It’s been talked about over and over again — if you want to run a successful freelance business you have to find and win good clients.
In this article, I want to focus on the ‘winning good clients’ part. Specifically, I want to share a few tips that will make you more attractive to potential clients. Assuming you have a prospect or two that you’d like to work with, these tips should help you close the deal and get the check.
Winning a new client generally isn’t as difficult as it seems. Prospects usually only have a few specific needs to be met, and if you can handle them you’ll generally be good to go. In some cases, it can take a little bit extra — and that’s where these tips can come in handy.
1. Respond Quickly to Calls and Email
It seems like such a small thing — answering client emails within an hour, instead of within a day or within the week — but it actually makes quite a difference in how potential clients perceive you and your company.
Faster replies make it easier for the client to exchange information with you, and they will feel much more comfortable dealing with you as a result. As a freelancer, clients are buying into you as much or more than anything else, so by making them more comfortable you are making yourself more appealing to work with.
Be careful with this tip, though, because it is important to balance the need to reply quickly with your own personal need to stay productive. As productivity gurus will tell you, frequent interruptions (to answer email, for example) will kill your productivity over the course of a day, so it’s often best to set aside ‘emailing time’ every few hours. That way you can both respond quickly and maintain your productive blocks of work.
2. Negotiate on Scope, Not on Price
What?! Are you saying that keeping my prices higher will make me more attractive to potential clients?
That’s right — lowering a price for your client, in most cases, will make you seem more desperate and less confident. Confidence is a key factor in the hiring process, and the more confident you are the more attractive you will be to clients (even if they say the opposite).
If you want to negotiate with your prospective clients, which is often a good thing, make sure you don’t lower the cost without lowering the scope. If you lower the cost without shrinking the scope of the work, you’re essentially telling the client that you aren’t actually worth what you originally asked for — which isn’t a good thing.
3. Show Off Past Success
When was the last time you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy something? Do you remember what it was like, debating the positives and negatives with yourself, wondering if things would work out the way you planned?
Most businesses go through this as well–even big ones–and this insecurity is one of the major reasons that a clients pull back from deals. If you can ease your potential client’s mind, and provide some assurance that their purchase will work out well, then you’ve just made yourself a significantly more attractive choice.
One of the best ways to give your clients this confidence in your work is by showing off previous work and successes. Telling a potential client a story about how you launched a website a few weeks ago that has already made several thousand dollars in sales will make them a lot more likely to buy from you.
A portfolio, testimonials, and case studies are all good ways to show off your previous work. The more information you can offer, and the more relevant it is to your potential clients, the better your results will be.
4. Use Pretty Things
This one is rather obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning — using visually attractive elements when dealing with clients will make your business seem more attractive and professional.
What kind of pretty things can you use to spruce things up? Here are a few ideas:
- Hardcover Portfolio — In a face-to-face meeting, few things can impress like a hardcover, full-color portfolio of your work (you can get these from Lulu for around $30). Make sure to use big, attractive images and consistent branding.
- Branded Stationery — We freelancers tend to use a lot of documents; from proposals, to contracts, to many other forms of communication. Unifying all of these under a consistent brand, whether in a printout or PDF, will go a long way towards projecting an atractive appearance.
- Professional Website — This is a pre-requisite for web designers, but for other types of freelancers it is often overlooked. If you don’t have the money to buy a custom design, try spending a few dollars on a professional wordpress theme and then customizing it with your logo. A clean and professional website will go a long way towards impressing clients.
Using a collection of professional and visually appealing materials will make your business seem more established, credible, and attractive to potential clients.
5. Be Personal
In these days of information overload and advertising bombardment a little bit of authenticity can go a long way towards winning clients. Show your prospects that you have a personal side, and that you enjoy your work. Take an interest in your clients, their situation, and the overall well-being of their business. If you care about them, chances are they will start to care about you — and before long you’ll have a lasting freelance relationship.
It is important to note that there are some tricky boundaries to watch out for with this tip. Many clients like to keep things strictly business, and in those cases you’ll need to express your personality through business-related subjects. Other people will quickly want to become your best friend, and in those cases I’d caution you against going too far if you don’t want that type of relationship. I generally recommend staying with business related topics for at least the early stages of your relationship. If you’ve had a client for a while, and think that it would be okay to talk more personally, then definitely follow your best judgement.
Remember, trust is the center of any relationship — personal or business — so make sure to stay honest and authentic no matter what the situation.
One Last Question…
No matter what method you use to attract clients, it’s important to attract the right type of people. A freelance business just can’t work if your clients are all cash-starved, over-bearing, need-it-right-now types — you need to actively attract and screen for good clients. A few of the tips in this article can help with that (like not negotiating lower prices), but they are only a small step in the right direction.
So, here’s my question for you:
How do you attract the best clients, while screening for bad ones?