Getting More Work from Your Existing Clients

You get the client. That’s good. You do the work. That’s good, too. The client pays you. Even better.

Now, it’s on to the next gig! That’s bad.

Well, it’s not really bad to move on to another gig. It’s just bad to look at assignments as one-off opportunities.

Most of the freelancers I know don’t make that mistake. They follow up with previous clients. They make calls or send emails, trying to scare up a little more work. They do a decent job of reminding the client to get in touch the next time he or she needs something.

That approach will create return customers and it’s something every freelancer should be doing. In fact, writers should have an organized system to maintain regular contact with past customers.

I don’t think it’s enough. Getting work is wonderful, making it is even better. Writers need to put their creative thinking, experience and skills to work to create new projects.

Your client is in the famed widget industry. She asked you to revamp ten pages of web content. You did a great job. The two of you got along very well and you’re pretty sure she’s going to contact you the next time she needs something.

Then, you happen to read a news article about these shoddy little Sri Lankan widgets that are flooding the marketplace. Apparently, these knock-off widgets don’t perform particularly well, but it’s hard to tell them apart from the world-class Canadian widgets your client sells.

You could hope that she sees a need to address the Sri Lankan widget invasion in a way that necessitates your golden pen. You could even send her a copy of the article along with a note mentioning your availability if she has plans to address the controversy. Alternatively, you could try to create new work.

What would happen if you sent that article along with a note outlining a way she could make a little lemonade from the Sri Lankan lemons? Let’s say you pitched her on the idea of a press release related to her commitment to maintaining only Grade-A Canadian inventory in the face of the weak widget onslaught. What if you mentioned the potential value of an additional page of site content about the matter? Do you think she might be interested in hiring you to ghostwrite consumer-friendly copy on the topic for syndication?

Obviously, we don’t always get lucky enough to see a client forced to fend off an invasion of Sri Lankan widgets. We can’t always turn morning headlines into new work. Sometimes, we might need to think a little harder.

Let’s say you have a system for maintaining regular client contact (again, if you don’t, you need to get your butt in gear). Consider making a point of proposing a new project to each and every client the next time each is due for an email or a call. Instead of sending a “just checking in with you” note, you’ll send them an actual idea that you can implement for them, along with a price tag.

When you’re writing, you’re learning. You know your client’s products, niches and approaches. You’re always working and you’re adding new tools to your writing workshop every day. You’re constantly coming up with clever ideas of some sort. When you add all of that together, you should be able to come up with something that will appeal to your client. Even if you miss the mark ever-so-slightly, there’s a good chance your idea will spur them to think of something they’d like you to do.

I recently worked with someone who uses Craigslist on a regular basis (no, not in some kind of “spam every city with my next golden multi-level-marketing scheme” way). During the larger project, I realized that he wasn’t getting the most out of Craigslist and introduced him to a number of design and copy improvements that have really, really worked well. I created another job for myself while finishing the first one.

I also created several other jobs because of it. I went through my client file and approached six who make (or who could make) use of Craigslist and introduced them to the concept. I explained what we could do and why it would work–without handing them an instruction manual, so to speak–and gave them a price tag for the service.

Here’s what I received in response: Two declined. One said “maybe”. Two said “yes”. One hasn’t answered yet.

I can live with that. Two new chunks of work–all because I “came up” with something new for another client and thought of ways the others could benefit from the strategy.

Marketing isn’t all about finding new clients. It’s about helping your existing and former clients, too. If you take care of them and take the initiative, it shows your genuine commitment to their success and your continued interest in their niche. Plus, you already know them, what they do and what the need! Talk about hot leads!

There’s nothing wrong with finding new clients and new markets for your work. Just don’t forget about the folks you already know and love.


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