One of the realities of freelancing is that projects are not (always) long term. They can be a one off job of say, setting up an autoresponder, installing and configuring WordPress, editing a podcast episode etc. The challenge therefore is twofold, first is how to acquire new clients and second, how to increase repeat business from previous clients.

Why is Repeat Business Important?

Studies have shown that keeping a client or a customer is always cheaper and the easier way compared to acquiring new ones.

Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy, authors of the book Leading on the Edge of Chaos provided some startling facts about retention:

  • Acquiring new customers can cost as much as five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers
  • A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%
  • Customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer

In another findings by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they cited the following reasons why customers leave.

  • 68% leave because they are upset with the treatment they have received (Customer Service)
  • 14% are dissatisfied with the product or service
  • 9% begin doing business with the competition
  • 5% seek alternatives or develop other business relationships
  • 3% move away
  • 1% die

The Obvious Secret to Client Retention

Let me say this straight to the point, there's no secret to retaining your client's service. It's all obvious to anyone. The reasons given above are all CRYSTAL CLEAR to you and me. The question is, what are you doing about it? How are you resolving the diaspora of your clients and making sure you increase repeat business with them?

Here a few things to consider.

Make sure they get a pleasant experience – this is by far the most important of all the things on this list. You may not always be the best person but if you can give the best experience specially in areas of communication, promptness, you are literally putting yourself one step ahead of competition. Think about it this way, even if you are the best designer if you don't know how to treat your client's with respect, concern for their business, or concern for what's the best thing for them, your recall factor will be too low compared with someone who,

  • replies to emails, IM's immediately
  • suggests ideas that are beneficial or advantageous to the client
  • follows up on task and updates on what needs to be done
  • brings a human side to the job and not just all about paycheck
  • completes the tasks in a timely fashion
  • goes the extra mile to ensure client satisfaction

End the project but not the relationship – I have written about this in my previous posts and I'll say it again, end the project but not the relationship. Come to think of it, when was the last time you have actually thought of working with a client after dismissing a project? Not too much, I guess. But that does not necessarily mean your client no longer wants to get in touch with you. Don't just delete them from your contacts lists because you'll never know when new opportunities may arise.

Be visible – If you have not removed them from your contact list, give them a reason not to remove you from their own list. How? An occasional hi or hello will do good than harm, so don't be afraid to drop a shout out or an IM whenever you can. Just make sure you do it in moderation. I'm sure you know when someone starts to become annoying. If you are on Twitter try to add them to a private list so you have a repository of your clients. An occasional retweet or reply on their tweets can help maintain the connection even after you have stopped working together. Be distant but close enough to be reached.

Be proactive – It's good to keep your clients updated on what you've been doing or what you have learned. If you have just attended a workshop or training that you will add to your service, be sure to send out a brief note. And yes, you can ask if they have a job opportunity for you.

Go for a package – If you are WordPress expert consider covering other areas that may be closely related to what you currently offer. You may want to add SEO, or even social media marketing to your package. This will probably require you to have another person working with you or subcontract to another freelancer, but this can be a viable option for you to expand your business and at the same time retain your existing client base.

How are you acquiring new business from your previous clients? Let us know your secrets!

Startling Statistics on Customer Retention & Acquisition
Fastest Way to Lose Customers