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How Freelancers Can Maintain and Grow their Client Relationships

he mistake a lot of freelancers make when trying to expand their business is to focus on the acquisition of new clients.

But (you’re probably wondering) isn’t that how you increase sales? Sure, it’s one avenue – and an important one – but you can’t do it at the expense of your current clients. Did you know that it can cost 5 to 10 times as much to find a new client as it does to keep an existing one?

Learn your Clients’ Motivations- If I asked you why a client hired you, it’s likely your initial response would be they wanted to redesign their website or they needed a logo for a new product. But why did they really hire you? After all, they could have kept their website as it was, or released the product without a logo. A new trend in business is the application of intrinsic motivation to marketing. Companies use their understanding of a consumer’s intrinsic motivations in order to predict their behavior – a very valuable tool, as you might imagine. Psychologist Steven Reiss started by identifying universal motives that drive all human beings – so why don’t you do the same for your business?

Empower your Clients- When assessing your clients’ motivations for seeking your services, you will find – without fail – that they are seeking solutions to problems. The good part for you is that they believe that you have the expertise to give them an answer that will help their business. So give it to them! Don’t be afraid to educate your clients about the services you offer, particularly if they could be taking advantage of something that will save them time or money in the future.

For example, a client may not fully understand what a content management service is when you suggest it. If it comes at a higher price point, he or she might even reject it outright. After all, they just want a website – not a blog. But you know better. They want to make frequent updates in the future, and by building a site in a CMS, they will be able to implement these changes in a quicker, cheaper manner. In situations like these, it can be tempting to just go along with the client. After all, if the company sticks with an HTML site and doesn’t have the skills in-house to handle updates, that will likely turn into more business for you down the road.

Fire Bad Clients- Since your goal is to grow your client relationships, this advice probably seems counter-intuitive. After all, how is getting rid of a client, even a bad one, going to help with that? The truth is that not all clients are created equal, and by cutting loose those that are sucking away your time, money, and energy, you can focus on developing relationships with the better ones you already have – and finding new clients! There’s a BusinessWeek story about an investment adviser who was so thrilled to land a million-dollar account that her company was willing to comply with her increasingly time-consuming demands. But after assessing the profitability of each client, the adviser realized that this client wasn’t paying many fees because she rarely changed her holdings.

Try to Meet Other People Within the Company- This serves your interests two-fold. First, you have more people talking you up in a positive light at the organization, and that means more potential opportunities for your name to come up when a new project arises. If other employees at the company don’t know about you, how can they recommend you? Second, you have some protection if your contact leaves the company. Don’t think that’s likely? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time an American spends in a job is about 4 years. Losing your contact can be one of the most precarious times for your relationship with a company. Often, the new employee will want to start with a blank slate or bring in their own contacts. Or an even worse case scenario – your old contact leaves, and you no longer know who to contact about new work or how to get paid for recently completed jobs!

Share your Expertise – and Make it Specific- The internet makes it easy for you to provide your knowledge to your clients for free. We’ve all heard the advice about starting a blog, creating social networks, and even offering ebooks, seminars, internet classes, or other valuable items that provide great added value to clients at little cost to you. But do a quick search and see what your competitors are doing. It’s likely that they’ve read the same advice, and you may find that their marketing strategy is similar to your own.

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