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As we’ve learned in the last year, the UK freelancing and contracting population is experiencing a period of explosive growth. Mumprenuers and Dadpreneurs are mixing freelancing with parenting, oldpreneurs are giving retirement a big slap in the face, and the UK is now home to somewhere in the region of 4.2 million people who classify themselves as self-employed. Combine these skyrocketing numbers with an influx of competition from overseas, easily accessible to potential clients via any number of outsourcing websites, and suddenly you’ve got an extremely competitive market on your hands! Increased competition means Johnny Freelancer and Jane Contractor have to work that much harder to retain their clients and find new ones. There are many tricks you can use to win people over – here I’ve identified just a few that have worked for me or freelancers I know.
This one works well with clients who you’ve enjoyed working for, but there’s no guarantee of repeat business – it’s all about front-of-mindedness. Send them a nice note, saying it was a pleasure to work with them, that you really enjoyed the project, and that they can get in touch any time. That way when the opportunity of more work comes up, they’ll remember your affectionate missive and pick up the phone!
Again, this trick is all about being memorable. Often the last interaction you’ll have with a client is firing off your invoice. Although primarily a utilitarian document destined for a dusty filing cabinet, your invoice can be treated as one last opportunity to slap your client with your creative flair. Bright colours, noteworthy design work or something different altogether.
Nothing says “I like you and I want to work for you again” like unsolicited gifts. These usually come in the form of Christmas presents for your favourite clients – a bottle of bubbly or some little trinket relevant to your field – but you can get just about as creative as you want. A designer friend sends out a KitKat with a compliment slip to any clients who pay before her invoice’s due date. Another acquaintance informs me sending a small Birthday present to their favourite clients has ensured the relationship stays strong (and profitable). Think creatively, because before long everyone will be doing it!
This strategy can be risky as it involves investing time in things that won’t necessarily provide a monetary return – but it boils down to doing a bit of a PR job on yourself. Find some ways to get your name out there – contribute to industry publications, arrange interviews for podcasts, speak at conferences. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche and don’t be shy about publicising your publicity – a hero shot of you speaking at a conference can make your website very persuasive!
It’s a tired old saying, but people hire people. If a client engages you for a project they want the work done well, on budget, and on time – but that doesn’t mean you have to be a workaholic cyborg who sits in silence in the corner. Get to know the people in your client’s company, forge relationships and show yourself to be not only a great, flexible resource, but a genuinely nice person too. This is the greatest advantage local freelancers have over their bargain-basement online counterparts – so use it to best effect. Who knows, you may even make a new friend or two! Photo by Pen Waggener
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