We’ve already talked about how to make your clients love you, but how do you find the long-term customers that you love back? As a freelancer or independent contractor, you’ll reach a point in your career where you’re less worried about finding work, and more concerned about finding the right work.
Even if that sounds like a distant fantasy, it’s important to have a sense of who your ideal client is and what your perfect contract agreement might look like. These two pieces of criteria can give you more stability in your business and make your day-to-day life as a freelancer much more enjoyable. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
Let’s look at ways to find ideal clients and keep them around for the long run.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
When you’re just starting out or behind on your revenue goals, it can be hard to turn down potential clients who are offering you work. However, with every potential client you come across, it’s important to ask yourself, is this a good fit for me and my business?
If the client’s product or service lacks your integrity, or if you have no interest in what they do, it’s probably not a good fit. If the client’s core values are wildly different from your own, it’s probably not a good fit. And if the client shows red flags from the beginning—questions your expertise, is difficult to communicate with, doesn’t respect your time—it’s probably not a good fit.
Come up with a checklist you can use to evaluate each potential client on whether or not they’d be a valuable relationship for you to pursue. Vetting your clients from the start will save you time, money, and stress down the road.
Remember that clients are people, too.
One of the biggest mistakes budding freelancers make is that they don’t treat their clients and prospects as people. It happens—some freelancers get caught up in the pressure of signing deals so they can pay their bills on time, and they forget about the client relationship.
Always enter into agreements with clients as a mutual partnership. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their shoes and they’ll give you the appreciation you deserve.
Edge your way into the right networks.
If you’re a freelance designer who focuses on marketing collateral for non-profit agencies, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense for you to attend a networking event around the latest in tech startups. To get your ideal clients to come to you (without you chasing after them first), you have to place yourself in their environment—virtually, for sure, and physically, if possible.
On social media, start discussing the topics most interesting to your ideal clients. Join LinkedIn groups, find the online forums, and start blogging.
On top of that, you can join professional organizations and start attending events where you’re most likely to cross paths with potential clients. Organic encounters are always more memorable (and usually more meaningful) than reaching out through a cold call or contact form.
It’s always better to over communicate.
Communication is key in all relationships, but especially in those that involve work-related deliverables. Keep the lines of communication between you and your clients open, honest, and frequent. This will show your clients you care about them and value the relationship.
If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you’re debating whether or not to discuss something with your client, always air on the side of over communicating rather than under communicating. Sure, there’s a fine line between communication that’s effective and communication that bogs a client down with unnecessary details, but more often than not, your client is going to appreciate your proactive approach to keeping them informed and updated on your progress throughout your agreement.
A client relationship can bloom in many ways. Check out the story we shared about tugboat & the bird, a down-right lovable client. This local children’s apparel store is growing because the owner is spending more time with the people who matter—her customers! Read More