Anyone who knows me knows — I LOVE my clients Seriously! My clients have some awesome businesses that I am lucky enough to play a part in growing… they are all really dedicated passionate people who truly love what they do. They appreciate and respect the work I do with them, they have kind hearts, open minds and great senses of humor. They tell me I am a pleasure to work with and I say the same back to them — and it is true.
I’m not bragging here — and I’m not some mythical freelance fantasy. Having awesome clients isn’t much about luck, but more about defining the client base you are after and not being afraid to turn down work with clients who are not desirable to you.
OK, i know — we’re in a tough economy! One cannot turn down an honest dollar! But, I tell you… if I worked as cheaply as 85% (that may be a bit of hyberbole,) of the people who email me wanted, I would work four times the hours each week and make a quarter of the money! How do I spot and weed out these less than amazing clients?
Streamline your Inquiry System
While my portfolio site does have a prominent phone number available, most make their first approach to me via the small contact form — they are able to specify that they are looking to get a quote and have space for sharing some details about their design needs.
By using a simple Google Mail Filter set up, I am able to track each quote request that comes in from my website, making responding to each a much more productive task. I will usually check in on these about 3 times a week and follow up accordingly. My follow up system has also been streamlined over time, mainly because of the large number of exremely vauge inquiries. Who else gets stuff like this;
”I need a website, how much will that be?”
I actually have a canned response for these that sends out a list of questions about the clients business, industry and specific needs, budget and deadlines. My first lesson I learned here? Most people who cannot be bothered to write a proper inquiry are not very serious about the project at hand. This simple step of following up with some questions weeds out a large percentage.. so … for those who follow up with a response?
Define Your Pricing and Policies
Clients who are asking for you to quote them on something WANT to know a price. Don’t be shy! Too many of us get weird talking about money, but it’s something you have got to get over. I rarely work on an hourly rate, usually define a project price. So once I have a general idea of what my client is looking for — I can get them an estimate. This is based on my experience with previous projects that may have been similar, and that clients particular needs. I send them a quote and if at this stage the project seems even a tiny bit undefined, I let them know that the pricing is based on the information they have supplied — if the scope of the project needs to expand, we can adjust the price accordingly.
Clients who make it with me through the quoting step… go on to be one of my prized clients — the rest fall into a few categories…
The Disappearing Client
This is easy. Some dissappear after I email asking for more information about thier needs… but some hold on and then disappear after I send them a quote. Is it outside of thier budget? Did they just change thier mind? Who knows — these ones never respond. They disappear into the client abyss.
There is a small subset of the Disappearing Client, they do follow up to let you know they will “let you know” or that they will be starting the project “down the road.” 99.9% of this subset will never be heard from again, but that small sliver of them — they DO come back. I’ve had people write back and say flat out ”I want to work with you, but don’t have this in my budget right now. I’ll contact you once I do!” …and then one day, they do! (yay!)
Unfortunately, this category seems to be a crowded one and I have heard it all. “I was hoping to get something for about $200.” or “I watched a youtube tutorial on Dreamweaver and already did all the design and development myself, but the navigation looks weird on my husbands computer and I just need a blog added. Could you just fix what I have here? It shouldn’t be more than a few minutes work.”
Look. I am a small business too. I don’t own a home (I don’t even own a car!), I do not have a fancy office or a staff of hundereds. I understand that you have to be smart about the money you spend when you’re starting out… but I would never say anything like this to someone who I am looking to do legitament work for me that is going to help grow my business. For these folks, be polite — but you can tell them “thanks, but no thanks.”
And then there is…
“I saw this design here and I like it a lot, can you do my site JUST like this, but with my logo – of course!”
…Oh yes, of course, because otherwise that would be stealing! No. I
can not will not do that.
“This is not in my budget, but maybe you could just walk me through my current website and let me know what you would suggest I change about each page to make it look a little nicer and be more user-friendly and then I can just have my grandson who likes computers do it for me.”
…Sure. This is called Consulting… here is my hourly rate for that type of work.
“I really like the work on your website, but could you mock up what you would do for me so I can see if I like it first?”
If you like my work, you can hire me to work with you on a design. I wor really hard to make sure my clients are happy (no, THRILLED) with the product they get from me — but if you find it isn’t working out with us, here is my policy on canceling a project…
My Final Thought
I don’t usually rant on this blog and I really dislike those who talk shit about their clients. But, here’s the magic — these aren’t my clients… and I intend to keep it that way.