By Ealeal Ginott  / Published May 21, 2018

You’ve taken the big leap and struck out on your own – setting up shop as an independent is no easy feat, we know. One of the biggest draws of going independent – having the freedom and flexibility to manage your own timeline and workload – can also be one of its greatest challenges, since now you’re on the hook for generating all new business. Sounds scary, right? But it doesn’t have to be. You may be driving yourself crazy, racking your brain on how to find new clients or projects – and sure, that’s important. But almost equally important and critical to your growth will be your ability to not just land new clients, but keep the ones you find coming back for more.

It is an old business axiom that 20% of your clients end up generating 80% of your business revenue – in fact, the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, governs many of the economic pillars of our world, from wealth distribution to taxes. And yet, in the excitement and anxiety of launching a new business, we sometimes forget this rule and begin to fret over finding new customers, instead of focusing on maximizing returns from the ones already firmly in our pocket.

So, how can you build on the Pareto Principle to get even more from your clients? We already know that those top 20% are generating revenue for you – so put them to work! Your top clients can also serve as your best sales agents. Don’t be shy about asking for referrals, or getting their help in finding more customers like them. But alongside that ask, you must give them something to keep coming back to, other than just the services you provide – you must make a connection, and just like a gardener tends to their garden, you must do everything within your power to keep that connection alive, year-round. After all, with the help of a few solid, return customers on retainer, you will feel less of a risk facing the ebb and flow of your business.

So, what can you do to keep your clients coming back, and how:

1. Elevate Customer Care to an Artform

You can offer the best product or service in the galaxy, but if the “front lines” of interacting with your business are a little rough around the edges, some clients may be put off. This means you need to pay close attention to everything from how you are answering calls or emails and fielding requests, to thoughtful details like following up with a sweet but simple “thank you” note or even a nifty sticker or coffee mug with your logo on it. Feedback? Request it – always. Problems? Solve them in a timely and respectful manner. Complaints? Welcome them – they will help you learn from any past mistakes and adjust along the way. Being an excellent communicator, through the good and bad, will go a long way in helping you retain clients in the long term.

2. Stay in Touch – and Stay Top of Mind

None of us want to be spammed with dozens of lead-generation emails or newsletters offering us more of the same. But what clients do want is value. If you’re sending out regular communications to your clients, make sure they offer something of value to your customers – whether something tangible, like a gift or a promo code or a loyalty program, or something else, such as advice specific to your client base, a round-up of tips and tricks to help them achieve their goals, or even a Spotify playlist pertaining to your niche. You don’t have to make an aggressive sales pitch with every communication. The idea is, keep communicating value outside of your regular bookings or projects, and stay fresh in their mind. In today’s market and with attention spans decreasing, it’s not enough to just make a sale anymore. Personalizing your communications is a must, and it pays off – 82% of consumers with a high emotional connection to a brand or service provider say they will repeat purchases from that brand in the future.

3. Do a Friggin’ Fantastic Job – and Go the Extra Mile

This may sound like an obvious no-brainer, but the best way to lure clients back is to deliver above and beyond the first time they do business with you. You must make sure to give it your all with every single client, and when it comes to attention and delivering the goods, treating them as if they were your only client. This means making sure they can easily reach out to you with any question or concern, and that you are available to talk through your products or services. It means providing your product or service in a timely manner, and making sure that it’s not just a payment that has cleared, but a customer who is walking away happy, feeling good about doing business with you. You can offer a loyalty program, email out promo codes or deliver the best marketing copy ever, but ultimately, no client will return if the quality of service you’re offering is anything less than stellar. It all boils down to consistency and trust – put out your best, and those clients will keep coming back.

You should always keep your eyes and ears open when it comes to your customers and the problems they are looking to solve. For instance, if you’re a personal trainer and one of your clients mentions that they are struggling with nutrition or meal prep, volunteer a few great recommendations for meal plans, or even refer them to an excellent private chef to help them learn how to prepare healthy, nutritious meals. Walk them through the basic of macros, or introduce them to a website or online community that can help. If you’re a freelance web designer working on a client’s site, roll up your sleeves and make some suggestions on how they could further optimize beyond just a simple site redesign or logo refresh, and get to know what else they might be in need of: suggestions for improving their copy? Better visibility for their social media accounts? Speak up, and be ready to act! By doing these little things and going the extra mile, you are showing clients that you’re there for them, and actively fostering loyalty without any major investment on your part. Always offer more than just what they need at the moment, and you’ll cultivate clients for the long run.