Having long-lasting client relationships is key to ensuring your security as a freelancer or contractor. While short-term projects keep things fresh and offer day-to-day variety, you can’t always rely on this work.
In contrast, having a client – or, if you’re lucky, several clients – that you can rely on for longer-term projects and recurring work lays a firm foundation for building your business.
Finding clients who can help you achieve some sort of financial stability month-to-month is the dream scenario – eventually, these businesses come to rely on and trust you.
But how do you turn those one-off projects into long, successful client relationships?
Below, we explore some things you’ll have to consider to build up this customer base.
1. Effective communication
Communication is fundamental in all businesses and is especially important at the start of any working relationship.
Good communication helps build trust and understanding. Your availability – whether digitally or physically – is essential. Depending on the nature of your work, being quick to respond to client queries and requests shows that you’re on the ball and can be relied on when it matters.
Prompt responses to emails, proactively booking meetings and follow-up calls, and providing regular status updates are all good signs to the client that you’re there for them.
2. Manage your workload
Another way to strengthen relationships with clients is by showing a willingness to take on more work as and when the opportunity arises.
As a one-person company, this may mean working longer hours than you initially planned – or even outsourcing specific tasks to other trusted specialists (with the client’s permission, of course) – so that you can meet the demands.
However, as the saying goes, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Carefully managing your capacity to consistently deliver high-quality work and look after yourself is vital.
3. New ideas and fresh perspectives
Businesses lean on freelancers and contractors for their expertise and fresh perspectives. It means you’re uniquely positioned to offer new ideas that the client can’t always generate themselves, either because of a lack of time or being too wrapped up in the business or expertise.
Whether you’re a developer, designer or writer, your exposure to other clients and your experience means that you’re well-placed to bring something new to the table.
The more quality ideas and concepts you can share with the client, the better. This helps them to think smarter, bigger and more creatively – so, be proactive about suggesting new approaches and practices.
4. Develop your services
As your business grows, you might develop new services or products. If you do, let your clients know.
After all, you’ve already got your foot in the door and – as a trusted resource – you’re well positioned to win additional work, potentially in other areas of the business.
This approach could work as you’re exploring new services, too. Offering existing clients the opportunity to trial these before you approach the wider market is another way to show that you’re thinking of them before anyone else.
5. Act with integrity
Integrity matters. Your clients will respect you more when you’re open to sharing your honest opinion with them, and similarly, they will value your transparency and openness in difficult conversations.
This may mean that you have to turn down work in some instances, or advise a different approach which you strongly believe – or know – will work better. After all, this may be the reason they chose to engage you to begin with.
6. Lean on your expertise
Businesses often bring in contractors because they don’t have the necessary skills or expertise, or capacity, in-house. If your unique skills set you apart, use them to your advantage.
The longer you work with your clients, the more you understand them and their service offering too, as well as the market they operate in, the competitor landscape and the quirks of the business and industry. This knowledge helps you to tailor your services, delivering time and again for them.
As long as you continue to deliver an outstanding service – and barring any unforeseen circumstances – with a bit of luck, they’ll keep coming back to you.
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