These are some personal observations, reasons I probably would click away, not hire someone, not call back.
Combined with some personal experiences, and some reasons I believe I didn’t get a gig at some point. Gotta learn from our mistakes. :)
1- Your online portfolio is full of Adsense ads
This can be a huge turn-off. Someone does a search on Google, finds your site, clicks, sees the ads, and then leaves. It is possible to run Adsense on just about any website, but on an portfolio site (which is for you to showcase your work and get potential clients to contact you), Adsense may not be appropriate.
2- Where are the testimonials?
It is really ok to ask clients for testimonials, I rarely got a “no“. It definitely helps get the attention of first time visitors to your site. Sometimes you don’t really need to “shamelessly promote yourself“, let your previous and current clients speak for you.
3- No contact information
A huge mistake many will make. Whether it’s on your site or on your business cards, make sure people can reach you without spending more than 5 minutes trying to find out how. It’s easy enough to create a contact form for your site. As for business cards, putting only your website url won’t do in most cases, add your e-mail and phone number, make it easy for people to get to you.
4- Poorly designed site
It’s really ok to experiment, but if your site looks like you copy-pasted snippets of html found on tutorial websites, chances are people will click away from your page. Always test your site in multiple browsers to ensure compatibility, and check for broken links, broken images, scripts not working, etc…
5- Irrelevant ads on your site (affiliate banners and the likes)
I have no problem recommending products and services to my clients (i.e.: hosting company), and a part of my income comes from affiliate sales. Just make sure, if you want to fill some space on your site, that the banners you put there are relevant and can complement what you have to offer. For instance, if you’re a web designer, maybe TemplateMonster banners aren’t such a good idea.
6- Website in a foreign language
While it’s really ok to target people that speak the same language as you, most internet users, and a huge percentage of sites are in english. If you must have your website in your own language, you may want to consider making an english version.
7- Music that starts automatically on your site
I’m a sucker for nicely designed flash websites, but I usually click away when I hear music. If I want to listen to music I’ll open Itunes. Even worse if I can’t find the “stop” button, or if I have to look for it for more than 30 seconds.
8- Bad references
I’m not talking about references from previous clients, but more from an ex-boss, from the company you used to work for before going solo. It may not happen often, but some agencies will want to give a call to your previous employer. You may say “no“, but that’s a sure-fire way to not get a job.
9- Inappropriate meeting place
I love Starbucks, but if I’m meeting with a client chances are I won’t choose Starbucks. Unless my client mentions it, of course. It depends on who you’re meeting with. For some clients Starbucks will do, for others it’ll be at their office, or at an expensive restaurant. Case-by-case.
10- Inappropriate clothes
Same as the meeting place, if you already know your client, did business with him/her a lot in the past, or you’re friends, “casual” will do just fine in most cases. If you’re meeting with a CEO or something, you might want to consider something more “classy“. Cocktail or picnic won’t do..
11- Poor communication skills
You want to effectively get your message across and be as clear as possible. If your potential client has to process/decode everything you say, that means you may need to work a little on your communication skills. You want your client to understand exactly what you’re trying to say. It is normal to be nervous or anxious, try not to make it obvious, stay calm, professional. See it as a conversation, not as an interview. You got the meeting, you’re half-way there.
12- Too many questions
Asking questions is way fine, but if that’s all you do, it ain’t gonna work. Ask clear and precise questions, avoid unnecessary ones. Again, that falls in the “communication skills” category. Be a great conversationalist, and chances are you won’t have to ask those 42 questions, you’ll get answers faster and won’t break the flow of the meeting or interview.
13- Unreachable (e-mail, phone)
Not answering your phone (cause you’re working), or not replying to e-mails right away is ok. You got work to do. But not returning calls or replying to e-mails once a week are sure-fire ways to not get the job.
14- Not enough experience
If you’re starting out, go ahead and send applications, network with people in your field, don’t be afraid, you have to start somewhere. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a gig because of lack of experience, some people will want to hire someone who’s been doing it for years. You’ll get there, don’t worry, it’s not personal.
15- Early is on time, on time is late
Obviously if you got a meeting at 1:30pm, and you show up at 1:45pm, you won’t get the gig. You want to get there before your client. And when that client shows up and asks:
-How long have you been waiting?
-Oh, just 10 minutes.
16- Are you listening?
When meeting face to face (or when on the phone), pay attention to what your potential client has to say (back to “asking too many questions“, just listen and you won’t have to ask all those questions). Oh, and I know it may be hard to take your eyes off the nice looking women over there, but please, stay focused. You want attention, and your client expects the same.
17- Be prepared
Before meeting with a client, why not spend some time doing some research on the company? First it’ll make your client go “wow, this guy knows what he’s talking about“, and it’s better to do some research before a meeting rather than after. Take notes, always bring a note-pad and a pencil, always have business cards with you, etc…
18- Premature selling
Never ever act like you got the gig already. Period. Be subtle about it, in most cases you’ll know if you got it or not by the end of the meeting. Don’t “sell yourself” too much, and prematurely.
19- Going the extra mile
If you want repeated business, you’re more likely to get hired again if you did things right the first time. Go the extra mile, deliver the project early (on time is fine, but early is better). For instance, if you’re a web designer; you finished the project a day or two before the deadline, take a couple of hours to design some promotional material like banners and stuff, you already have all the design files anyway. How much more time will it take you to design 3-4 banners? This can make your client really happy, and ensure he/she will hire you again in the future. Think “long-term“.
20- You sound phony
“Yeah, I worked for this guy, this company, and every single agency in town. I’m telling you! I’m tha man!” – sorry pal.
21- You didn’t deliver the first time
Sometimes people will be ready to give you a second chance, even if you screw up the first time. This time you have to deliver. You have to make sure your client understands you learned from your mistake(s), and it won,t happen again. Do whatever you can to make your client trust you.
22- Trash talking – ranting
Just dont. If you feel like ranting about previous clients, go have a drink with some friends. When meeting with a potential client, keep the bad stuff for yourself. Things like “ah yeah, the last guy I worked for was a pain in the ***“.
23- Asking if you got the job
Keep in mind you may not be the only one on the list. At the end of the meeting or interview, asking if you got the job may not be a good idea, unless you know for sure you got it. Be subtle. A nicer way would be something like “I know you are probably meeting with other designers, and want to pick the best candidate, but can I ask you when I should expect to hear from you?” (or something similar, something you’re comfortable with)
24- Overwhelming enthusiasm
A big turn off. Being enthusiast is good, but to a certain extent. If you look bored it won’t work, but if you’re overwhelmingly enthusiast, chances are it won’t work either. Balance is everything. :)
25- Charging too much or too little
You work hard, and you’re good at what you do. But still you have to be reasonable. Over-pricing: “maybe I can try for a hundred bucks more, and see what happens“. Under-pricing: “wow the guy is so cheap! not sure it’ll all be quality…“. Find out how much others charge for similar work, and start from there.
Your Turn To Talk
It surely happened you didn’t get a gig in the past, or just recently. Share your stories with us, we might all learn something. :)