Whether you’re a freelance programmer, writer, designer or anything in-between (and whether you’re a digital nomad or not) the key to success (and a reasonably steady income) is often long term repeat clients. But how do you make sure your clients keep coming back for more?
Give a little extra.
Now, I would never recommend working through the night or over the weekend at short notice, agreeing to unreasonable discounts to secure projects, or god forbid, working for free. However, sometimes you will be able to offer unexpected little perks, which can really make you stand out in your client’s memory. Throw in a simple business card with your mega-bucks logo design. Take the time to send them a quick email, to see how their big product launch went.
Recently, I illustrated a ebook book cover, working directly with the author. They were friendly, loved my work, and didn’t request a single revision – perfect client! So when the ebook came out in Amazon’s kindle store, I took the time to write a review. It cost me nothing, and the client was absolutely delighted. (Update: They hired me to design their new website a few weeks later. Win!)
Care about your clients.
Often as a freelancer, you’ll be working as part of a larger project (e.g. you may be writing content for a website, whilst others are designing it, coding it, promoting it etc) – so take an interest! If you feel it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to ask your client conversationally how it’s going. This is particularly true when you’re working for smaller companies. Showing your client that you care about the success of their project and you’re not just in it for the cash (even if you are) is a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd and forge long term working relationships.
Freelancing can be stressful. Client not paying? You have to chase them. Tax due? Your job too. Deadline looming? Forget your weekend off! When you’re snowed under with stuff to do it can be difficult to stay positive and appreciate the world around you. (although being a digital nomad definitely helps!) At times like this, it’s crucially important to maintain a sense of humor and keep things in perspective – and this will come through in your interaction with your clients. Staying cool under pressure is much more attractive to a hiring manager than tearing your hair out.
Be totally reliable.
You’re a professional selling a service. If you say you’ll finish the work by Friday, get it done by Friday. Stay up all night, hire other freelancers to help you, do whatever it takes. The best way to lose clients is to let them down – so don’t!
Charge what you’re worth, and stick to your guns.
Figure out a fair hourly rate for your services, and use that to calculate your quotes on projects. The more experienced you are, the better you’ll get at this.
Once you’ve quoted for a service, stick to that quote like glue. (Unless the client changes the scope of the brief.) Feel free to give discounts at your own discretion – for example, if a long term client comes to you with a huge project that’ll feed and house you for a year.
However, at some point in your career you’ll experience clients (usually new clients) talking about what great “exposure” you’ll get from the project, promising tons of work ‘if we like what you do’ – if you’ll just give them a huge discount. Or a free sample.
BAH! Nooooooo! Always be friendly and professional, but be clear that your rates and your rates and if they want your awesome skills, they have to pay. Flip-flopping on price initially just makes you look like you don’t know what your time is worth – and conversely, can make good clients less likely to hire you! Clients need you to be reliable and logical – quoting $2000 and then dropping to $1000 makes you look at best inexperienced, and at worst a bit desperate.
Love your job (or choose a job you love.)
If you’re a freelancer, chances are you already like what you do. (Most freelancers do!) Even if you’re not passionate about your freelancing career, try to appreciate the freedom that being a freelancer affords you – especially when so many people are stuck in cubicles. (Particularly relevant for digital nomads!)
If you’re bored, it’ll show in your work and in your interaction with your clients. Keep things fresh by taking regular breaks from work, and getting out into the world. (Maybe become a digital nomad, if you aren’t f
Your job as a freelancer is to make your client’s life easier . If you can provide great work, reliable service, a professional attitude and a smile you’ll never want for clients!
Are you a great freelancer? Please share your tips in the comments below!