Building Long-Term Client Relationships – Part 2: Getting Started

If you want to build a long-term relationship with a client, you need to start off correctly.

The best way to get long-term clients is by referrals from existing clients. People who know – and like – your work are the most effective at referring other people who are apt to also like your work. Your current clients also know your personality and probably won’t refer people who aren’t a good fit.

However, if you aren’t getting enough work from current clients and referrals, you may have to do some marketing to find new clients. Although I don’t recommend that you commit to a long-term relationship immediately, I do suggest that you think about whether each prospective client might turn into a long-term business relationship.

As Stephen R. Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

Begin with the end in mind.

Not every client will develop into a long-term client, but if you don’t begin as if they will, you can begin in a way that doesn’t produce the end (a long-term relationship) you’d like.

For example, if you are bidding on a freelance site, you might think twice about submitting an extremely low bid to “get your foot in the door.” Chances are, if the client selects you on the basis of price rather than other factors, price will continue to be his most important criteria. Seldom can you start off with a low price and expect to earn substantially higher rates from that client on future jobs.

However, in a seeming contradiction to what I’ve just said, I give free samples to prospective editing clients. The sample is small – about five pages of a book-length manuscript. However, it serves two important purposes: 1) it gives me an idea of both how much work will be required and how the client will be to work with, and 2) it gives the potential client an idea of how I work and what suggestions I will make to the manuscript.

The small amount of time spent doing the sample edit is an investment in determining whether the client is a good match for my services. Some self-publishing clients are serious about publishing and want to take the right steps to make their book a success. Unfortunately, there is a large number of writers who decide to self-publish because they want to do it their way, which means not taking advice from anyone. They think they want an editor, but when the editor makes suggestions for major changes – sometimes even for minor changes – they want their beautiful prose to stay just as they wrote it. Although I don’t expect my clients to take every suggestion, I expect them to be willing to consider the recommendations I make and discuss any differences of opinion. If they aren’t open to making changes, they’re not a good client for me. That free edit has screened out a lot of people I wouldn’t want a short-term, much less a long-term, relationship with.

A free sample isn’t necessary for writing jobs because you can show the clients clips of other work you have done. They can see that you are a competent writer without having to see what you would write for their project. But since each editing job is very different, I think it’s a good idea to make sure you and the client have the same expectations.

Next, we’ll talk about my business model, and I how I create long-term client relationships.

[tags]long-term client relationships, freelancing[/tags]

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