New vs. Current Clients – Which Are More Important?

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If you’re a freelance designer serving a target market that seems to be shrinking or not providing you with quite enough business, maybe it’s time to change up your client base. This can be done in a number of different ways, but usually involves making a decision about whether to seek out new clients, or upsell and strengthen your relationships with the clients you already have. We go over the pros and cons of each strategy, so that you can determine which is right for you.

In the meantime do check out some of these freelancer-client relationship posts previously published:

Market Health

Design in general has been both a buyer’s and a seller’s market for the past decade or so. More individuals and small businesses are in the market for professional design. At the same time, there are more working designers out there than ever before. This means that opportunities are aplenty for just about every designer who zooms in on a niche.

If you’re looking to narrow down your client base, which you should always be doing, a wise approach is to assess your current clients and determine whether or not they represent exactly the market niche you want to serve.

If not, it’s time to fire those clients and find new ones. No matter what your niche is, there are plenty of potential clients out there.

Focusing Outward

Focusing on acquiring new clients requires more time and effort, in terms of marketing and reaching out. But it can result in a more lucrative freelance career. Not just because you can raise your prices with ease as you accrue experience, but also because you’re constantly exposing yourself to new people to work for, who also bring with them new possible opportunities.

Say you do some work for a brand new client that’s really nothing special. But that client happens to be closely associated with another influential person in your niche that you’ve been dying to be introduced to for a while, but who has eluded you thus far.

Well, impress client A enough and scoring an introduction to potential client B will be a breeze.

Shrinking Budgets

Sometimes, clients cut back on the number of design services they accept due to financial reasons. In this situation, it’s helpful to seek out new clients, rather than simply hoping your current clients pick up steam again.

This way, you’re not left hanging if one of your important sources of income suddenly dries up, which I’ve seen happen to a lot of designers. The moment you catch a whiff of things heading south, dust off your business cards and find some new business.

However, do keep in mind that the best clients are always the ones you form real relationships with. If you’re not doing your best to provide value and create a raving fan in each new client, then there’s no point in seeking out new business.

You’ll get stuck with one-offs and clients who don’t really care about you. They see you as merely a commodity – an Adobe technician for hire – which is the absolute worst place for a designer to be. Commodities can’t negotiate or make a good impression, and they always must take whatever work or compensation is offered.

Getting Referrals

Your existing clients should not be left out in the cold, however. You can make them feel appreciated by providing them with extra value. This will incentivize them to give you more work, or refer you to others.

You already have relationships with your existing clients, so it’s a lot easier to ask for referrals. Yet, many designers have a very hard time doing so – they’re afraid their client will say no, or that it will be an imposition. This could not be further from the truth.

Yes, you may get the occasional odd client who will balk at referring you to others, but this is usually a sign that it’s time to cut ties with that client. Remember, asking for referrals is a completely normal part of the freelance process. Any client who refuses to do this small service for you, after you’ve just provided them and their business with so much value, is the one with the problem – not you.

In Conclusion

So, to conclude, choosing between your new clients and your existing clients is a matter of personal preference and what makes sense for you. It all depends on your individual situation and the relationships you have with your clients. However, it’s wise to always maintain a watchful eye for new opportunities, so you won’t fall victim to any sudden, nasty surprises.

Author:

Addison is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, and culture. She's written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

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