How To Turn One-Shot Clients Into Repeat Clients

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It’s so simple; you’re going to wonder why you haven’t been using this three-step formula all this time.

You might even be slightly angry with me for pointing it out.

But first, let’s see why you need to have a strategy for converting one-time projects into recurring revenue.

It’s expensive in time, effort and money to get new clients. According to Bain & Company, it costs 6 – 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Of course, that ratio varies according to your industry, but the concept is still the same.

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics.

Let’s talk about loyalty

Think back to a product you use every day. Maybe your phone. Now, let’s say it’s getting outdated. Are you likely to switch to another brand? Or will you stick to the same brand? It’s the same for service businesses.

When we use something one day, we don’t care all that much, but once we use it a couple of times, we become emotionally attached. By focusing on repeat clients, you will build a brand that your clients will love, and be loyal to.

This takes us to the next reason.

Recurring customers will refer others to your business. We both know it, referrals are vital to any service business. One time clients will forget you once they are done with your service.

Repeat clients, on the other hand, will go on and on about your services if you do it right (as we will see below).

Finally, repeat customers will spend more money with you.

They’ve trusted you, and you have delivered, so they will not hesitate to purchase your more expensive offerings. The risk of working with you has already dissolved.

Now that you have seen why you need to focus on repeat clients, let’s look at how we can get one time clients to come back again and again. And again.


I’m often shocked by the low quality of service that I see some providers give. This is especially true for the big corporates. Just today, I had a bad experience with our telephone company. The guy who picked up the phone was a foreigner who did not speak my native language and spoke in broken English. If you’re going to have someone answer the phone, the least you can do is to make sure that they can communicate fluently. But apparently, customer experience is not something this company cares about.

I trust you’re not like that. But even ‘good’ quality can be improved. You can become truly great if you go the extra mile for your clients when needed. Of course, you need to know your boundaries, but always strive to do your best.

It’s not just about the quality of your work, most often the quality of your communication matters more. Make sure your clients know what to expect regarding your responsiveness. For example, I’m not really good with phones. I prefer emails, and will typically get back to any email in less than 48 hours. For a long time, my clients did not know this, and they expected me to answer my phone when it rings. That’s not the way I choose to work. Now, most of my clients know that I don’t answer unscheduled phone calls, and they are okay with it. It’s all about setting the right expectations.

On a side note, you also need to make sure that they enjoy working with you, and you with them. It’s a two-way street. You don’t want a repeat client who does not love working with you. Sometimes, someone may like your work, but they cannot stand you. And that’s okay. If you do get such clients, complete their work and move on. It’s no use having such repeat clients.

Focus on providing an incredible experience for the clients that you like, do everything you can to satisfy their needs, and give them the results they are looking for.

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey.


Now is where it gets a little tricky. While working with your client, you will need to paint the picture for your next collaboration. You’ll have to mention future tasks after the first project is completed. You will have to do this with tact. Here’s how.

First, you’ll have to identify the results they want, and then think about how you can get them those results in other ways. Try to use their own words to describe what they want.

Let’s see a concrete example. Let’s say that you are a photographer. You have a photo shoot today with an entrepreneur who wants to build his online presence. You can just say: “Next time, let’s do it at your office” or “Next time, we can take a picture of your whole family for your website’s about page — this will portrait you as a father and responsible being.”

In the case of an interior decorator working on the living room, you would say: “I have some interesting ideas for your master bedroom, would you like to see?” or “Now that your living room is going to be amazing, maybe we can work on your bedroom next.”

See where I’m going with this? Be creative and take the opportunity to plug your other services when possible. As a software developer, I often tell my clients things like: “This feature will make the system much better, let’s discuss this as a possible phase 2 of the project.”

Now, don’t try to sell things that your client do not want. In all of the three examples, we are selling an augmented version of the results that the client is already looking for. For the photographer, the client wants to be seen online, having other types of photographs aligns with this goal. For the interior decorator, the client wants a well-designed living space, and for my case, the client wants improved processes.


This step is crucial. You will need to make the offer. I don’t mean that you have to give massive discounts or anything. But you have to say it out loud that you want to work with them again, and here’s how it can be. If you can give them an exclusive deal, it will be even better.

I love the concept of bonuses instead of discounts. I believe that discounting reduced your value, and you train your clients to buy only your discounted offerings. Bonuses, on the other hand, have a different feel. Going back to our examples, for the photographer, if he charges Rs 5,000 for a shoot with two edited photos, he can instead give four photographs for the same price. Or if he usually bills separately for travelling, he can waive it this expense off for the next job. Once again be creative and find your sweet spot.

For my business, I mention my availability. Since I’m often booked-out or otherwise busy, I tell the client that I’ll be able to start phase 2 right now, but if he delays too much, I’m not sure when I’ll be available next. I also use the fact that since we just completed phase 1, my proposal for the next steps will be lower right now when everything is fresh, compared to a few months or years down the line.

When you make your offer, be sure to set a deadline and a clear call to action. What I mean is that you have to tell your client what to do next if he wants to work with you again. Remember, humans are forgetful, so it’s to your advantage to remind them a couple of times before the deadline.


Amaze them with the first experience, paint the picture for the next project, and make them an offer they can’t refuse. There you have it. A simple 3-step formula to get more repeat clients.

Have you used any of these techniques? How did that work out for you? If you have any questions, let me know in the comment. I’d love to help you find more examples exclusively for your business. Post a comment below, tell me a little about your business, and I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.

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