As a freelance web designer or developer the art of finding good clients to work with can be a challenging experience. I’ve been quite lucky enough in this area, with a few teeny tiny slip-ups here and there. Each set-back is a lesson learned and gives me tools to better gauge future client interactions.
To save others a bit of frustration, I’ve decided to put together this simple guideline that I’ve come to trust when I begin to engage with prospective clients.
Don't Sell Yourself Short
Sometimes you may interact with those who aren’t too tech-savvy or experienced in website design or development. Of you may have a prospective client who is used to working with someone from a country where their hourly rate for work is extremely low. The lack of understanding or their past experiences can translate into a under-appreciation of your value and knowledge.
In an effort to close to deal you may want to lower your prices, come up with a ‘discounted’ offer, or skimp on some of your services in order to meet their budget. For some situations, it’s workable. A lot depends on how much you are willing to lose or how much you are willing to lower your own standards to complete the job at the offered rate.
In most cases, it’s not a good precedence to begin. When working with a client, you are closing on a business agreement. The client pays you “X” amount for the work you perform. You need the client to generate income and the client needs you to complete the work that they cannot do themselves. Neither party should be valued more than the other, therefore, haggling down your prices before a partnership even begins, may often leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Know your value, don’t undersell yourself and start all interactions on a level playing field. If your client does not want to play fair – move on. There are many good clients out there that are waiting in need.
Know When to Walk Away
Occasionally you may encounter a client who is a challenge from the start. Clients who have their foot half-way in the door is a good example of this. Sometimes people have a hard time making commitments, starting a website for your business or making a change from your current site is no different. People get comfortable and disrupting that comfort can often be overwhelming. If you encounter a client who keeps you on board as a bit of a consultant without moving forward with a contract – you need to know when to walk away.
I personally don’t mind offering some guidance, but if I’ve been responding to multiple emails and am on my third phone call with a still developing game plan. I will cut them loose. Staying on board could develop into a profitable venture – but you have to remember that time spent on emails, research or phone calls is time spent. If you aren’t billing your client for your consultations, then you’re losing money. Determine if your prospective client wants to keep working with you on the basis of being a consultant or wish them well on their project.
On the other hand, if you work with a client who repeatedly misses emails or doesn’t respond in a timely manner, this would be another red flag that you should steer clear from. Unresponsive or inattentive clients tend to delay projects and often time result in more work.
Trust Your Instincts
With more experience, you’ll often be able to gauge a client’s personality from the very first points of contact. You can get an idea of their organization strengths, their creativity, personality, integrity and more. When you first start out freelancing or when you’re going through a slow period, you’ll want to jump on any project that fits your abilities. Don’t do it. Read your emails thoroughly or have a phone call or video chat to get a feel for the client. Make sure you fully understand their needs and make sure you can work with their personality type.
You are the professional, and you should want not only a successful project but also a successful working relationship. If you aren’t confident that you can offer both, then let them find another freelancer who would be a better fit both personally and professionally. Working with clients who are happy with your work and interactions increases the chances of creating long-term partnerships. While jumping from project to project keeps things exciting and challenging, creating strong client relationships with repeat work is an ideal way to keep steady income and build a strong portfolio.
I have found that some of the points made here greatly decreases poor client interaction. It’s not fool-proof and I could have very well walked away from some good clients. But for now, it seems to work for me. With time you’ll be able to develop your own practices when engaging with prospective clients but until then, hopefully these tips will help you along the way.
Do you have any methods in place that works for you?