5 Simple Techniques for Producing Repeat Clients

by Christina Gillick 9 Minutes

repeat clientsYou probably don’t need to be convinced that repeat clients are a great formula for a freelancer’s profit and success. I mean, just look at these stats …

  • According to Bain & Company, it costs 6-7 times more money to land a new customer than to retain an existing one.
  • And, according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent. The probability to selling to a new prospect is only 5-20 percent!
  • You can even see The 80/20 Principle (or The Pareto Principle) in action when it comes to repeat clients and profit. Happy, repeat clients and customers – often 20 percent of your client base – will account for 80 percent of your profits. (That’s certainly true in my business.)

Still not convinced? Here are just a few more benefits of working with repeat clients:

You both know what to do.

When working with a repeat client, you already know them. And, if they hired you again, they already know, like, and trust you. This makes proposals, agreements, setting deadlines – and other operational tasks – a lot easier. Plus, you have their feedback from the last project so you’re likely to do a better job faster – increasing your speed and profit.

You don’t have to keep selling yourself.

For most freelancers selling yourself is stressful. In fact, so many freelancers struggle with it that they experience the feast or famine cycle over and over again. But, once you sell yourself to a client once, the hard work is done. Just do a great job and they’ll be more likely to hire you next time.

You’re more likely to get paid in a timely manner.

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When working with the same clients repeatedly, you both get used to the pay cycle. No more stress about when you’ll get paid – or if you’ll get paid. Of course, if you get a client who doesn’t pay on time, you probably don’t want them as a repeat client.

It’s easier to feel like an expert (not an order taker).

Often when working with new clients you have to “prove” yourself before they see you as the expert. This means they’ll have a tendency to micromanage your process or get too involved. But your repeat clients will see you as the expert that gets your work done. Good repeat clients will leave you to it and stay out of your way.

So – with all these benefits – why isn’t your calendar full of repeat clients? Maybe you don’t know how to turn them from one-time clients to loyal, repeat buyers … If that’s the case, here are five tips I use in my own business to work primarily with repeat clients:

1. Put your current clients on retainer.

If you’re unfamiliar with retainer clients – or a retainer agreement – it’s basically an arrangement between you and your client. You agree to do a set amount of work each month and they agree to pay you a certain amount each month.

Retainer agreements are great for freelancers who want a more consistent schedule for planning ahead and money you can count on month after month. (No more guessing when you’re going to get paid!)

Here’s how to do this in your business:

First, assume a long-term relationship. Don’t act like you’re working for one job only. Dig deeper and find out how you can help them month after month.

Next, offer additional services. If they hire you to freshen up the appearance of their website, what else could you do? Maybe you could offer up-to-date graphics or an opt-in form so they can collect more leads. A word of warning though: don’t offer extra services just to make extra money. Genuinely care about your client and their desire to increase their business. Ask them what’s working – and what isn’t – so you can help them solve problems.

Finally, offer a retainer agreement. Many freelancers don’t get their clients on retainer only because they didn’t ask. Figure out what your client could use each month and create an irresistible offer for them. Keep in mind; you could offer a discount or extra perks because once they hire you on retainer, you’ll work with them again and again and be able to work more efficiently over time.

Your conversation might go like this:

Client: We need a new web design.
Freelancer: Why’s that?
Client: To impress our web site visitors so they stay on our site longer and spend more.
Freelancer: In that case, I know several other things you can do to decrease your bounce rate and increase your conversions.
Client: Oh yeah – like what?
Freelancer: One is adding an opt-in form to your website … Here’s what I can do – let me whip up a proposal for you. I’ll send it by the end of business tomorrow.
Client: Okay – great!
Freelancer: I look forward to helping you grow your business. Talk to you soon.

I’ve found that retainers are enticing to many clients because they’ll save time, money, and frustration by not needing to search and train a new freelancer for each project. Often, all you have to do is offer.

2. Ask “Why do you want this?”

One of the most effective sales tools you have at your disposal is the ability to ask questions …

In fact, after studying many sales techniques I’ve found the most effective all come from asking questions. Plus, questions help build relationships because it gets the other person talking.

Asking, “Why do you want this?” – like we did in the sample script above – helps you get to the root of what your client really wants. For instance, they might hire you to design a new website. But, they really don’t want a new website. They want a more effective website so they’ll make more money and can enjoy life more.

Here’s how to do this in your business:

Suggest additional projects (or upsells) that supplement the first project – similar to what you’d do if you were working toward a retainer arrangement.

For instance, let’s say you’re a copywriter and a business owner hires you to re- write their home page. Some copywriters would say, “Okay!” and get to work.

But, if you ask, “Why do you want your home page re-written?” You may discover that they are actually hoping a new home page will increase their conversions … Why not also suggest a bait piece (or opt-in offer) so they have an automatic way to collect leads?

This practice will increase your project fee, but also position you as more of an adviser or expert.

However, if your client hires you for service A, don’t immediately recommend Services B-Z. This can be overwhelming and scare them away. Instead, start with the most important supporting services and then make more recommendations over time. (Remember, your goal is repeat, long-term, loyal clients.)

3. Over-deliver every time.

Over-delivering is providing more than promised. It’s those extra little goodies or perks that you get when you don’t expect them.

Consider the stores and businesses you prefer …

What do they do that makes you want to keep coming back? They likely over-deliver …

Maybe your favorite restaurant has the best atmosphere, the biggest portions, and the highest quality food – all at a price competitive with other restaurants that don’t go the extra mile.

Your favorite hotel probably has amenities other hotels in the same price range don’t. Maybe they give you a welcome gift or make recommendations for travel, dining, and entertainment …

Here’s how to do this in your business:

Clients love it when you over-deliver because they feel they are getting more than what they paid for. And, when they get a good deal, they’ll want to come back again. But, many freelancers don’t over-deliver because they think it’s too difficult …

To make it easy on yourself, give them something you make during the process of your service. For example, if you’re a writer, you probably wrote dozens of headlines. Instead of giving them one, give them two or three to test so they can get the best conversion.

To come up with something they’ll value, think about “What’s in it for them?

The perks you use to over-deliver don’t have to be huge, but they should have value to your client. For instance, a web designer could offer different color options or extra styling on a page. A photographer could throw in a few additional shots at different angles.

4. Be easy to work with.

You might consider this a “no-brainer,” but many clients have horror stories about the freelancers they’ve worked with. Be easy to work with and reliable and clients will want to work with you again – and refer you to others.

Remember, each of your clients has a business to run. If they can count on you to do what you say you’ll do – by the time you say you’ll do it – they’ll be more willing to work with you again. And, after you deliver consistently for a while, they’ll be more unlikely to look anywhere else.

Here’s how to do this in your business:

First, always deliver on time. Your clients are counting on your work being finished and turned in on time. Why? Because often freelancers are only one step in the sales process. If you fall behind, the whole project gets delayed. Also, keep this in mind when asking for extensions. It’s okay occasionally IF your client can accommodate it – but ask too often and they might find another freelancer.

Next, accept criticism and feedback gracefully. In fact, be excited to receive valuable input because it helps you improve for that client and others. (However, sometimes clients are wrong. If that’s the case, be nice and helpful. Explain your side – with proof to back it up – and if they still won’t budge suggest that they test your way against theirs. For advice on testing, see number five in this article.)

Finally, manage your workload. You might want to use a calendar or a spreadsheet to keep track of your projects and deadlines. Also, break down large projects over the timeframe you’ve allowed. That way you’re not frantic to finish something at the last minute. (Additionally, avoid scheduling more work than you can handle – even though it may be tempting once your clients are returning again and again.)

5. Follow up (and then follow up again)!

With everything involved in obtaining a new client – marketing, lead capture, follow up, proposals, agreements, and more – why would you want to do just one project and consider it done? I wouldn’t. Yet, I see many freelancers do this all the time. Often their reasoning is, “If they like my work enough, they’ll call me for more.”

But, just think about how busy your clients are. They probably don’t have time to follow up with you – and they likely expect that if you want to work with them again, you’ll ask …

Here’s how to do this in your business:

As soon as you finish a project, schedule a few follow up calls or emails.

Contact them once within a week or so to make sure they were happy with your work. Many freelancers avoid this because they assume, “No news is good news.” But, if you don’t follow up, you’re not likely to land repeat work with them. Plus, if they are happy – thrilled even – don’t you want to know? (After all, that’s the perfect time to ask for referrals or a testimonial.)

Here’s what you might say:

Dear [Client’s name],

I hope you were thrilled with [project name]. Remember, [a perk like “up to two revisions come with your order.”]

If you’re happy with my work, the best compliment you can give me is a testimonial or referral. Thank you in advance for either.

Also, as we talked about on [time frame], an [additional project] would help you get even more conversions and increase the profits from your website. I’ll create a proposal showing you the exact potential and send that over to you next week.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,
[Your name]

After the initial follow up, reach out to them every month. One way to do this is with an e-newsletter. This practice keeps you at the top of their list when another project comes up.

Also, try to provide something of value whenever you can. For instance, if you see a news story or article relevant to one of your clients, send it to them. (Be sure to explain why it’s important to them or how it can help them.) You could say something like:

Dear [Client’s name],

I saw this article and thought it would be useful as you enhance your website for more conversions: [link]

Enjoy! 🙂

[Your name]

P.S. I have a lot of ideas to help you with [your goal]. Should we be talking? If so, just reply any time.

And, in each follow-up include a call to action. You want them to know you’re available for future work. You might suggest additional projects, upsells, or even a discount if they work with you again.

As I mentioned earlier, repeat clients are the bulk of my freelance business. I love my clients and treat them that way. As a result, I get more paying projects from the same clients – allowing me to market less and earn more.

Your turn – what did I miss? Do you have any techniques for getting repeat clients? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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by Christina Gillick
Christina Gillick is a Content Marketing Strategist and an award-winning direct-response copywriter. She helps her clients create loyal customers through relationship building copy and content. (She is also the founder of ComfyEarrings.com where she regularly tests her ideas and advice.)