Long-term clients who come back to us month after month and year after year are like gold dust. I feel fortunate that I have so many with whom I’m working now four years after I started my freelance writing career. It amazes me sometimes when I hear how some freelancers simply give up working for clients after a while. It beggars belief.
Leaving aside the obvious (they are a bad client) it seems some freelancers don’t want the long-term commitment of a working relationship. You’re here, reading this article so I’m going to assume you want some of this gold dust. Here is how you make it happen.
Whether the client is a start-up with a limited budget or a multinational with a bottomless pit of cash, they need to know the people they pay to do a job is actually going to do it. Hit the mark on quality every time. Complete work to an agreed deadline. If there are problems such as you’re struggling, something came up or illness – (one of the downsides of freelancing), let them know way in advance. They appreciate the honesty and the reliability in your communications. They will still want your content one year from now or three years from now. You know what else? They’ll tell their friends, colleagues and contacts how reliable you are. That’s word of mouth promotion – something you can’t buy.
Add Extra Value
Adding the little touches can go a long way. I’m not saying you should occasionally hand over free work or do anything else that might affect your own business, but they will appreciate you co-operating with them to achieve their business goals. I write blog posts about stock items for one of my clients. When looking at pages to research their merchandise I always make a point to pass on problems with their page – incorrect pricing, typos and formatting errors. It costs you nothing to pass on this information and you’re helping them too.
Never, ever make promises you cannot keep. Sometimes, clients have strict deadlines. It’s tempting to say “yes” to everything and keep one eye on the bank balance. Eventually, you’re going to need to take a break. Sometimes, you get brain frazzle. What then? The best thing to do is take a break and that means not working on the high volume content to which you’ve already committed. Freelancing is about being allowed to say “no”. Honesty is the best policy; even if they grumble that you can’t do it – there is a strong chance they’ll come back another time. They won’t come back if you lie or make promises you can’t keep.
Be Up Front About Cost
Nobody likes a nasty surprise. If a plumber quoted you £100 for a job and then delivered a bill double that, you wouldn’t be happy. If the plumber explained there was another problem to fix and the bill will be closer to £200, you may not be happy but at least they warned you about the issue. This is why it’s always best to go into detail about cost. If they ask for an estimate, explain not only about how much it will cost but also break down your actual cost. I charge per word and I always make that clear.
Take the Criticism as Well as the Praise
You won’t get everything dead on every time. You will make mistakes. I still do. If you’ve not delivered what the client has requested then don’t point the finger of blame unless they have clearly been messing you around. I ended working with a client around 4 months ago because working with them was stressful and not worth the effort. Yet clients have stopped working with me due to mistakes or simply not getting what it is they need. Do your best to correct mistakes.
Treat Them with the Same Respect You Expect in Return
This should go without saying, but treat them with the same level of dignity and respect you would expect in return. No matter the length of the contract, they are not just a client but a partner too. You will be working together on some important content. It’s important that you co-operate. When they see you are on the same page, they will continue to rely on you.