are you best methods for keeping your clients coming back for more? Share in the comments.