Client Retention Tips to Turn One-Off Consulting Projects into Repeat Business

January 19, 2021 Jamie Johnson

Client Retention Tips to Turn One-Off Consulting Projects into Repeat Business - Magnet attracting metal ball bearings

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle which states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. This principle certainly applies to your consulting business, where a handful of your customers will likely make up the majority of your revenue.

As a consultant, one of the best ways to grow your revenue is through client retention and repeat business. According to the National Law Review, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep the ones you already have.

And 61% of small businesses reported that over half of their revenue comes from repeat customers. Recurring clients will help you stabilize your income, and the work will become easier because you and your client both know what to expect.

But despite the benefits of long-term clients, many new consultants and freelancers find themselves caught in a cycle of one-off jobs. They do the work, then find themselves scrambling to drum up some new business.

So the question is, how do you take those one-off jobs and turn them into repeat clients?

5 Ways to Find Repeat Clients

With the right client retention strategies, you can dramatically increase your odds of turning one-time gigs into recurring work. Here are five strategies you can use to find repeat clients.

1. Set Expectations From the Start

If you want clients to be incentivized to work with you long-term, then you need to deliver good customer service. And one of the best ways to do this is by setting clear expectations from the start.

Before the project even begins, take the time to walk your client through the details. This sets the tone right from the beginning and calibrates their expectations. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Establish a timeline and deliverables: Make sure your client understands the timeline, deliverables, payment schedule, and scope of the work. Going through these details can be tedious, but it will help you avoid problems down the road.

    For independent consultants, one of the biggest benefits of working with Business Talent Group is that our client success team will help hammer out these crucial details before the work begins.

  • Over-communicate with your clients: Different clients will have different expectations when it comes to the level of communication they expect. Make sure you have a dedicated platform for communicating with your clients, like Basecamp or Slack. And schedule times for periodic phone calls and check-ins so you can get feedback from your client.
  • Set up a schedule for yourself: It’s essential to have a system set up so you can make sure you stay on track for the project. Set up calendar reminders, back up your work, and be sure to factor in buffer time so you can stay on schedule.

2. Over-Deliver on the Results

The best way to encourage clients to keep working with you is by over-delivering on the results. Instead of just delivering what you promised, find a way to go the extra mile.

An easy way to do this is by delivering the work ahead of your deadline. Beating your deadlines makes your client’s life a little easier and also demonstrates your work ethic.

And when you get in the habit of delivering high-quality results, it sets you apart from your competition. Even if that client doesn’t continue working with you, you’re setting yourself up for more repeat business in the future.

3. Find Ways to Upsell and Cross-Sell the Client

As a consultant, it’s crucial to get in the habit of continually finding ways to upsell and cross-sell your current clients. Upselling and cross-selling just means that you’re finding new ways to help your clients solve their problems, and bringing them more value.

When you meet with your clients, ask them about the problems they’re encountering in their business and listen to what they tell you. From there, you can look for ways to add more value to their business.

For instance, let’s say you’re helping a client develop a M&A strategy and they tell you they need a change manager to help with their post-merger integration. You can do that for them, and build a team to help with integration by leveraging the BTG talent marketplace.

4. Encourage Clients to Sign Retainers

One of the best ways to encourage clients to work with you on an ongoing basis is by encouraging them to sign retainers. Consulting retainers create predictable revenue and will help you break free of the “feast and famine” cycle so many people fall into.

And retainers are a good deal for the client because you package your services into a more affordable monthly fee. The client receives your services at a discounted rate, and you create a predictable stream of income.

However, if you want your clients to agree to a retainer, you need to get the timing right. The best time to ask is right after you’ve finished a successful project when the client is happy and understands the value of your services.

And you need to be able to clearly show them the ROI of your retainer. The better you get at explaining the ROI of your services, the more likely it is that clients will be willing to sign up for your retainers.

5. Ask for Referrals

No matter how well you communicate or how much you over-deliver, some clients will not turn into repeat business at the end of the project. That person may have been happy with your work but isn’t ready to commit to a long-term working relationship.

In this situation, you should continue to follow up with that client. You can also ask that person—and every other client you work with—for a referral.

Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable, but many successful businesses are built on referrals. When the project is wrapping up, simply ask your client, “Do you know any other businesses that could benefit from my service?”

Try to be as specific as possible about the type of companies you’re looking to work with. And if your client does refer you, make sure you follow up with a “thank you.”

The Bottom Line on Client Retention

Repeat business is what’s going to help you get to the next level in your consulting business. And it doesn’t just benefit you—this type of long-term engagement allows your client to receive the most value from your services as well.

Above all else, continue to focus on building relationships with your clients. When you build trust through strong communication skills and over-delivering on value, client retention will come naturally as those in your network will be happy to continue working with you and refer you to others.


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About the Author

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who teaches others how to start their own freelance writing careers. She covers topics related to small business, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. She currently writes for clients like Business Insider, Bankrate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Quicken Loans.

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