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Keeping In Touch

A thought on customer development for freelancers

Remember your first client? When I finally got mine I was overjoyed and ready to go to great lengths for them. Not just because I didn’t want to disappoint them and have my first job be a failure, but because they looked at me and my work and trusted me enough to brand their company. Of course it was a lot less glamorous than all that, I was just out of high school and got paid $200 for a logo, but even today that means a great deal to me.

Every time we get hired it’s an example of trust between the client and ourselves. They trust us to do good work, and we trust them to pay us. We rarely do business with people we don’t trust. Over time this trust can expand beyond the work-for-pay relationship into something a little more meaningful. If that trust continues to grow we get pulled into work because they want us help them achieve some goal for their business. Whether it’s a campaign, rebrand, or just a new set of company t-shirts it’s probably exciting for them, and a larger display of trust on their part.

To me, this part of client work is the big thing we should be going after with every client. Occasionally we take work because we have to eat, but if we can leverage that trust relationship better work can come of it. Those relationships don’t end at the client. You’re far more likely to find work with friends of a client that trusts you than one you’ve just done business with.

This trust relationship can start a lot of different ways, but you need make sure it doesn’t end at the end of a project. When you’re able to help a client with an outside-the-box solution or you’ve done work you’re super proud of, tell the people you’ve worked with before. Keep old clients up to date like you would friends or family (hopefully some of them have even become friends). Just like with friends, if you never talk, trust dwindles.

This obviously can become pretty labor-intensive. So it’s not a bad idea to keep a list of client emails in something like mailchimp to send everybody an email at once. As you grow your business and gain more stories to tell your clients about past work, it’s good to keep a bank of those, too. We do the same thing in real life with new friends: as we get to know them, we tell more of the stories from our past (like crazy times in college, or a life changing trip, etc.) Telling new clients about old work serves the same purpose, it builds a bond in the relationship. This is where you can take the seemingly cold and impersonal tool of a marketing funnel or email automation and use it to build a real bond with a real person who will hopefully trust you enough to work with you on a project.

Keeping that line of communication open can help you maintain business with current clients, or even develop new business through their friends. Don’t send an ‘ask’ with every email, it’s good to just keep up for the sake of keeping up. You probably value your clients, showing them you do can go a very long way.

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