You may have found that short-term services have their downsides. You’re constantly searching for additional clients. You may have times where you are far under capacity, and other times where you are turning clients away.
If you’re sick of this rollercoaster, you may want to transition to working with long term clients. When I started my freelancing business, I focused exclusively on short-term clients to quickly gain reviews and a reputation, and transitioned those into long-term customers. Here is what I learned from making that transition.
How are you getting your clients? Platforms such as Fiverr are geared toward one-time services. If you’re getting leads through Fiverr or a similar platform, the easiest way you can get more long-term clients is joining a marketplace, such as FreeeUp, where clients are looking for people, not packages.
A platform where you create listings for your services is generally going to attract businesses looking for one-time services, whereas if the platform is focused on your profile and personal reputation, that’s naturally going to attract long-term business relationships.
This doesn’t mean you can’t develop long-term relationships with clients from those other platforms, but it’ll be a slower, more difficult process.
In order to have long-term customers, you need to offer long-term services. Sometimes learning just a few more skills, or even just restructuring your offers, can easily lead to long-term business. Instead of optimizing Amazon listings, manage Amazon PPC. Instead of designing logos, design whole brands, packaging, websites, social media graphics and other bigger projects or continuing work.
You can also restructure your services for long-term clients just by changing your pricing. For example, if you were a writer, instead of just charging $80 for one article, you could charge $240 for an article each week for one month. The bulk discount attracts long-term business. For other types of services, you can also offer flat monthly fees for unlimited service, or charge hourly.
Though many freelancers will warn you against hourly fees, I actually really like the hourly fee model. If you’re charging a client hourly it’s super easy to point out additional needs you can fill or suggest additional services, as the client doesn’t have to go through the effort of creating a new contract. You also eliminate any worries about scope creep so you don’t have to take the time to specify what is and what is not included. The key is to make sure that your hourly rate is high enough. It needs to include not only the cost of your time, but your other operating costs and resources as well. It also typically won’t work if you are going to have others completing parts of the project.
Remember that a great short-term client doesn’t necessarily make a good long term client. With long term clients, you have the chance of getting stuck with a client that makes your life miserable. Take some thought ahead of time as to what you want, and don’t want, in a long-term client. It’s counterintuitive, but you usually do need to vet your clients to make sure you don’t get clients with unrealistic expectations of results or demands on your time. This will save you a lot of time and headache down the road.
Often the reason clients haven’t asked you for long-term work is that they don’t realize they have long-term needs. For example, let’s say a company hired you to optimize an Amazon listing. You may notice that many of their products don’t have reviews. You can suggest they implement a follow-up email sequence to increase the number of reviews. They may not realize that they should be following up with all their negative reviews, and that they’ve been late on following up with customer messages. Don’t be afraid to point out the gaps in their business and offer your help.
Remember, if you do offer your services, you need to be able to give them a price or rate, so make sure you’ve done your homework ahead of time. Also, don’t offer services they don’t need; they’re going to need to trust you and your judgement. No one wants to have a permanent salesperson in their ear. Point out the area in need of improvement, offer your help, and give them the pros and cons of using that additional service.
The most important aspect of working for a business long term is communication. Most business owners are happy as long as you communicate well, set the proper expectations, and consistently deliver what you promise. If you prove that you aren’t going to “ghost” them, or flake when they need something done, you’re already a lot farther ahead than most in earning repeat business.
It may go without saying, but make sure your messages appear friendly. It doesn’t hurt to use smiley faces and the occasional exclamation point. AVOID WRITING IN ALL CAPS as it can come through as yelling. Instead, use bold text for emphasis.
When appropriate, consider doing a little extra for a first-time client. Don’t overextend yourself, but going the extra mile can make the client really appreciate your work and feel inclined to come back for more.
High-level work needs to be done by high-level people. At the same time, low-level work can be done by people with lower-level skills (at lower rates). Often your add-on services may not justify your high rates. In order to be efficient for your clients, consider bringing on freelance assistants who can handle lower-level tasks.
For example, if you’re an Amazon sales expert, consider hiring freelancers to help you by handling responding to reviews and customer messages. This way, you aren’t breaking your client’s budget and they can afford to keep you on as an added part of their permanent business.
Transitioning from short-term to long-term clients can be one of the quickest ways to grow your freelance business. You’ll save time dealing with new clients, have more predictable streams of work, and potentially get a higher number of referrals. You may also find it to be much more rewarding to see the fruits of your labors as you stick around long enough to see the results of your work!
You’re ready to get started! Go through these steps yourself and start working towards building a long term client base. As you do that, you’ll find yourself spending less time finding clients and more time generating revenue!
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