3 Easy ways to turn one-off projects into long-term clients

Let’s start with the obvious: not all of your clients are candidates for long-term relationships.

Okay, so you’ve been hired to do a project for a client. Pretty straightforward, right?

Well, I’m here to challenge you to venture beyond the immediate project for a moment, and look through a longer lens.

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Are you doing what it takes to turn one-off clients into long-term, steady income for your business?

The key to making this happen? Trust.

The best way to build trust and ensure a successful relationship with your clients is to actively manage an Emotional Bank Account.

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Get your deposit slips ready

The Emotional Bank Account was something first introduced by Dr. Stephen Covey, and starts with a brilliantly simple question:

What ‘free’ thing can I do today to build trust and enrich the relationship I have with my client(s)?

This may seem overly basic, but it’s a question so many of us forget to ask.

Below are a few easy tips for using emotional investments to create long-lasting client relationships.

Don’t lose focus on the project at hand

We’ve all seen our favorite wide receivers drop passes on critical plays late in the game.

Want to know why? They were focused on the touchdown and not the catch.

There’s nothing more annoying that an over-eager designer looking beyond the goal line before the project even gets rolling. Business owners and project managers are very adept at sensing when you’re trying to squeeze more budget out of them, and will shut you down, fast.

Client empathy and the bigger picture

More often than not, your client has much more on his/her plate than simply the project you were hired for.

Look for clues in previous conversations. Try to put yourself in your client’s shoes to determine what you can offer that would make your client’s life easier.

Example: Do they need help planning, organizing, or hiring freelancers for other projects outside of your area of expertise?

  • Offer up a few online resources – or a few peer recommendations – to point them in the right direction.
  • Or, gift them a free e-book on something you know would help (tip: HubSpot offers great free resources).

Throw in a freebie with final deliverables

The key to this one is packaging the freebie in such a way that the client appreciates its value, and understands you went out of your way to do this extra work (even though it didn’t really take much effort on your part).

Example: Were you hired to design a website?

  • Register the website with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools free of charge, or
  • create a Google My Business Listing, and set them up for local search ranking success!

A great freelancer doesn’t simply accept payment for services rendered. What separates a good creative from a great creative is the extent to which they’re willing to “over-render” services (within reason), and provide unmatchable value.

This is how great reputations are built, and what keeps clients coming back for more.

What tips can you share?

Have you developed a great long-term relationship with a client? Share your success story in the comments!

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  1. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for such an enlighting post. This is actually what I have been able to apply today as I was pitching to a new client. My overall goal was not to settle for a one-time pay cheque but in building a long term mutual relation too.

  2. I love going ‘above and beyond’ and, while it doesn’t always pay off, it’s very rewarding (both for finances and job satisfaction) when it does.

    As an example, a while ago I saw an article about SEO for photographers, so I sent the link to a photographer I’d done a very small job for about a year ago. Today she emailed me asking for a quote to re-build her whole website!

    1. Hey Alice,

      Proof in the pudding, right there! Congrats on the new project, hope you land it! (Send me the URL when you’re done, would love to see it!)


      1. The anecdote from Alice is a great case study and validates the post perfectly.
        I’ll certainly learn from this. Thank you.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for a great article. This is very good advice and something to keep in mind for going the extra mile for clients.

    Motion Designer | Explainer Video Producer:

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