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Retainer clients are the dream. How do you find good ones?

Illustration by

James Merritt

June 24, 2021

If you want to have a sustainable career in freelancing, where you have a minimum amount of income coming in each month, retainer clients are going to be vital for you.

Retainer clients are clients that you do reoccurring consistent work for. The best ones can help alleviate the stress often associated with freelancing to scramble each month to find a client that adds to your monthly threshold.

I have been freelancing for years and have found some key tips that have consistently helped me to successfully land retainer clients that are actually a joy to work with long term. Here is my guide to achieving this:

 

1. Research how you can work with your potential retainer client

Research is key to landing any client, but is particularly important when you are looking to land a retainer client. The reason being is that, the more you research, the better you can identify areas in which you can serve this client on a regular basis. You can then include this information in your pitch or proposal to this potential retainer client.

2. Strategy

Once you have identified how you can work with this client, try to create a strategy. This involves creating specific goals for that potential client. For example, if you’re a social media manager, you could present a strategy to them that includes the goal of doubling their social media following within two months, for example.

Through creating a strategy like this, that identifies certain tangible goals for your client, it is more likely to peak their interest and lean into your offer.

 

3. Add extra value (always be upselling!)

This means as well as completing the work you initially pitched to them, you could also offer them other services that they need regular help with. It could be as small as a task like sending an email per month, creating social assets, taking extra steps to organise their outcome. It lets them know that you have extra value to offer them by putting you on a retainer.

 

4. Offer monthly packages

By pricing the work you are offering your potential retainer client in the form of a package, you could present it as a discount to them. For example, if they agree to buy a package that states you will be with them for a certain amount of months, discounting this can prove to be an attractive pitch. This is especially true if your package offers exclusive services like monthly reports, or access to connections in your network that can help further fuel their business. Just make sure they sign a contract.

 

5. Build a good working relationship from the start

If you work on a project with a client for the first time and didn’t initially pitch to them with the intention of them being a retainer client, but end up finding that they could indeed be a good fit as a regular client, it helps when you work at building a good relationship with them from the start.

Good relationships are a great foundation for regular work. It’s the know, like trust factor! They will get to know you through working with you, then they can grow to like you and eventually build enough trust to work regularly with you.

 

6. Show receipts

 When pitching to clients you hope will put you on a retainer, it always helps to show evidence of work that you have done for clients on long-term projects. This helps instil confidence in them that you are credible to work with on a recurring basis.

Give case study examples of strategy-based projects you have worked on and the results you have achieved. References and quotes from previous clients can be huge as well, so make sure you get them when you finish work from other clients.

If you are just starting out as a freelancer, highlight other aspects of your life/work experience where you demonstrate that you can stick at a task on a long-term basis and not just easily drop a task helps.  

 

7. Do your due diligence

As well as doing research about how you could help your potential retainer client, it is also worth researching the company’s credibility. You don’t want to end up working long term with a client who is actually a nightmare to work with. But how can you do that?

You can do your due diligence through connecting with people who have worked for this client previously and ask what their experience was like. LinkedIn is a good place to find people who have worked at companies. Carrying out due diligence has saved me working with companies that turned out to have a pretty bad work culture!

 

8. If you have worked with the client’s competitors, let them know

This is where having a niche really works to your advantage as it more easily positions you to have several clients in the same industry.

Clients are likely to see this as valuable as you will have inside knowledge of what their competitors are doing and can therefore navigate what steps should be taken to improve their brand and stay on top of industry trends!

 

9. Take on constructive criticism

So, you have followed all the right steps and now won your retainer client. That is great! But it’s also important to do your best to keep them on as long as possible, and not lead them to prematurely terminate their working relationship with you.

To maintain a retainer client, try to make it easy for them to work with you. Ask for feedback on the work you do and be receptive of constructive criticism from them to better understand how to serve them best as a client. This will also improve your skills to help you land other retainer clients in the future.


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