As a professional freelancer, you know you’ve got to find work, do the work, and then get paid for that work. After that, what’s the next step? Are you off to the next project? Or, have you ever checked back with them to see the results of the work you did?
Unfortunately, not a lot of freelancers take this very important last step. And, that’s why most freelancers are stuck being a supplier rather than a strategic partner to their clients. It’s also one of the reasons why almost every freelancing coach emphasizes getting new work from existing clients instead of always looking for work from new clients.
It’s easier to land repeat projects with clients you know than to constantly create new relationships with new clients all the time.
If you’re not already in the habit of following up on completed projects and pitching new ideas to your existing clients, the good news is it’s an easy habit to get into. Just follow this simple three-step process to get more work from your existing clients and you’ll save yourself the headache of qualifying new prospects all the time.
#1: Set a goal for your existing clients
Before starting on any project, set a goal with your client. Ask them these two questions:
- What will success look like for this project?
- What are they hoping to accomplish with the project?
#2: Ask for feedback on project delivery
Yes, asking for feedback from a client can be scary, especially if you haven’t done it before. But it works. You want to know how you’re doing, since it’ll help you improve your writing, your project management, your administration… all of it. Remember, feedback is good.
Bonus tip: Use the positive feedback you receive as testimonials on your website.
#3: Check in at regular intervals
This is where most freelancers fall down; they forget to follow up with past clients on a regular basis.
You can use two types of follow-up to keep work flowing your way. First, follow up within a week or two of project delivery. Find out if your work is performing as expected. If it’s doing well, get a testimonial and pitch a related project on the spot. If it’s not doing well, offer to make some tweaks for free to see if you can improve the results.
Knowing how your work performs is a powerful thing. And, asking about it can lead to additional projects for you. For example, I checked in with a client I had done some website rewrites for, and saw they weren’t using all of my work. I sent them a quick email to see how they were doing and to ask about this. Turns out they had a slight change in focus for their products, so what I’d written didn’t quite match anymore. But, since I’d checked in with them, it reminded them to review and revise those portions of the site they wanted to work on, and they asked me to do it for them. Win-win!
Beyond specific project follow-up, make it a point to check in with your clients regularly. It doesn’t have to be a monthly thing; doing it quarterly works well, too. This type of check-in serves a dual purpose:
You’ll continue the relationship with them. By checking in periodically, you’re extending and deepening the relationship you have with your client. It reminds them you care about their success and gives you an opportunity to hear about what’s new with them.
You’ll remind them of the good work you did for them in the past and how they’d like to work with you again. I can’t count how many times someone has responded with a “I was just thinking about you!” kind of email in these situations. By reaching out to your clients regularly, you’re the first person they think of when they’re finally ready to start that project on their To Do list.
How to check in the right way
There is a right way and a wrong way to check in with a client. Just asking if they have anything coming up puts you back in the supplier category for them. But, if you ask them the right questions, you put yourself into the strategic partner category. Instead, ask these questions the next time you follow up:
- On a scale of 1-10, how has this project performed over the past year? (or, whatever time frame it’s been since you last worked together.)
- If it’s not a 10, ask, “What would make it a 10?”
- What are the three biggest challenges standing between you and your latest goal?
- How are you planning to overcome these challenges?
Here’s a template you can use when checking in with your clients either via phone or email. I’m partial to email, since that lets them read my message at their convenience, but do whichever works for you.
I wanted to check in with you regarding [project you worked on together]. It’s been about [time frame: a few weeks, a month, a few months, a year], and I’d love to schedule a few minutes of your time to discuss your results. Perhaps we can also brainstorm ways to enhance or build on what you’re doing right now, too.
This is a free consultation, and there’s no preparation needed. I just want to make sure your project is performing well and you’re getting the maximum benefit from the work we did together.
When would be a good time?
What the check-in does
The first thing this kind of check-in does is turn the conversation back to your client and away from yourself. This is where most freelancers go wrong, because they want to talk about how their schedule’s free at the moment, or what they’ve been working on with other clients. Instead, by talking about the client and their needs, they feel like you’re invested in their success and want to help them achieve their goals.
You may uncover some problems they have with the project you worked on that have nothing to do with you. Things like…
- Poor awareness and/or understanding of the project
- Inconsistent application of the project (such as not following brand guidelines or other style guidelines)
- Lack of use of the project (like the client I mentioned earlier, who didn’t use all of the website rewrites I’d done for them)
In this conversation, it’s important you offer your best advice to your client, even if it’s not going to bring you immediate business. Brainstorm with them on how to address their issues, and even if they go another route for the project (like hiring another web writer), they’ll remember your interest in their success. If they feel like you care about them and their success, the chances they’ll come back to you for their next project go way up.
Start generating more business from existing clients
By learning how to flip your web-writing business from supplier to strategic partner, you’ll find yourself earning more from your existing clients and reducing the amount of new business you need to chase after. These three steps will help you with that transformation, putting you ahead of your competition, and ultimately helping your clients’ businesses grow.
Now it’s your turn! Do you have a standard check-in script you use with your existing clients right now? How is it working for you? Let us know in the comments.