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You can run a successful design business with only a few good recurring clients. It’s the 80/20 rule. 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients. Therefore you must keep as many clients as you can.
For the first few years of my design business, I had less than a dozen clients, and less than a handful of those clients kept me busy on an ongoing basis.
According to Invesp, the probability of existing clients giving you work in the future is 60-70%, while the likelihood of getting work from new clients is 5-20%. So it’s easy to see why client retention is so necessary.
Clients know a talented graphic or web designer when they find one. But it takes more than being an excellent designer to keep them returning. I’ve said this many times on the podcast before. Clients prefer to work with a good designer they like rather than an amazing designer they don’t like.
The best way to keep your clients happy and coming back is to ensure they like you. And you do that by providing excellent service and building relationships with them.
It’s best to do everything possible to ensure your clients feel valued, appreciated, and satisfied with your services. Here are nine tips for doing just that and keeping your clients returning. And you’ll notice repetition as I go through them, as many of these tips play off each other.
Here are nine ways to make clients love working with you again and again.
1) Be Proactive
Make sure your clients understand what they should expect from working with you. Be proactive and set expectations upfront, so there aren’t any surprises down the road.
Being proactive shows your professionalism and positions you as a leader instead of an order-taker. Clients will appreciate this and quickly learn to trust you.
Think about the entire relationship—you’re trying to land a client, not just a design project. And if you can change your mentality and think of them as partners instead of clients, you’ll find the relationship even easier to build.
Don’t fall into the trap of viewing client projects as transactional, one-off projects. Instead, think of them as long-term relationships.
Being proactive may also mean learning about your client and their industry. Do some homework and learn a little about them and their industry before meeting with them. Clients will appreciate your effort and are more likely to trust you with their project.
Don’t forget to keep in touch after the current project ends, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago in episode 303 about following up with dormant clients.
If you do a good job setting expectations at the start, many clients will return to you for future projects.
2) Be Honest
It’s easy to tell clients what they want to hear, but delivering on those promises is much more challenging.
A good designer is honest with clients about their limitations and how they plan to work within those constraints. It’s ok to tell a client you don’t know something. It’s even better to show the client how you’ll overcome those shortcomings.
A good designer should be reliable enough to stick to their commitments. However, If you encounter any issues or setbacks during a project, be honest and let the client know. Clients want to work with someone they can trust and who will be truthful with them. If you are not honest with your clients, they will not return.
So be honest with them from the start. This means being upfront about your prices, services, policies, limitations and timelines. You should also be honest about any problems or concerns your clients may have.
If you are honest with your clients, they will appreciate it and will be more likely to come back to you. After all, honesty is the best policy for running a successful business.
3) Be Timely
If you’re a freelancer, you know how important it is to be timely. Deadlines are critical; you will not get repeat clients if you’re not meeting them. That’s why ensuring you’re always meeting your deadlines is vital.
If you’re consistently meeting your deadlines, then clients will take notice. They’ll see that you’re reliable and that they can count on you to get the job done. This will keep them coming back to you time after time.
So if you want to keep your clients happy (and keep them coming back), ensure you’re always meeting your deadlines. It’s the best way to ensure their satisfaction and ensure that they keep coming back for more of your great work.
4) Be Flexible
You need to be flexible with clients. If you’re unwilling to adapt to their needs, you will lose them as a client. Yes, It’s your business, and you set the ground rules for how clients deal with you. That’s part of being a professional. But it’s not worth holding your ground if it means possibly losing a good client.
For example, if a client insists on using their project management software instead of yours, or the deal is off, you must decide if this is something worth taking a stand on or if you can be flexible to appease the client.
In today’s ever-changing world, designers must adapt to their client’s needs, or they will quickly become outdated.
Clients hire you for your expertise, but they expect input as well. If their contributions fall on deaf ears, they won’t enjoy working with you. And you know the outcome when that happens. After all, you aren’t as experienced in their field as they are. Learn from your clients by talking and listening to them.
Being flexible and adaptable shows that you are a business willing to change and eager to meet your client’s needs. This is key to keeping your clients happy and returning for more.
5) Be Organized
For clients to keep coming back, you must be organized.
It’s easy to lose track of things when you work alone, but if you want to be successful, you must be organized. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized:
- Make a list of everything you need to do so nothing gets overlooked, and tackle one task at a time.
- Invest in a good physical or software planner to keep track of projects, tasks, deadlines, appointments, and other important dates. All your important dates and times should be viewable in one location.
- Keep your work area clean and clutter-free. It will help you focus and be more productive. I often struggle with this, even though a clean desk allows me to work better.
- Take breaks throughout the day to clear your head and relax. This will prevent burnout and help you stay fresh.
- Delegate tasks whenever possible, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
The more organized you are, the more professional you’ll appear to your clients, which will keep them coming back.
6) Be Professional
I’ve already mentioned being professional several times so far. Maybe I should have moved this one closer to the top.
As a business professional, and that’s precisely what you are, you always want to ensure that you put your best foot forward. This means dressing appropriately and acting professionally at all times.
If you are unsure what attire is appropriate, err on the side of caution and choose something more conservative. Remember that first impressions are important, so take the time to present yourself in the best light possible.
In addition to dressing and acting the part, it is also essential that you provide a high level of service to your clients. This means being responsive to their needs, meeting deadlines, and following through on promises. If you consistently provide a positive experience for your clients, they will be more likely to come back to you.
Lastly, be careful with jargon. Using industry words may make you feel more professional, but it could alienate your clients and create misunderstandings that may create a wedge between you. Dropping jargon allows you to communicate clearly and effectively with your clients by putting you on the same page.
7) Be Reliable
Clients will come back again and again because they trust you. They know you won’t let them down. And they know you’ll deliver quality work on time.
If you want your clients to keep coming back, they must know they can count on you. Whether it’s showing up on time for appointments or completing the work you promised, being reliable is key to maintaining a good relationship with your clients. When your clients trust that you will do what you say, they are more likely to continue working with you.
8) Be Trustworthy
One of the most important traits you can possess as a business owner is a trustworthiness. If your clients don’t trust you, they won’t come back. It’s as simple as that.
Here are a few ways to make sure you stay trustworthy in their eyes:
- Always be upfront about costs and fees. Don’t try to hide anything from your clients – they’ll appreciate your honesty, which will build trust between you.
- Follow through on your promises. If you tell your client you’re going to do something, make sure you do it! This will show them that they can rely on you and trust what you say.
- Be transparent in your dealings. This means being honest about the quality of your products or services and providing accurate information about pricing and availability. Additionally, you should be clear about any deadlines or expectations for your clients. Being transparent in your dealings with clients will build trust and goodwill that will keep them returning.
9) Be Responsive
When it comes to keeping clients, responsiveness is critical. If you want returning clients, you must be responsive to their needs. This means being available when they need you, within reason, of course, and being able to address their concerns promptly.
You need to adapt to changing circumstances and respond quickly to new ideas. You should be willing to adjust your habits and designs as required.
Please take advantage of your client’s feedback and learn from their opinions. This will help you hone in on the areas that matter to them.
Being responsive shows your clients that you value their business and are invested in their success. It builds trust and rapport, which are essential for any lasting business relationship. So if you want to keep your clients coming back, ensure you are always responsive to their needs. It might take some extra effort, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Turning new clients into recurring clients shouldn’t be complicated.
Keeping clients coming back, again and again doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, clients, don’t want to look for another designer. It’s as much trouble for them as finding new clients is for you. They’re hoping you’re “the one” they can stick with for the long haul. So it’s up to you to become that person.
By following these nine simple tips, you’ll create long-lasting relationships that will benefit you and your clients by providing them with excellent customer service, going the extra mile, and making them feel special. And you can ensure that your clients will be happy, satisfied, and loyal to you and your design business for years to come.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at email@example.com