How to Turn a Freelance Project Into a Long-term Working Relationship

How to Turn a Freelance Project Into a Long-term Working Relationship |
Photo by Mariya Pampova on Unsplash.

When you’re freelancing, it’s great to land a juicy project. But it’s even better to build relationships that continue over time. It’s so much easier to do outstanding work for a company and a client you’ve gotten to know over the years.

But all too often, creative projects are one and done, leaving freelancers scrambling to find their next client. So, what does it take to build longer-lasting relationships? Start by understanding the challenges companies face when working with freelancers.

This infographic from Robert Half sums up their recent freelancing survey results:

The Future of Freelancing infographic from Robert Half
Infographic from Robert Half (Source:

5 Ways to Stand Out as a Freelancer

So, how does this help you, as a freelancer? It gives you some helpful insights into how to stand out from the competition by addressing the top challenges companies reported. Here are five concrete actions you can take to help address your freelance clients’ challenges:

  • Get involved. Give your client ideas for how to make you feel like part of the team. This could include your working on-site on a regular basis, being invited to team Slack channels, or even taking part in annual kickoff meetings. Get yourself added to internal email lists and subscribe to their newsletter. Follow the company on social media. Show you’re taking a proactive interest in getting to know them and their business challenges.
  • Provide project pricing. Everyone hates negotiating rates, including freelancers. And when it comes to hourly fees, many companies have a set maximum rate that can’t be exceeded without special approval. By setting a deliverables-based fee, you can get paid what you’re worth and provide the client with a concrete budget number. That’s what we call a win-win.
  • Toot your own horn. Are you looking for new freelance clients? Let your network know. Have you added some new skills or areas of expertise to your offering? Update your LinkedIn profile and your website to include those new skills. Finished an especially creative project you’re proud of? Share it with your clients so they can see what you can do!
  • Communicate early and often. Each of us has our own communication preferences. While some clients spend their day in Slack, others prefer a quick text or email. Find out the best channel to use for communicating with your client, then use it to ask questions, provide updates, and generally keep your project moving. No one likes a deadline to come and go without the promised deliverables. But when you keep a conversation going, deadlines or scope can be adjusted, keeping everyone happy.
  • Have an onboarding plan. When I take on a new client, I ask for their content strategy, brand style guide, and brand voice documentation. If they don’t have all of these items, I make sure to obtain a solid creative brief that we go over in a meeting, to ensure I’m up-to-speed on their brand. What do YOU need to know to make your project a success? Ask for it up front and give yourself enough time to go through it before starting your project.

While these five actions won’t guarantee repeat freelance work from a client, they should go a long way towards running a smooth project and creating solid deliverables. And that’s a good recipe for earning positive referrals and repeat business.

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