How to maintain positive relationships with past clients
As a freelancer, you know there will come a day when work with your client will wrap up. Perhaps you were working on a short-term job, or their needs simply changed, or maybe your availability changed and you no longer had the bandwidth to work with them. Whatever the reason, when a job wraps up, there’s one important tip to keep in mind: don’t let that be the end of your relationship.
My inspiration for this post comes from a recent chat I had with my friend (and Peep on CloudPeeps) Lisa Crocco. She casually shared the good news that she had been keeping in touch with a former client and that by regularly touching base, they built up a relationship. This means that the client turned to Lisa when she realized she may have a new opportunity for them to work together again.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that many freelancers may not inherently see the value of maintaining relationships with past clients. Before diving into how to maintain these relationships in an impactful way, let’s explore a few key reasons why it’s important to do so:
- To ask for reviews and references on the job you worked on (be sure to post them on your website and social profiles to build your online reputation)
- To use as references for future clients to contact if they request them
- For word of mouth referrals – yep, clients tell their friends who they worked with, and shouldn’t they have great things to say about you?
- For repeat opportunities to work together in the future
You get the picture. Build relationships with clients, create the potential for future work – it’s not so complicated. Here’s the tricky part: how do you build up these relationships without sounding like you’re clamoring for more work?
The short answer is to always be genuine. The value of building your professional brand and reputation directly correlates with the impression you leave on clients you’ve worked with. That should be enough for you to want to keep in touch, and do so in a genuine, heartfelt way. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1) Send a thank you note after work ends
If you think that thank you notes are old school then you’re absolutely right. But let’s be honest, receiving an old school piece of mail that someone took the time to write and send means something. It shows your appreciation for their business.
That said, you don’t have to get all fancy with stationary and stamps – a simple, heartfelt email will do. Let your client know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and wish them the best. This is a great time to ask if they’d be willing to write you a reference if they’ve enjoyed working with you as well.
While it may seem simple, this opens the door for keeping up future communications, and then it won’t come as a surprise when you reach out in the future to say hello.
2) Ask for referrals
After sending out your lovely thank you note, chances are you’ll get that gold star reference from your client that you can use to share with future clients. Here’s your next opportunity – directly ask for referrals. Word of mouth marketing is absolute gold. According to a study by Nielsen, 92% of people follow recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. The more you build out your own reputation, the more work will naturally come your way.
When you do get that stellar reference in from your past client, thank them again for sending it. Then, politely ask them to keep you in mind if they have friends in need of the types of services you offer.
It’s important to stay genuine when making these asks, but the reality is you’re running your business, and you need to position yourself in ways to keep the flow of clients coming through the door. Don’t be ashamed to ask for referrals, take charge of your professional life and let people know when you’re looking for new opportunities.
3) Reach out regularly
You don’t want to be that annoying person who dominates someone’s inbox (you know that person, you’ve probably had one in your life too). But you should keep in regular contact. Check out these tips from Lisa:
“My rule of thumb is to send an email to my old clients every 2-3 months. I try directing the message to just wanting to check in with them, see how their life and work is and any other small talk. I’ll also try to mention something regarding their company or industry. So if I’ve come across an interesting article relevant to their business, I’ll send that along or maybe I’ll shoot over a quick note to say how much I like their new website redesign.”
“For me, it’s about building a lasting relationship. I want to build security and trust so if they do need my help with projects again in the future I’m fresh in their mind. They will automatically think to come to me instead of me always popping up in their inbox begging for work.”
4) Make introductions
If you find your client work is going out of scope take this opportunity to refer them on to a fellow freelancer. I’ve seen many on CloudPeeps where Peeps tag team client work. This allows you to maintain your relationship with your client while bringing in extra reinforcements to get the job done.
What’s more, making introductions encourages your friends and fellow freelancers to send clients your way when they need help. There’s that word of mouth referral coming full circle!
5) Build bridges, don’t burn them
Ending client work on a positive note bodes well for your own success as a freelancer. If you build up a reputation of being someone clients can trust and rely on, they’ll think of you first when they have new projects. They’ll also be more likely to spread the good word about the awesome work you do.
At CloudPeeps, we believe in the power of reviews and references to fuel your freelance career. That’s why at the end of every job both Peeps and clients are reminded to leave reviews for one another. This builds up reputation on both sides and allows Peeps to easily collect reviews on their profiles to showcase the work they do. Sign into your CloudPeeps account (or create a profile) to request referrals from your past clients.
If you have a story about how you kept in touch with a former client – and how that benefitted you in the long run – please share it in the comments below. Another huge thanks to Lisa for inspiring this post, and for sharing her tips for how to build and maintain positive relationships with clients.
*Photo above is from Crew.*
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