Do you consistently follow-up with your clients? If NOT, you are losing a LOT of business!
Once you finish a project with a client you NEED to check in and follow-up with them SEVERAL TIMES.
The first time is within a week of the projects completion. And then, depending on how big the project was, you should follow-up two to three weeks later. AND while it might not strictly be a follow-up, you should maintain PERSONAL contact every two to three months from then on.
You’ve got to follow-up for SIX reasons.
1. You need to make sure your client is happy. Find out if they need any changes..
2. Assuming they are happy, this is the absolute BEST time to ask for a testimonial or review.
3. You could find additional work opportunities in this phone call. Just the question “do you need any more help,” could get you another job. NO need to be pushy or to “sell,” just make it part of the conversation.
4. If the client is NOT happy, this is your opportunity to fix things for them. The fact that you are willing to go beyond what most freelances do, could get you a loyal customer for life!
5. Following up, puts you upper most in your client’s mind. They may not need more work done, but one of their friends just mentioned they needed to re-write their website so they give you a referral.
6. Following up creates clients that stick with you for years. Your work flow becomes steadier — you get off the feast or famine cycle. Though new clients are always welcome, you don’t NEED them to survive!
The reality is that following up with clients is actually an easy way to get more work. And the more you work with a client the easier it gets.
So Why Do Freelancers Fail To Follow-up?
Because they are AFRAID!
They are afraid that if they ask … the client will tell them that they aren’t HAPPY with the work that was done. They are afraid that the project “didn’t work,” that there are “problems.”
I KNOW that you are afraid, because I’ve been there. When I first started freelancing, I intellectually understood that I SHOULD follow-up but I would procrastinate, and then procrastinate some more. I would procrastinate until the embarrassment of not following up compelled me to take action.
When I started freelancing … there was no such thing as the Internet and email didn’t exist. Following up meant a PHONE CALL. I was very shy and making these calls was sheer torture. BUT following up and keeping a client was a LOT easier than having to go out and find new clients.
So I just did it.
For lovers of historic fiction … I girded my loins and just got down to it. If you don’t know what exactly “girded my loins” means, it probably is NOT what you think!
I found out that it was NEVER as bad as I thought it would be. I did the work right in the first place and by the time the project was “finished,” my clients were happy. In my follow-ups I almost never had clients that said anything negative. Sometimes they had concerns or questions … this usually entailed a short explanation of why I did something a certain way or how the work needed to be utilized.
So all the FEAR and all the ANGST was for nothing.
The fact that I followed up often led to more work. It almost always led to long term client relationships.
Get on the phone or meet your client in person!
While I advocate getting on the phone or following up in person, IF you are really challenged, then OK, create a friendly email message. DO NOT under any circumstances text! I know that personal contact is NOT cost effective if you are doing small jobs. So adjust your follow-up plan according to the scope of the project.
Create an email list SPECIFICALLY for existing clients. This should have different information than you would send to your general list (the people who visit your website and sign up. The people you don’t know).
Your client email list could give your readers tidbits of useful information, for example a great WordPress plugin you are testing. Let them know what you are up to. I always had a “What Is Melanie UP TO?“ section in my emails. I would sometimes highlight a client (if appropriate and with their permission) or talk about a project (with no client name attached). Many of my clients knew each other, because they had referred me.
I remember one email I sent out very distinctly … I talked about a ghost writing project I was working on — a book. Within a day I got three phone calls, set up two meetings and ended up with another project (NOT a book).
Here’s Two Examples Of HOW Follow-ups Work:
Let’s say you just finished writing 10 pages of content for a client’s website.
It took you three weeks, because you had to go back and forth with the client, tweaking your drafts. The client approved your work and has paid you.
One week later it is time to follow-up. You’ve noticed the content you wrote is not yet published on the site. This is the perfect entry into a conversation. You ask two things … Do the articles need any further editing, and does the client need help uploading the article to the site? (presuming you have the skill set to do this).
Uploading to their website is a new job, and could lead to more website work in the future.
Your follow-up could create MORE work for you and solve a big headache for your client.
IF the client is happy, doesn’t need any changes and doesn’t need additional help … NOW is the time to ask for a testimonial or a review or a referral.
Next is the two to three week follow-up.
“Just following up to see if there is anything else you need.” You might have have a tidbit of helpful information for them, or a suggestion. While you were working with the client, she may have mentioned something she is planning for the future … this might be a good time to ask about that. Create a conversation. Don’t go for a hard sale. If you’ve done good work, you never have to “SELL,” new projects will evolve!
Then you add them to your Client’s ONLY email list. They get nuggets of information from you, once every month.
And three months later you call again. You continue the cycle for as long as you are In business.
Some of your clients will become friends. GOOD friends! They may continue to be friends even if they are no longer clients!
Here’s The Second Example:
You have been working on a website development project for six months. For the most part, the project went smoothly until the client decided to add on a whole new element. This is called scope creep or kitchen sink syndrome and is a problem in many project based industries. For example your kitchen renovation project ended up costing twice the price because you kept on wanting upgrades!
YOU felt nervous for a bit because you had to ask for a bigger budget and more time. BUT the client was well aware of scope creep and initialed the extra charges and time line extension.
The website is now live and looks great. The client has signed off and has sent you your last payment installment.
Your first follow-up phone call started off easy and then the client did rember a few “problems.” You fixed them very easily and sent the client a really great email reminding him that HE was a referral and that you would be thrilled anytime HE referred business to you..
In your next follow-up, three weeks later you suggested a nifty plugin you found that would work really well on the clients website. You offer to install it for FREE (because, the plugin is free and it would only take minutes for your assistant to install.) The client had spent a LOT of money on the website and this freebie is a nice touch.
You add your client to your CLIENT’S ONLY email list and stay in contact with him once a month.
Three months later you phone to see how the new website is doing. Is it bringing in business? Are YOUR clients happy with it. Have you updated to the latest version of WordPress? Have you updated all your plug-ins? This follow-up lands you a contract for monthly updates. Not a huge money maker but it makes you the “go-to” web gal for years? Forever? IF any larger projects need doing … YOU are right there at the top of the list!
In a nutshell.
You simply MUST follow-up with all your clients! You can’t afford NOT to.
- It helps create happy and loyal customers who give you testimonials or reviews, and who make referrals.
- You will have a steady source of business (existing customers, and referrals) … not more HAVING to chase after new clients.
- Your business will even out and become more manageable — no more feast or famine.
- Existing clients are easier to work with … and can even become good friends!
If you haven’t been following up, and need to catch up … here’s one tactic you can use.
Call your client up and remind them about the project you worked on. Apologize, saying something like .. “I am so sorry it took so long for me to follow-up with you. Time simply got away from me and I din’t realize HOW long ago we had actually last talked. Is there ….”
Make sure you create a CLIENT ONLY email list and send something every month. This will take some of the pressure off of you and remind your clients that you are still in business.
What the heck does “gird your loins” mean?
In biblical time and during the crusades it meant to TIGHTEN one’s belt. It also meant … prepare and strengthen oneself for what is to come.
Soooooo I’m curious? If you didn’t already know, what DID you think it meant? Were you thinking something naughty? Confessions and lots of laughs are allowed.
Jewel Hart says
Wow! Excellent advise Melanie. I have been afraid to follow up too. After reading your article, I feel like I can break through the fear and apprehension to follow up with my clients. You are right. Following up can and does create a long term relationship with clients which means making more money.
Thanks for your great posts. I am new to your website. I will definitely be reading many more of your great articles and posts. I am going to subscribe now.
Jewel Hart says
I can’t find your email subscribe box. Do you have one?
Thank you for reading Jewel … and for your comment!
You can sign up here: http://melanierockett.com/get-your-free-copy-now/
Thanks for asking!