Upselling to a Customer as a Freelancer

Written by Elizabeth Wellington on June 20, 2017

Imagine that you’ve been working with a client for a couple of years. You enjoy collaborating with the company, love the projects and they’ve grown — a lot. Suddenly, the client wants to fly you out for a conference, covering all costs and expenses. Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Upselling to a customer paves the way to a relationship with tremendous benefits like these. But these relationships don’t just bring in travel perks. Upselling is one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost your revenue. In fact, the probability of selling to a current client is 60 to 70 percent, compared to a prospective client at 5 to 20 percent. Applying the upselling tactic to your business strategy can double your income.

As you practice upselling to current clients, there are a few steps to ensure that you maintain your autonomy as an independent contractor. With that in mind, here are three ways to capitalize on these lucrative opportunities while keeping your business steady in the long run:

1. Keep Your Client Roster Balanced

Upselling to a customer can tip the balance of your revenue stream in one direction. All of a sudden, one client could bring in 75 percent of your total revenue. If you unexpectedly lost the client, you would really feel the effects. There’s a simple way to upsell while making sure your income is balanced enough moving forward.

First, consider your baseline revenue. Divide that number by four to calculate 25 percent of your revenue. Here’s the trick: You always want to have at least four clients bringing in that number. That way, if you lose a customer, you have other sources of revenue to rely on while you build your income stream again. When you upsell to customers, don’t let your other clients fall below 25 percent of your baseline revenue. This approach ensures that the sky’s the limit with your revenue potential, without setting yourself up for income insecurity later on.

2. Clarify Boundaries and Expectations

There’s nothing better than being invaluable to client. That said, when upselling you always need to practice strong boundaries and clarify expectations, both verbally and through iron-clad contracts. If a company wants to commit to more work, have a candid conversation over the phone (or in person) about expectations. From there, you can adjust contracts to ensure that the compensation scales with the scope.

Also, make sure that you’re always in charge of how you do your work. As an independent contractor, you offer deliverables and a service, but it’s up to you when, where and how you conduct that work. When I make a big upsell, I often set aside that work to complete after business hours, so that I’m not neglecting my other clients. You can figure out the system that works best for you. As long as you’re transparent, it will benefit your client, too.

3. Say “Thank You”

Sometimes, clients give you amazing opportunities. They tell you that their budget just doubled — are you available for a new, prestigious project? When these bonus experiences come along, they can leave you speechless. How can you express your gratitude? Just say, “Thank you!” Send handwritten notes, express your appreciation and continue to honor the relationship by doing your best work. Freelancing can be a tough field to crack into, no matter your specialty. These breakthroughs are a testament to all your hard work. Embrace them, and they’ll keep coming your way.

Upselling to a customer may be an out-of-this-world business strategy, but it’s also extremely rewarding for freelancers. Doing more work together leads to deeper, more meaningful collaborations with clients. As professionals who work alone most of the time, independent contractors benefit from these collaborative relationships. After all, even though you work for yourself, you don’t have to go it alone.

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