Latoya had a third great question for this week's reader question set:

Question

"Anytime I've worked with clients for more than a few months, I noticed the relationship gets kind of stale. It becomes a very robotic process of receiving assignments, returning the work, and then receiving payment. So, do you have any advice for relationship building when you work with someone strictly via email?"

Answer:

Client relationships can be a lot like romantic relationships. There's always the potential that your significant other (in this case your client) will be wooed away by some new lover (in this case another writer). If your client relationships get too stale, you run the risk of other freelancers looking more attractive to your client with their quicker turnarounds, lower rates, or flashier portfolios.

If you primarily work with your clients online via email, keeping your relationships fresh can seem impossible at times. Just how creative can you get using email anyway?

Here are some things you can do to keep your services on the mind of a client and to keep your relationship engaging and fresh, all using email:

  1. Ask the client for a testimonial (or an update to an old one). You're telling them that you consider them important enough to include on your site.
  2. Periodically ask your client for suggestions on improving your services, your business site, etc. In this case, you're telling them that you respect and value their opinions, and that you want to provide the best service possible for them.
  3. Offer your clients advance notice of sales or special discounts via email.
  4. Give your clients a way to earn money or free services from you by having them refer new clients (on top of the obvious benefit of more work for you and more money or free stuff for them, you'll be on their mind more often as they're referring you). If you plan to offer referral bonuses or discounts, make sure your base rates allow for that kind of flexibility.
  5. If appropriate, ask your clients to let you interview them for a book, e-book, report, or article. Again, you show that you respect them and that you're interested in them beyond just getting their money.
  6. Shoot them an email occasionally with a couple of free tips targeted to the services you offer and how they can benefit their business (with no blatant sales approach).
  7. Ask clients for permission to use them as case studies on your website or other publishing projects.
  8. If your client has other needs, have a collection of worthy professionals to refer them to. You may end up becoming their go-to person (this happens a lot to me on the music publicity side of my work... referring bands to show promoters, venue managers, music journalists, booking agents, etc.).
  9. Take that online relationship offline. Don't be afraid to have a phone conversation to strategize a little bit with the client. They'll often be even more comfortable with you if they're interacting with you in a more personal way.

What else can writers do to keep their client relationships fresh when all or most of their interaction is online? Share your tips in the comments.

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