How a freelancer can make new clients and retain them

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sahenurHow a freelancer can make new clients and retain them

A big problem with freelancing is that most work is transactional. What I mean by this is that you get a new client, sell them on working with you, do the work, deliver it, and get paid. It’s nice to get referral and repeat consulting projects from happy clients, but there’s no guarantee if that will happen. In the quest for recurring, consistent, and “safe” revenue, most freelancers eventually turn to retainer agreements.
My goal with this guide is to not only convince you why the traditional idea of retainers is flawed but to provide you with a formula you can use to sell your current, future, and past clients on hiring you on an ongoing basis.
The definition of a retainer is, not surprisingly, an agreement where one party (the client) retains the accessibility and use of another party (you, the freelancer) on an ongoing basis. Lawyers often work off retainers — you never know when you’re going to need your attorney, so by paying them monthly they have an ongoing commitment to working with you.
When freelancers setup retainer agreements with their clients, the usual structure has them selling future availability at a discount  for a fixed monthly fee.
Let’s say you complete a project for a client. Savvy clients will understand that you have a lot of knowledge about their business and their project and that there’s a lot of risk in losing you. Additionally, they might need you to tweak things along the way for them.
How do you make sure your clients keep coming back again

1. 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 working for free. However, sometimes you can 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 an ebook book cover and worked 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 read it and write a review. It cost me nothing, and the client was absolutely delighted. (They hired me to design their new website a few weeks later. Win!)

2. 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 while 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 s a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd and forge long-term working relationships.

3. Stay Cool!

Freelancing can be stressful. Client not paying? You have to chase them. Taxes due? That’s 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. At times like this, it’s crucially important to maintain a sense of humor and keep things in perspective—something that will come through in your interactions with your clients. Staying cool under pressure is much more attractive to a client than tearing your hair out.

4. 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! Ever!

5 Love Your Job 

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. 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.
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Writer Sahenur Begum is Spanish and English Language Translation Intern at Modlingua, India  No1. certified translation and Language service providers based in New Delhi.


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