Looming stock market crashes. Government bailouts. Rate cuts. Recessions. Depressions. These are all words gladly being thrown around by the mainstream media of late. And we all know the mainstream press loves nothing more than selling us doom by the truck load.
I’m no economist, but it seems only natural that markets should correct themselves (level off and perhaps retract) after consecutive years of positive domestic and global growth. In any case, the situation is what it is. So what’s a freelancer to do amidst leaner and tougher economic times? The answer is: Be even more valuable to your clients.
If you’ve been freelancing for any length of time, you’ll know that your cash flow probably looks like a volatile stock chart; spiking up and down, up and down. The nature of our game is one day we’re so busy we can barely keep up, the next it’s so quiet we can hear the wind whistling through the trees.
Working on retainer is one way to smooth out cash flow volatility, yet during a recession, it’s even more important to focus on providing added value to your client base and help keep your income stream healthy.
This isn’t about being some flakey networker that spams clients with fluff, it’s about doing your best to provide your clients with some real benefit from knowing you. The more genuinely valuable you are to your client base, the better off you’ll be.
Now, I know customer service is something many freelancers aren’t fond of, but listen; when it comes to your clients, you want to be at the forefront of their minds, always. Lets take a look at some techniques that allow you to quickly and easily stay on their radar … and add value where possible.
Ping your clients
The no-brainer way is with a quick e-mail ping.
“Hello Dave, Checking in to see how everything is going and whether I can help you with anything?”
Article of interest
While you are cruising the web, take note if you spot something that might be of value to a client.
“Hello Dave, I came across this article on potential new regulations that could affect your entire industry and thought it might be of interest to you.”
Add a link to the article. The more relevant the it is, the better.
Refer and introduce
Check your client base and see who might benefit who then make some quick introductions.
“Hello Dave, I’d thought I would take a moment to introduce you a client of mine, John Citizen. John runs Crazy Potato Studios and has a great team of SEO experts that I think would be of benefit to you. John, Dave works over at Better Buggy Whips Inc. and can service all your buggy whip needs. I’ll let you guys connect and take it from here.”
Naturally it’s preferable to connect two people whose offerings compliment each other but one beneficial “introducee” will do.
Error check client websites and update
Take a moment to scan client web sites for errors. A good technique here is bug hunting for breaks in that ultimate nightmare of all professional web developers; Internet Explorer. Cruise around your client’s websites and spot breaks and errors then notify them about it.
“Hey Dave, I was doing some quality control on your site today and found that X was breaking on page Y in Internet Explorer 7 on Windows XP. Give me a shout if you want me to fix it for you.”
Offer a little free time
Ping select clients with a “Limited Time Offer” of free time (your time, that is). For example:
“Hello Dave, A quick note to let you know that as a valued client of mine, I am extending 2 hours of my time to you for free to use as you wish. There are some conditions for this free time which are as follows: You can use this free time towards any of my services. This offer of free time expires exactly two weeks from today. My recommendation is to use that time taking care of X but again, you are free to use this time any way you wish.”
This generates a ton of goodwill and you’ll find that more often than not your client will end up spending more than the hour or two you give away for free.
Wrappin’ it up
Ok so now you’ve got a few techniques you can roll out when the urge arises. Remember, be of value to your clients and you’ll always stay busy and well paid. If you have some techniques you use during slow times, let’s hear ’em!
- Working on retainer
- Client satisfaction & farts in the wind
- Freelancing, LinkedIn & Trust
- Free Hosting For WordPress Blog
- Provide killer customer service