Nurture Relationships for the Best Client Referrals

This post was originally for my column, “Freelance by Lauren,” on the now defunct DIY Writing: A Writer’s Bucket List.

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Client/freelancer relationships, like most relationships, are complicated. They’re never as cut-and-dry as our contracts make them out to be, because they’re more than just a signed piece of paper. They’re organic, and they change constantly.

The bad relationships are always the ones that stand out, but you’ve probably had several client/freelancer relationships that went quite well! They treated you with respect, they paid you on time, and you didn’t hate working for them.

So…what are they doing now? Are you stuck wondering what could have been with these dream clients?

Keeping in touch with former clients is one of the best ways to get new freelance clients. And, who knows, you might just scrounge up some repeat business from an old favorite while you’re at it!

Don’t Fall into Obscurity

When you work as a freelance writer online, it’s hard to remain consistently relevant. You have to stay on top of your game to keep up with your clients.

The trick is to stay in their line of vision without being needy or obnoxious. Keep up without being creepy about it with these tricks:

Subscribe to Their Newsletter

Give your client’s newsletter a glance every once in a while to see what’s new in their business life. If something catches your eye, send a reply. For instance, share your opinions when they solicit them from their audience, or send well-wishes if they mention they haven’t been feeling well.

Add Their Name to Email Alerts

If you already use Google Alerts or Talkwalker to keep track of topics that interest you, add your favorite former clients’ names or businesses to your alerts! If they pop up in the news for something fabulous, use it an excuse to send your congratulations. Or, if it looks like their business is struggling or growing, offer your helping hand!

Leave Comments at Their Blog

If they’re posting on a topic you’re knowledgeable about – or genuinely interested in – leave some insightful input. Don’t be the blog commenter that comments on every post. And especially don’t be the commenter that only says “This was great.” But, if you have something real to say: Say it!

Get Social

Much like commenting on blog posts, you can also reply to status updates made by your client on their social media outlets. Again, don’t be creepy about it, but if they say something that interests you then don’t hesitate to interact.

Share Their Stuff

If your client has created something that would be of interest to your own audience – whether it’s noise-cancelling headphones designed especially for working women or an informative article on business techniques – share it! Think about how great you feel when someone shares your work. Now imagine your client getting that same feeling because you shared their work. Talk about a great way to rekindle their old fond feelings for you, eh?

Offer Them a Testimonial

If they were a great person to work with, or if they’ve created a product that you truly believe in (and use yourself, preferably), then let the world know! Again, they’ll appreciate your support and it opens the door for them to leave you a testimonial in return – which will force them to think about what they liked about you.

Send Them a Card

If you’re the type of person who sends out cards during the holiday season, why not include your clients? You don’t have to include your annual Christmas letter, but sending out something cheery with your signature on it can go a long way toward being remembered.

E-mail: The Granddaddy of Them All

When it comes down to it, e-mailing your former clients is generally the best way to get back in touch with them. It’s the way that I, personally, have had the best luck with and I’m sure my fellow freelancers will agree with me.

Here are a few tips for emailing clients:

Don’t Pester Them for Work

You’re looking to reconnect, not smother them in your stink of desperation. Instead try saying something like, “Hi! I hadn’t written to you in a few months, so I thought I’d check in and see how you’re doing. Your new website looks great! I really like the call-to-action buttons you added.” See what I mean? You’re not begging for another job, but you’re letting them know you’ve been paying attention and still care about them as a client and a fellow business owner.

Do Ask if They Know Anyone Who Needs Your Services

While you don’t want to come right out and ask them for work (no one likes a desperate freelancer!), you can subtly slip in a “PS” asking if they know anyone who’s in the market for a freelance writer. Try saying something like, “PS: By the way, I’m looking to add a new client to my roster sometime in the next month or so. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a freelance writer to perform services similar to the ones I did for you, would you mind passing my name along?” Notice that you’re not only asking them for a casual client referral, but you’re also reminding them that they were once your client – and that you did great work for them. Tricky!

Don’t Flood Their Inbox

Don’t be the needy ex who sends e-mails every other week to “check in.” That’s weird. No one likes that – in any type of relationship!

Do Keep in Touch Regularly

I try to check in with my former clients via e-mail every 4-6 months (2-3 times per year). You can do the other things I listed above – little comments here and there – but when it comes down to a personalized e-mail, less is more. Just don’t wait so long that they’ve forgotten who you are entirely!

The best client referrals are the ones who come from people who know exactly what you’re capable of – and what you’re looking for in return.
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Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. With a little help from Robert the Cat, she's written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

Posted in Freelance by Lauren

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