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About a year ago my best client walked away. I called her up to find out what I did wrong, and she replied in a mild tone of voice – “I’ll let you know if your services are still relevant to my business.”
Wow, that was difficult to hear, and the lack of clarity left me wondering what had gone wrong. I had earned quite a sizeable amount of money working on writing projects for her. My most profitable client was slipping through my fingers. I needed to scramble to fix this situation fast.
What did I do wrong?
I quickly looked at the last two completed projects, which were fully paid and finalized. I tried analyzing them, questioning, “what did I do wrong?”
I couldn’t pinpoint a single ugly ‘step’ I took. I was lost in the dark, and it seemed my ideal, prompt-paying client was leaving. I needed to analyze the situation and formulate a plan.
Fortunately, there are key actions steps to take for retaining clients on a regular basis, as well as strategies for keeping a client that is about to walk out the door right now. If you have guts, then you have a good chance of getting a lost client back.
1. Ask a credible mentor for advice
It’s vital to recognize industry leaders and connect with them. I’m a strong advocate of having a mentor in your business and life.
Having a successful mentor with a proven track record in your field can make a lot of difference.
Having a successful mentor with a proven track record in your field can make a lot of difference. When you're facing a problem that is new to you, your instinct may not be correct. If you’re struggling to find solutions, simply ask for advice. Call your mentor, tweet or visit their blog or fan page, and leave a comment.
Be humble enough to put your mentor's advice into practice. Credible mentors have dealt with similar issues that you are facing, their advice is priceless.
2. Call your lost client and ask for an explanation
You deserve some respect. You’re providing answers for your client’s needs. You’re filling a vacuum with your quality services. Don’t just assume you’ve messed up things; it’s wise to call your lost client and demand explanations.
Be courteous, be professional, but insist on getting to the root of the problem. Knowing the problem will increase your odds of solving it. Even if you lose the client forever, the information you get could be useful in your current business, and in your dealings with future clients.
3. Increase your value to increase your worth
When my client walked away, I looked at my drawing board and discovered a loophole. My customer support was poor – I recalled, the client had sent me an email, and I didn’t reply until the next day. I had a lot of writing jobs on my desk at that time and couldn’t attend to her immediately.
She actually expected feedback within 3 hours, and I failed to do that. Her expectation were shattered, but there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation. Rather than whining over spilled milk, challenge yourself to become better and dazzle the client.
Good news spreads. As you increase your worth and the quality of service you provide, be it writing, designing, consulting, researching, programming, speaking, coaching, etc., the lost client is bound to find you.
Keep in mind, rapid feedback isn't always possible, some clients may push limits and contact you outside office hours as well, be sure to set realistic expectations with your clients to avoid communication problems.
4. Satisfy existing clients
The first marketing weapons for your business are existing clients. Now that you’ve lost a paying client, the rest should be monitored.
Deliver on promises made – customer service can distinguish you from other freelancers. Go the extra mile to meet your customers needs and expectations. Consider how and when you can over-deliver and wow your clients.
When clients pay for blog content, I don’t just write and deliver the specified posts, I often go two steps forward. I’ll write one to two additional quality guest posts, submit to authority blogs, and link back to the web page. Also, I tweet and share the content with my social media fans. Find strategies you can implement for over-delivering, which will win loyalty from your clients.
Treating existing clients in this manner will initiate word of mouth marketing. You can imagine your lost client getting a link from a friend about you.
5. Do nothing – can you walk away?
Off course, you can walk away if everything fails. Some clients are painstakingly difficult to work with. If a particular client is over-demanding or won't pay on time, a wise service provider ought to leave.
Leaving clients may not be easy, but if they eventually make up their minds to quit working with you, you should rejoice, pick up your writing pen and start again. Whatever business model you have, you can make a significant difference by being “you.”
If you have a standard time frame for responding to clients, and a particular client expects faster turnaround, you may decide that doesn't fit your business model, and that's okay. The freedom of freelancing allows you to choose your clients and dictate how you conduct business.
This story has a happy ending
At the beginning of this article, I shared a true life story with you. It was a difficult experience about how I lost my best client. After twelve days, I decided to implement my mentor’s advice, which was to send a birthday gift to the client. She was thrilled – she called by 7.00pm the same day and apologized for being “flaky.” I won the client back by implementing a simple strategy my mentor advised, by taking a chance, and not giving up.
This sour experience turned into a great story, and a formidable accomplishment for my business, as the client I won back has continued to be an excellent source of income.
What client retention challenges have you faced? And how have you overcome them? Let us know in the comments below.