The Way We Work
May 25, 2010 by Guest Blogger

By: Susan Johnston

Most freelancers who’ve been at it for awhile will tell you that the way to overcome the ‘feast or famine’ cycle of freelancing is to build ongoing client relationships. Sure, juggling one-off projects adds variety to your days, but it can also lead to some nasty dry spells, not to mention that it means you’ll constantly be hustling for new projects.

Here’s how to turn a short-term client into a longer-term relationship:

1. Choose clients carefully. Just because a client approaches you about designing a website or writing a press release doesn’t mean you have to accept. Not all clients have long-term potential, just as not all dates are marriage material. If your goal is to land longer-term clients, then look for ones who would potentially have an ongoing need for your services and the budget to support it. Also consider what clients would hold your interest for the long haul.

2. Bring your A-game. If you’re trying to turn a one-time client into a regular, then be sure to show them your very best work. That means not only delivering on time (early, even) and on target, but also offering exceptional customer service. Return phone calls or emails promptly, and maintain a friendly, yet professional demeanor. Above all, make it easy for them to work with you.

building expertise3. Build your expertise. One of the ways to secure a long-term client is to show them you’re knowledgeable about their industry. If you haven’t worked with similar clients, then familiarize yourself with industry jargon by reading trade publications or blogs. Or, if you really want to impress, you might take a class or a webinar to get up to speed on that industry. Your willingness to delve into their world could go a long way towards securing a long-term relationship.

4. Make the case for ongoing work. Say a client hires you to write copy for their new website. Once that’s done, you could suggest other ways to continue the relationship, like adding a blog (which, of course, needs content updated regularly) or creating a monthly newsletter. Obviously, the benefit for you is a regular paycheck, so be sure to emphasize the benefit to the client, whether it’s improved SEO or greater customer engagement.

5. Keep in touch. Even if a client isn’t able to commit to a longer term relationship right away, it’s worth keeping the lines of communication open. You might send them an article that’s relevant to their industry or show them some newer samples you’ve been working on. That way you’ll be top of mind the next time they need a copywriter, web developer, or other freelance professional.

Tell us! How do you land long-term clients? Any tips or tricks you’d like to add? We’d love to know!