Relationship Marketing Basics for Freelance Professionals

In our interview with Lori Widmer of Words on the Page about marketing your freelance writing services, Lori emphasized the importance of building relationships and following up with prospects.

If you're one of the many writers who are uncomfortable with the idea of marketing from a direct sales perspective, thinking about marketing in terms of relationships can help you ease into a more effective marketing strategy.

With that in mind, today let's talk about relationship marketing and how that might apply to your freelance writing business.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is simply the act of nurturing relationships with your clients and prospects, and emphasizing client retention. In other words, it's everything you do to stay fresh in your clients' minds and keep them coming back for more.

That sounds easy, right?

It is. You're probably practicing good relationship marketing techniques already, even if you never thought about it as marketing before.

Now let's talk about some of the specific relationship marketing tactics you can use to expand your marketing efforts.

5 Relationship Marketing Tactics for Freelancers

Here are five ways you might be able to work relationship marketing into your larger overall marketing plan. Pick and choose tactics based on what makes sense for you.

1. Offer Rewards or Benefits for Returning Customers

One way to keep customers coming back is to make them feel like they're special. You can do that by giving them something new clients don't get.

That might be a discount -- maybe once or twice a year you offer 10% off as a customer loyalty bonus.

If you don't like the idea of offering discounts, which is perfectly fine, you can give them something else. For example, you could create a premium report that targets your customer base. You might charge non-clients for it, but offer it as a free perk for repeat customers. Or you could publish it solely as a free perk for clients, never making it available publicly.

2. Keep in Touch With Clients Regularly

Once you've established a relationship with a client, it's important to maintain that connection. One way to do that is to keep in touch on a regular basis, even if there isn't an active project in the works.

For example, let's say you were hired to write a holiday newsletter the previous year, and you know your client saw a significant sales boost as a result. You might email them in advance of the same holiday this year, reminisce a bit about the past successful campaign, and put out feelers to see if they're interested in doing the same thing again this year.

It doesn't have to be a pushy sales letter. It should be more personal than that. You're showing the client that you remembered their business goals and what worked before and that you care enough to bring it up so they don't miss out on a similar opportunity. Even if the client doesn't want to place the same order this year, they're bound to remember that you thought of them and that you remembered so much about their business. It's a way to stand out.

Another tip I love comes from Cathy Miller of Simply Stated Business. Cathy stays in touch with her past clients by sending them interesting reports, articles, links, or other resources that she comes across.

If she sees something that might be of interest to a client or relevant to their business, she sends it along. By sending these kinds of notes and resources, Cathy shows clients she cares about their businesses whether or not there is a gig on the line. And it's an easy way to keep the conversations flowing. Besides, you know know when one of those timely articles or reports might inspire a project plan.

3. Maintain a Strong Professional Web Presence

Don't just slap a 90s-era billboard-style website online and expect clients to come and find you. Your website is one of your most important tools as a freelance writer, and it can play a strong role in building relationships, especially with new prospects.

Your professional website will often serve as a buffer between you and new prospects. It is the job of your website to build trust. If it doesn't instill confidence in your abilities, that prospect won't contact you. You don't want to risk missing out on new contacts and opportunities to build relationships because your website isn't up to the task.

While you don't have to do all of these things, here are some ways your professional website can help you build and nurture relationships with clients and prospects:

  • Your website can link to your social media profiles where prospects can keep in touch or follow your updates, even if they aren't ready to buy yet.
  • You can include a blog on your website (always a good idea as "fresh" content has become vital to ranking well in search engines). Blogs keep prospects coming back, and they give you a chance to build trust by showcasing your knowledge and educating readers.
  • Your freelance writing website can include a sign-up form for an email newsletter. Like with a blog, it's about using information and regular updates to build trust and stay fresh in people's minds.
  • You could add a private client area to your website where clients can log in and download copies of past work you've done for them.

Of course, your website should also make it easy for prospects to get in touch with you. If they can't figure out how to contact you about their project, your website isn't doing much to help you build those relationships.

[Note: Check back next week for a series on building a better professional website.]


4. Meet With Clients In Person

Depending on the clients you work with, having face-to-face meet-ups can be a great relationship building opportunity. While you can certainly build relationships with clients from a distance (which is what I do, as the vast majority of my clients are located in other countries), it can help to meet in person.

If you work with local clients, you might choose to meet them in their office for an initial consultation. Or you might meet over coffee. Or you could meet clients at an industry conference.

Is this necessary? No. Will it help you build a more personal relationship with your clients? Yes. And that personal touch can go a long way toward making the professional relationship last.

5. Treat Your Clients Well

This might be the most basic element of relationship marketing, but it's also the most important. You need to keep your customers happy by offering solid customer service at all times.

That means keeping in touch, delivering quotes promptly, meeting deadlines, taking care of edit requests without getting defensive, and just generally meeting and exceeding your clients' expectations. It's amazing how far those little every day things can go toward turning first-time clients into regulars.

Do you engage in relationship marketing on a regular basis? What are your favorite relationship marketing tactics as a freelance writer? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

Get More Content Like This in Your Inbox

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter where you'll be notified of new blog articles and receive subscribers-only content.

Subscribe now.

25 thoughts on “Relationship Marketing Basics for Freelance Professionals”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Jenn. This is an awesome, simple collection of tips.

    In addition to Tip #2, I like to send holiday “Thanks for your business” gifts for my anchor clients. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. For example, many of my clients’ business is health-related so I may send them fruit as a healthy gift.

    ‘Tis the season for thanks. 🙂

    • And thank you for sharing that one Cathy. It always pops into my head, and I think “who told me about that?”. I just wish I remembered to do it more often!

      You’re very good about things like cards too. I’ve always been awful about remembering those things. But you always come across as such a sweetheart! I bet your clients adore you. 🙂 I don’t know if I’ll ever do client holiday cards. I did a few years back. But now my clients are so scattered. Honestly, I wouldn’t even begin to guess what some of them celebrate, if anything, and due to regional issues I’d run the risk of offending someone. Plus mailing cards internationally gets a little more complicated. With my luck I’d send them and they’d show up in February. 😉

  2. Great post, Jenn. And I too am a Cathy Miller fan. 🙂

    I stay engaged with notes, but I make it a stronger relationship by taking an interest in the people, not just the business. For example, a marketing rep I’d met at a trade show was coming to my area for vacation. I pointed her to several great spots to eat and visit. Also, I followed up a month after her trip to see how it went and what she’d enjoyed most. That rep has no work for me. Doesn’t matter. Someday she might. And someday, she could be working somewhere else where they’re crying for some outside help.

    Cathy, I’m going to take your lead and get my cards ordered and addressed. It’s time for some actual snail-mail communication.

    • Aren’t we all? 🙂

      That’s a great attitude you have! You never know where people are going to be further down the line, and building real relationships now might always pay off later. And even if it doesn’t, there’s never any harm in expanding our networks. 🙂

  3. Great post, Lori! I love how all the tips allow for a ton of flexibility in approach, giving each freelancer the opportunity to work within his or her personal communication strengths while maintaining client relationships!

  4. I really love this concept of relationship marketing. Being a freelance writer requires so much more than writing skills. It requires being able to connect with people so that they enjoy working with you and want to keep the relationship going. Nice post Jennifer.

    • I’m definitely not a good person to ask about what’s “too much.” I come from a background in music PR, where things with clients were much more casual. As in, bars and backstage at shows casual. I had one client who would ask me out every time we saw each other. I was professional enough to say no of course. Ah, the good old days. 😉

  5. I’m willing to meet local clients face-to-face and have even had a couple fly me places so we could meet, but mostly it’s virtual – the phone is important, so is email etc. Good tips.

  6. Awesome post, Jenn!

    #2 is definitely my favorite relationship marketing strategy. In addition to what you, Cathy, and Lori said, I also keep in touch with clients on social media. I connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter–I even have a special list on Twitter dedicated to my clients, to make it easier for me to find, share, and respond to their posts. Doing so keeps me on their radars. 🙂

    • I like the Twitter list idea Francesca. I don’t interact with my clients much there because I use it more for networking with colleagues and readers. But that sounds like a fantastic way to make sure clients don’t get lost in the noise! 🙂

  7. Good tips!

    I too meet with local clients face-to-face and send my clients birthday cards. As for holiday gifts, I too tailor them to my clients. For example, one of my client loves to read books on her Kindle so I will be sending her an Amazon gift card (email) so she can buy more books. 🙂

    Do whatever you can do to make your clients feel special. For example, I find myself putting on a ‘coaching hat’ now and again. It works and my clients listen to what I have to say.

    • Good ideas Amandah. I’m big on the coaching thing with clients too. I find they appreciate it when you can help them learn more about the marketing, SEO, or whatever else is behind the kind of writing you do. As a result I’ve been brought in to consult on everything from a new site design and how it might affect content to new company names and branding elements. It’s definitely led to more work and better overall relationships with the clients.

  8. When faced with the above facts why is it businesses spend 80% of their marketing dollars going after new customers and clients rather than nurturing, retaining, and maintaining the customer relationships they already have?

    • I wish I knew the answer to that Keisha. My best guess is simply that when people think of marketing they gravitate toward the idea of new sales and don’t separate that concept from that of new customers. In freelancing, repeat clients are so important to building stable income. So I hope readers here don’t fall into that mindset.

  9. Relationship marketing has broader, longer-term goals than transactional marketing. Relationship marketing focuses on developing long-lasting relationships with clients to secure sales well into the future. “Relationships as a focus of marketing strategy aids in the understanding of consumer needs and wants, which is useful to implement profitable exchanges,” according to Nagasimha Kanagal in her article in the “Journal of Management and Marketing Research Role of Relationship Marketing.” “Knowledge and application of relationship marketing helps in achieving customer satisfaction, customer retention, and customer acquisition.”For relationship marketing to be most effective, it must infiltrate every level of contact with a current or potential customer, from the sales staff to point-of-sale displays to customer service representatives. Some relationship marketing strategies including branding, customer service training, community and media relations, social media, newsletters, blogs, referral programs and frequent buyer incentives. These marketing efforts are investments in the promise of long-term sales.


Leave a Comment