The biggest challenge that most freelance web designers face is the constant need to find new projects. Having enough work from paying clients on a consistent basis is of course necessary in order to earn a living as a freelancer, but many designers struggle in this area.
One of the most effective ways to work towards a more consistent income with less of a need for relying on new projects is to focus on providing on-going services to your clients. Instead of designing a website for a client and parting ways, if you are able to offer on-going services that will provide some value to those clients, you can continue to work with them and reduce your reliance on new projects and new clients.
If you provide services for even a small number of clients for just a few hours each week it can easily result in a small but stable income stream, more time working for those clients, and less time searching for new work. For example, having 5 on-going clients to whom you provide 2 hours of work each week would total 10 hours of work per week, or 25% of a 40 hour work week. It may not seem like much individually, but having that 10 hours of work each week in addition to new client projects can make a big difference for many freelance designers.
The purpose of this article is to look at some ways to retain more of your clients for on-going services. If you’re looking for more stability in your income as a freelance designer it is highly recommended that you take a look at your process and see what you can do to convert more of your one-time clients into long-term clients. Here are a few keys.
1. Be Pleasant to Work With
People typically choose to do business with those that they like. As you’re designing a website for a client, if you’re able to produce a quality of work that they are happy with and if they enjoy working and communicating with you, you’ll have a much better chance of securing on-going work.
I hear from people all the time who do not enjoy working with their designer and are looking to make a move to someone else. While this is not always the designer’s fault, if you can focus on providing a high level of customer service and being easy to work with, you’ll have more clients who are interested in establishing an on-going relationship.
If you have just finished a website for a client and you are presenting a proposal for your on-going services, the client will be thinking about whether or not they would like to work with you going forward.
2. Prioritize On-Going Work
A key to building up more on-going work is to place more emphasis on it. Typically, designers focus on finding new clients and working on those projects to get the client’s website completed without giving much thought to what they could offer on an on-going basis. Take the time to fine tune the services that you offer, and consider developing a package that you could offer to clients to help them going forward. Some designers do this by charging a set amount per month for a certain number of hours of work each month. Other designers charge an hourly rate and provide the services whenever needed by the client.
If you choose to go the route of offering a package to your clients you will want to define exactly what is included and what is not, in effort to prevent issues in the future. Here are just a few examples of what you could offer to provide:
- Help with updating content
- Design services for things like newsletters and flyers
- CMS upgrades and maintenance
- Plugin installation
- Social Media Marketing
- SEO monitoring
- Landing page design
Many of your clients could benefit from having someone to help in these areas on an on-going basis. If you take the time to develop your services in these areas and present it to clients in a way that shows the value to them, you should be able to retain more of those clients beyond the initial website design work.
3. Offer a Variety of Services
One of the keys to retaining clients for on-going work is being able to help them with a number of different services. Many small companies don’t have anyone in-house to handle the types of services that you can provide, and if they can get a number of different services from you rather than going to several different people, it will be easier and more cost effective for them.
While it may not be worth it for a client to retain you on an on-going basis just for tweaks to their website’s design, it may be much more valuable to them if you can do other things as well, like monitor their server’s up time, manage their Facebook or Twitter page, provide analytics reports to track their campaigns, etc.
4. Focus on Results
If your clients are to continue to pay your for your services month in and month out, they will need to be getting some results. Focus your efforts on things that will have a direct impact on their ability to get more out of their website. For example, set up some custom reports or e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics that will provide data that can be used to make improvements to the site, and increase revenue.
Another example, use a service like Raven (which can be private labeled) to set up reports that track search engine rankings and analyze competitors. This data can be used to generate more targeted traffic and increase revenue, and the reports can be presented to the client so they can see the results.
Still another example, set up and manage a pay-per-click campaign to increase sales, signups, or whatever is the goal of the client’s website.
These are just a few examples of how you can focus on results and increase the bottom line for your clients. If you’re able to directly improve their business through your work, chances are they will continue to work with you.
5. Provide Solutions
Working with clients on an on-going basis is likely to mean that you will be doing a lot of different things in order to help them. We’ve looked at a lot of the possibilities so far, but that is really just the beginning. Each client’s situation will be different, so evaluate what it is that you can offer that would provide solutions to some of the challenges that they face with their website and doing business online.
If you have designed a great-looking website for your client but it doesn’t attract much targeted traffic, provide a solution that includes search engine optimization services or setup and promote a Facebook fan page.
If the client’s website is generating a lot of traffic but has little to show for it, provide a solution that includes setting up an opt-in email list. Help them to set up a newsletter, design and code a custom newsletter template, and develop a plan to maximize sign ups.
You’ll simply want to take a look at their website and their business and how it could be improved to produce better results. Think about the skills that you have and how you could put them to use to provide solutions to the challenges that they face. Communicate your proposed solutions to the client, and if they see the value in it you may have another on-going client.
What’s Your Experience?
How do you go about developing business from on-going clients? If you have tips or thoughts that you would like to share please leave a comment.
For more on business and freelancing please see:
- Making a Positive First Impression with Clients
- Facts About Marketing for Freelance Designers
- Keys to Effective Web Design Proposals
- How to Successfully Localize Your Design Business
- 21 Productive Things Designers Can Do with Down Time