Restaurants, airline companies, grocery stores, and departments stores have been successfully incentivizing people for years. Here’s how it works: Imagine that there are two grocery stores that carry similar products. The quality of the products and the customer service are comparable. They are both of equal distance from your home. One will give you 5% off of your total purchase and one will not.

Most of us would probably patronize the store that offers the incentive. Why? If you know that you are going to gain value from something or you are going to get a greater return on your investment then you will probably gravitate towards the provider that rewards you. Look at your key ring: Does this sound familiar?

When you think about incentives, you may not think about using them for your freelancing business, but maybe you should. As consumers, it’s great feeling appreciated and valued. When a company recognizes your value and rewards us for your loyalty, it’s an added incentive to patronize them. The same just might apply with your clients.

Whether it’s just you, or you and a handful of employees, here are three simple and cost-effective ways that you can incentivize clients.

Service Giveaways

How many cups, pens, and promotional bags do you have? If you are like me, you have acquired quite a few over the years. Although these are great for trade shows and in-store freebies, they may not work as well for freelancers. This is why you may want to consider what I call service giveaways.

Service giveaways are pretty straightforward. You incentivize clients by offering them an additional service (with an actual cash value) for free or at a reduced rate. This isn’t about branding or about marketing, it’s about attracting new clients and rewarding returning ones. Therefore, the key is coming up with something that will add value for your client.

Because of this, consider adding your giveaway service to a service that you are already providing. For example, if you are a freelance photographer, you may add a free head shot photo shoot once a client has contracted for over $1500.00 in services. This serves as an incentive for the client. He/she may be more inclined to come back to you for future services knowing that there is something extra in it for him/her, especially if the incentive has real-world value.

Membership Rewards

Unlike the service giveaways, a membership rewards program is not tied to the frequency and/or amount of money that a client spends with you. Membership focuses more on intangibles than actual cash value. If you are old enough, think about the Members Only jackets commercials. The commercial’s tagline was brilliant: “Membership has its privileges.” Everyone I went to school with wanted a jacket, not because they were of a certain quality or particularly stylish, but because they were marketed as being exclusive.

The same psychology works with membership programs. Only members of a rewards program get access to the information or special invites. Yes, it has value because information has value, but unlike giving away a service, you are offering access to information, resources, or events that are exclusive to members only. For example, a freelance accountant may offer a webinar for 1099 employees or create an online seminar that is restricted to his/her rewards members—faithful clients.

Sending out valuable information via email about your field or industry can also add to the value of a client being a member of the group. The incentive is exclusivity; your clients have access to something that is not readily available to the public. And because you have built relationships with them, it gives them greater access to your expertise, creativity, and knowledge.

Finder’s Fee

Think about how often you have referred someone or someone has referred you. It happens quite frequently. Many freelancers thrive off of ‘word of mouth’ referrals. What if there were an extra incentive for your clients to recommend you? Have you thought about creating a Finder’s Fee program?

A Finder’s Fee is also, sometimes, referred to as an affiliate fee. Its premise is logical. If you are under contract with someone to serve as an affiliate and that person recommends your services and the person who was recommended becomes a client then the recommender receives a fee (typically a percentage) for generating the new contract. For example, if you are a freelance graphic designer, you may have a Finder’s Fee that stipulates that you will pay someone 15% for every new and fully executed contract over $2,000.00 that the affiliate generates.

Because the affiliate is the catalyst for the new client, you are paying him/her for his/her services. As simple as this may seem, I would not recommend using this program without consulting legal counsel and a CPA. There are both tax and legal implications.

Why would this appeal to a freelancer? There’s only so much marketing that you can do. Our clients are potential walking billboards for our services.

If implemented effectively, this can generate numerous new clients, especially if you have clients who have large networks and whose endorsements/referrals can lead to tangible results.

The Value of Loyal Clients

In working with new freelancers, one of their greatest concerns is building up their clientele. Whether you’ve been freelancing for a few months or several years, most of us would love to have a consistent and faithful client base that not only keeps coming back, but recommends us to others. This can lead to long term success and viability.