How to keep your best clients coming back (three easy tips)

There are probably some things you do to say “thank you” to all of your clients: send them holiday greetings, thank them for their business, and maybe even provide a small referral discount.

But what about those clients that are really awesome? I’m talking about your favorite clients…the ones with fun projects who you really enjoy working with (and pay on time!).

How to you keep your best clients coming back?

How do you provide that intangible asset that gives you the edge over cheaper/faster/more knowledgeable alternatives?

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Here are three simple and cost-effective tips to keep your clients coming back again and again:

Little Freebies

You never want to give away the farm, but providing little freebies to your favorite clients is a great way to offer additional value and still get paid indirectly.*

Things that take less than 15 minutes and aren’t part of a project contract, like:

  • Short phone calls
  • Quick email questions
  • Requests for logos in a different format

It’s a win-win: your client doesn’t feel nickel and dimed (in fact, they feel like they’re getting something for free!), but you’ve already covered it in your hourly rate.

Pro-tip: If they start to abuse this privilege, don’t be shy about sending a bill (give them a heads up first). At the end of the month, itemize your time spent on these little requests and invoice them. They probably didn’t realize how many requests they had, and they’ll understand there’s a limit to your generosity.

*Work this wiggle room into your hourly rate. Not sure what I’m talking about? Grab a copy of How Much Should I Charge? where I explain it all in detail.


Remember Personal Information

Almost all people (yes, clients are people!) enjoy a personal connection in a working relationship. It makes them feel special, appreciated, and valued as more than “just another client.”

It also makes them less likely to ditch you when a new marketing manager is hired or the occasional mistake gets made.

But with many clients (too many tough clients? click here), it can be hard to remember who’s the fellow dog lover, which one’s sister has been sick, and who’s going on a cruise in May.

Try a client relationship manager (CRM) to help you remember all the little details you don’t want to forget. Both Zoho and Insightly have free and low-cost plans with mobile access and features geared toward bringing in new business.

Chime in in the comments if you have a great recommendation!

Note: I’ve not used either CRM, and I’m not paid to endorse them. These seem to have the best bang for your buck, simple upgradability, and useful features, but there are a LOT more CRMs out there.

Create Memorable Milestones

As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And working with your favorite clients hardly feels like work, so it can be shocking to realize how long or how much you’ve worked together.

For your favorite clients, it’s even more difficult. It’s not that they don’t appreciate you, it’s that you’re not the focus. They’re a central part of your business, but you’re just a cog in the sales engine of theirs.

You can celebrate both time-based milestones (3-year, 5-year, 10-year, etc.) as well as financial milestones (spent $5000 in one year, spent $15,000 lifetime, etc.)

Here are some ideas – feel free to combine them!

  • It can be fun to take a walk down memory lane: dig through your archives and create a collage of the best projects you’ve done for them.
  • Especially effective if you’ve worked through several versions, create a progress timeline showing where you started and how far you’ve come.
  • Make a certificate of appreciation.
  • Offer a one-project discount based on the length of time or money spent.
  • Send thank-you flowers to their office.
  • Send a card with a handwritten note thanking them and detailing why you enjoy working with them so much.
  • Take them out to lunch.

Creating memorable milestones reminds clients of the great history between the two of you in a creative and fun yet professional way. This really helps to show your value to their company and makes them more likely to continue working with you for years to come.

How do you keep your best clients coming back?

Share how you’ve strengthened your relationship with a favorite client in the comments on this post!

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  1. April,

    I love your concise approach to this subject, as I’ve been tackling it myself for the past couple of weeks. I think for me, personally, the one thing that has helped me to keep my good clients is the speed of delivery of the services.

    I’ve grown to realize that my clients care about getting their hands on the end result as quickly as possible, and are happy to pay the dividends.

    – Shawn

  2. As you said generosity has its limits, some of the clients will difintly will keep abusing you if you don’t put limits.

    Thanks of the article nice tips and advices.

  3. I love your article!:)

    I’ve been a freelancer for two year but I never though to send greetings cards to my clients.
    Easter is coming so it can be a great opportunity to say Hy or discount a future project.


  4. Remember. Clients like to work with people they like. (From a seasoned pro who’s been around the block.)

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