Converting A New Client to A Long-Term Client

As I’ve already touched on in a previous post, one of the easiest ways to get additional assignments is to work more often for your favorite clients.

In that post, I discussed three important strategies for getting existing clients to hand you new assignments. These were:

  • Always having a “next” project to offer existing clients.
  • Asking your best clients for more work, again and again.
  • Adding new skills and abilities so you can pitch existing clients on additional types of assignments.

These are all good ways to extend the time frame in which you’re doing work for particular clients – in effect converting new and presumably “short-term” clients to “long-term” clients. To save time and space, I won’t go over these time-honored strategies again in this post.

But there are some other specific techniques you can use to encourage new clients to steadily offer you additional, sometimes even on-going or regularly-repeating assignments. These include:

  • Offer to update or expand on previous work.
  • Investigate client activities to find additional areas in which you can contribute.
  • Develop key relationships so you become the “go to” professional.
  • Bring new ideas and information, some with an eye on generating assignments for yourself, some just to prove yourself valuable to the client.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Offer to Update or Expand on Previous Work

It’s quite common for professional writers to be given assignments that are more important and more long-term than a simple “one off” piece of work.

For example, if you’re asked to write the President’s Statement in a company’s Annual Report, chances are the company is going to need another one next year. Or if you write an article for an insurance company on ways to avoid winter weather damage, chances are the company will want a similar article when next winter rolls around. And you’ve already got the experience and contacts to do these assignments effectively.

Similarly, if you’re asked to write up a client’s capabilities and current contract for a website or a marketing brochure, it’s fair to assume that sometime down the road the client will have expanded capabilities and new contracts. Who better than you to do this new write-up, particularly since you are already up to speed?

In addition, more sophisticated professional writers, and their clients that either are or can be educated to appreciate more sophisticated work, recognize that many writing projects – blogs, content marketing efforts, strategic branding programs, newsletters, seasonal information efforts, “insider” reports, and so forth – are natural candidates for ongoing updates and continuations.

To help keep more of your clients on your “active” roster, get in the habit of thinking about each assignment you accept as not only the specific work the assignment involves today, but also as whatever additional work the assignment can reasonably lead to in the future.

Investigate Client Activities to Find Areas in Which You Can Contribute

Whenever you’re working for a client, you’re in a great position to find out more about what the client is doing now, as well as what the client hopes to be doing in the future. Be curious about all this. Look for clues. Sniff out this kind of information. As you find out more, think about possible ways you can add your skill set, experience, creativity, and know-how to the client’s current, definitely upcoming, and future hoped-for activities.

For example, when I was writing “professional education” audio programs for a major association, it came to my attention that key marketing people had the idea to expand into producing films, as well.  Guess who got the contract to write and produce the first one.

Develop Key Relationships So You Become The “Go To” Professional

Many professionals obtain a great deal of their work through the good offices of people who know you and think highly of your work. This provides an excellent avenue by which you can convert new clients to long-term ones.

The strategy here is not only to deliver good work to the client, but to cultivate honest, close relationships with key decision-makers. I’m not advocating that you suck up to jerks or endure insults from abusive people who happen to wield power. I’m simply saying that a savvy professional should be open to finding friends among his or her clients, and allowing these friendships to endure even when the client relationship itself appears to be tailing off.

You’ll find that when you have friends who like you and appreciate your professional abilities, they will enjoy offering you additional assignments that cross their desks, perhaps over a period of many years.

Bring New Ideas and Information

One of the reasons large organizations often have both in-house departments and outside consultants working on the same problems and opportunities is that no one has a monopoly on good ideas or information. In fact, the supply of good ideas and information is often quite limited.

That’s why you can help convert new clients to long-term clients if you not only deliver your high-quality work on time, but you serve as an outside consultant who brings your client useful ideas and information as many times as you can.

Becoming a source of useful ideas and information for your client will help to keep you “top of mind.” It will also help strengthen your client’s perception of you as a knowledgeable professional who can help with a wide range of valuable tasks.

Obviously, you’ll want to call your client’s attention to an idea or a piece of information that can lead directly to a new assignment for you. But it’s almost – some would say “equally” – important that you also bring your client useful ideas and information that may not immediately tie in with your capabilities. The more valuable you can be to your client, in any and every way, the more likely they will keep you busy with assignments over the long-term.


Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of different clients – some one-offs, some over the long-term. Although I can’t claim a 100% success rate in converting new and short-term clients to long-term sources of work, I’ve had a lot of success in my efforts to do this, and in helping other professionals do the same. I’ve found that success in prompting these kinds of client conversions is often a matter of knowing and using the right strategies, coupled with maintaining the right mindset.

Not so incidentally, I’m re-issuing my classic book on productivity and effectiveness: “How to Organize Your Work and Your Life,” totally updated, revised, and expanded for the 21st Century. Please visit to follow what I’m working on over there, and to see if any of that material can benefit you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about all this in the comments below.


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