The inevitable happened this week. A fantastic client that we’d been working with for 6-months on a great campaign let us know that they would be winding down the freelance project we’d been working on.
We have a great working relationship with the client. We were consistently adding value, respected each others’ work and were productive in achieving the aims of the project. But now it was clear that it was time to move on from the project and our work as freelancers was coming to an end.
This was fine for us. The project had expanded from a smaller project brief, so we had earned more and learned more over that time than we thought we would have at the beginning.
All great freelance jobs can’t last forever, but there are ways to develop long-term client relationships – even as a project comes to an end.
I’d love to give more details about the client and project, but for now I’m going to concentrate on the main part of this story: how we are finishing this freelance project on a high.
This means more than sending the final invoice, handing over any last work and then shaking the client’s hand as you say goodbye.
This means making sure that the project is wrapped up tightly with no loose ends, that the client is very satisfied with the project work right to the end, and added value is delivered to the client so that they have no hesitation recommending you for more work or thinking of you for new projects when the time comes.
We’ve already received an email from someone on the project team saying they’d happily refer us business from elsewhere and give us recommendations, but here are a few more ideas about how to finish freelance projects on a high.
1. Provide a project summary
It might be more obvious to create a case study or get a client testimonial, but the first thing you should be thinking about when wrapping up a project is thinking of the client and how you can make their work better and life easier – all the way to the end of the project and beyond.
When you deliver a final invoice for the project, think about including a project summary to go with the rest of the work completed.
Not only will this remind your client of the work you have done, but you can use it to highlight the value you have delivered during the course of the project, making it easy for them to see the importance of your work to the success of the project.
If the project is being handed over to someone else or might get picked up again at a later date, make sure to include any lessons learned or final recommendations so others can learn from the work you’ve completed.
If your work is visual, make sure you create a nicely formatted presentation or a hardback book for them to keep around, as you never know who the client will show it to.
2. Update your portfolio with a case study
Once you’re sure that the project has been wrapped up well, it’s time to update your website, portfolio and whatever other marketing materials you use with a case study.
If you do ask your client to feature the project on your site and elsewhere, make sure it makes their company look good so the company will promote the project and you in the process.
Here’s a basic structure that works well to highlight the project from beginning to end and what value the project delivered, rather than just what work was completed:
- The Objective / Brief: What did the client originally want you to achieve from the project? Were any benchmarks put in place at the beginning of the project?
- The Approach: What work was actually completed? Did you take a particularly unique or insightful stance?
- The Results: What was the outcome of the project? What value was added to the company’s bottom line or elsewhere? Did the project outperform the original objectives and by how much? Did the project outperform industry benchmarks? Did the project win any awards?
Always ask permission from the client to feature their name, logo or case study on your marketing materials.
Some clients will be more sensitive than others as to what exactly you disclose about the project – anything from not being able to use their name or logo at all through to featuring an in-depth case study and entering for awards is possible.
3. Get a client testimonial
Going hand in hand with a case study is the need to get some personal client testimonial.
Asking the client to provide a quote can be difficult, especially if they’re busy or can’t think of anything to say.
The approach I always take is to write the quote for them, then send it across in an email to ask for their permission to use it or invite them to edit the testimonial if they’re not happy with it.
My client’s have normally been happy for me to use the quote as is, meaning I can craft the messages in the quote how I like them.
Once you have the testimonial, make sure to use it on your website or marketing materials sensibly. This means including the client’s name, company and a profile photo of the client if possible. This adds social proof to the testimonial and makes it look less like something you’ve just made up.
Just because you’ve finished one project with a client, it doesn’t mean you have to stop there.
You probably offer lots of related services that compliment each other, so make sure to pitch those services to the client once the project is finished.
- Designed a logo for a client? Offer to create a set of brand guidelines that put the logo into practise.
- Designed a website for a client? Offer to design a brochure, business cards, letterheads or other marketing materials to compliment the website.
- Designed a brochure for a client? Offer to expand their marketing materials into flyers, postcards and more. Think of every single thing that they have that’s branded and offer a redesign.
Just make sure that the related service you offer is actually related. Offering a random service without justification and seemingly out of thin air might not go down so well.
5. Offer a free consultation
If a client won’t bite at a related service or there isn’t a complimentary service immediately available, offer to give that client a free follow-up consultation on their next project. As you’ve just finished working with them on a project, they’ll be more likely to take you up the offer.
It’s also much easier to go to you first for any new projects that come up, rather than go through a wider tender process, and you’ll be able to give your opinion and bid before anyone else even gets a look in.
After all, why would they go anywhere else after you’ve built up a great relationship with them and have delivered excellent value on previous projects?
Alternatively, you could offer a percentage off their next project to encourage the client to use you for repeat business. Rather than thinking of the project as on a reduced budget, think of the repeat business as cutting down on the amount of time and money you have to spend looking for that new bit of business.
6. Say thank you
It’s amazing how far those two little words, “thank you”, go in finishing a freelance project on a high.
The simplest way to say thank you is to send a gift to the people who hired you or those you worked with with a handwritten thank you note. Simple and thoughtful.
If you want to be a bit more clever, why not think of something you can give the client related to the project you’ve done for them?
For example, if you’ve design a new logo, why not order some pens or other promo materials with the new logo on them for the client to use?
One of my favourite examples of this approach is from Nixon McInnes, who designed a set of business cards for every new website they built for clients, with the website adress on them. Their clients would receive the business cards with a thank you note, appreciate the gesture and use the business cards to hand out and promote the new website.
A win for the client to get some visitors to the new website and a win for the agency to promote their lovely new work.
7. Offer minor ongoing support
If you’ve done good work for a client, you should be looking to discover how you can keep helping them once the project is finished.
You can also tell your clients that you will provide minor support – such as keeping a website updated, touching up some artwork or similar minor fixes – in return for a small fee.
This way, you and your client will stay connected long after the initial work is finished and the project will continue to perform as it should have once the initial project was completed.
As you’ll be doing the minor things, they will be more likely to ask you for a quote on any new projects that come up.
8. Follow up at a later date
This is all about keeping the channels of communication open with that client. It will make them feel like they’re receiving more value and make them more likely to return to you for more work.
Mark your calendar to follow up in 2 or 3 months after the project has finished to see how it’s going. You can check to see if there are any issues you could help with, any refinements they need done, or other projects they may have coming up.
Ultimately, although this specific project is wrapping up, your relationship with a client is just starting. Try to think of this as the beginning of your long and fruitful client relationship, rather than just the end of a project.
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