Here at GDB we talk a lot about how to convince your design clients to hire you again (and again and again and again). We’ve talked about upselling your next design project and when the right time is to ask for referrals.
But what if you didn’t have to do any convincing? What if your clients called you “their favorite call of the week?”
You might say you’ve died and gone to freelancer heaven. All right here on Earth.
And guess what? This tip has very little to do with your design skills. Yep, you don’t have to be an expert illustrator, web designer, or logo designer.
Learn how to be invaluable to your clients.
You’re probably thinking right now, “Duh. That’s pretty common-sense knowledge.” But you’d be SO surprised how many freelancers lose clients not because of their design skills, but rather because of their client relationship.
Think about it. How many of your clients have complained about a poor experience with their last designer?
“I could never get ahold of them.”
“They always missed deadlines.”
“They were rude to me when I asked them for changes.”
“They hold my information hostage – I don’t have any of the passwords to my website.”
Unless you are so absolutely amazing at your design work that your projects save or earn your clients buckets of money, you’ll find that many clients actually value some aspect of your relationship more than your design skills. (Think about how many below-average designers retain clients.)
Understanding your clients
The hard part is learning what strengthens each client relationship; what makes you invaluable to each client (and it’s probably different for each one).
Pay attention when you communicate with your client. What makes them sigh in relief? When do you get those “thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!” emails?
If you’re struggling to make a strong connection with a client, ask them how you can make their lives easier. Would helping them pitch your work to their boss(es) make it an easier sell? Maybe setting a weekly phone call time would make it easier for you two to connect on a regular basis. Make them feel like you’re a team working toward the same goal.
Next, try finding common ground outside of work. Maybe you both play the same instrument, like the same sci-fi novels, or enjoy hiking. Ask them how their holidays went, how they enjoyed their weekend, or send them well wishes when they’re ill.
If you can determine what makes you invaluable to your clients and provide that service, they’ll be clients forever AND refer you to their friends, without you having to ask. (Although it’s always good to remind them from time to time.)
How to be invaluable
Making yourself invaluable might seem like an insurmountable task, but it’s easier than you think.
Let me share an example:
I fix and update proprietary project management software for one of my clients. While I’m a pretty solid web programmer, I know I’m not the fastest. I’m probably not the least buggy. And I’m not the cheapest, either.
So what makes my client so fiercely loyal? My responsiveness.
We’ve had more than one session where they’ve broken something on their website and we’ve sat on the phone together racing against the end of the workday so they can get people on their job sites the following morning.
And that, to them, is an invaluable service.
Here are some more examples:
- Having a top-notch skill
- Being available for quick turnaround projects
- Providing step-by-step assistance
- Suggesting the latest technology/social media/money-saving ideas that will improve their business
- Developing a relationship with your client (showing you care about more than their business)
- Being inexpensive
- Having extreme patience
- Expressing your honest opinion (even if your client will disagree)
- Maintaining their website
Sometimes, you find that what your clients crave is something you can’t or don’t want to provide. (Like that client who wants to treat you like their punching bag.)
I probably don’t have to tell you that these types of clients aren’t keepers, even if what they consider most invaluable isn’t abusive or absurd. You might just not be a good fit for one another. So finish your project, pass them on to a better fit and find yourself a client with whom you can be invaluable and enjoy it.
How have you created a forever client?
Share your story about how you’ve created a forever client – or one who has referred you other business. How are you invaluable to your client? How did you find out what was most important to them? Leave us a comment!