Apart from my day job, I also work as a freelance communications & content strategy consultant. And as you can imagine in this scenario, repeat business holds a lot of value.
Over the past 24 months, I have worked with 44 clients helping them with various aspects of their communications and content initiatives. At times, I bring in my additional skillset as a graphic designer and help out with branding & design projects too.
A few days back, I was reading an article on Medium about how it’s easier to retain clients than create new ones. Though I was pretty sure that I had quite a few such retainers, for the sake of the exact number I decided to ‘count’ it.
Of these 44 clients, 40 have been repeat business. Two of them actually go way back to 2013–14, when they were clients of my then startup.
I actually felt pretty good about myself. Proud in fact.
40 out of 44 amounts to 90.9%. Which is the best percentage I have ever had in anything.
I sat down with a friend of mine to make an unbiased note of what I was doing right. Some of these efforts were more from a thought perspective, while some were based on the actual work I was doing.
1. 30-minute free consultations
After understanding the client’s requirements, I usually offer them a 30-minute free consultation. Here I talk in detail about not just how I can help them, but also what strategies they can put in place to help their business.
This I do after spending quite a bit of time researching their business needs.
I do give out some information/ideas that, in reality, they can choose to implement themselves without having to rely on me. So yeah, theoretically I am being a ‘horrible businessman’.
But though a couple of people have done that, at least 70–80% of them have then come back to me to do it the right way.
2. Detailed reports
I follow up on each consultation with a detailed report of what they lack, and what they need to do better.
A lot of my clients have said that they appreciate this and that it has been the deal sealer.
From my experience, not being scared to give out beneficial information to the client tends to make them trust us more. As freelancers/consultants, we need to come across as trustworthy and not just someone who’s doing it for the money.
Well yes, we are all doing it for the money but that doesn’t mean we need to make it obvious.
Last year I had a client who needed help with building audience personas, identifying the right channels for their audience, and creating a message matrix for them. In my consultation, I gave them quite a lot of details which they then decided to go forth and implement themselves.
Long story short, things didn’t quite work out as they expected and they came back to me a month later to go forward with the project.
3. Under-promise and overdeliver
If you have ever done freelance work, you’d know that it is always better to give a slightly wider timeframe than needed. This helps make up for any unexpected incidents.
While I usually do that, I always try to submit my work well before the deadline. And, if the work actually didn’t take as much time or effort as I had expected, I even bill the client less than quoted (I don’t do this always. Only when I feel that there is a significant difference.)
When possible, I also tend to overdeliver in terms of the work done.
I had a client who needed microcopy for specific pages of their mobile app. Though I completed my work soon enough, I noticed that the microcopy on the other pages wasn’t great (for the record, writing microcopy isn’t a standalone work. It needs to be considered from the very beginning of the design and planning phase).
I rewrote a lot of the copy for the other pages and put forth the suggestions to the client, even though this wasn’t in my work scope and they had no inclination towards changing the existing copy. As it turned out, the client was ecstatic. And though they didn’t pay me more for what I did additionally (I didn’t expect that either), they did bring me quite a lot of repeat business going forward.
4. Provide additional suggestions
I start all my freelance works with the sole aim of helping the client better their business. Which then I silently hope makes them trust me more, and eventually brings in repeat business for me.
So yes, I tend to be selflessly selfish.
Hence, after I am done with the work, if there’s anything further I can contribute, I usually do that.
A recent client needed me to write copy for their website headings and subheadings. While I referred to their demo website, I noticed that their design didn’t meet a lot of the accessibility guidelines.
Hence, after submitting my work, I got into a Zoom call with them and offered some basic suggestions around how to be more mindful of it.
5. Personal wishes
This is not so much a strategy, as it is about being a nice person.
I tend to follow company updates of my previous and existing clients. And congratulate them whenever their company has anything to celebrate.
I have seen that a lot of people actually appreciate this. You are just wishing them well without any ‘ulterior motive’. And that not only makes a bigger impact but always keeps us in the back of their mind.
So go ahead. Pamper and positively spoil your clients!
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Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash