Great tips. I’ve never thought about negotiating scope while negotiating price. That makes a lot of sense now. Thanks.
5 Tricks That Make You More Attractive to Clients
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?
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July 20th, 2009 at 1:20 pm
July 20th, 2009 at 2:14 pm
Great tips, I retweeted it, keep up the good work!
July 20th, 2009 at 2:30 pm
The part about the price struck hard, I don’t often lower the price for people but when I find myself buying a service from someone I almost always get them to lower their price.
Maybe I’m a good negotiator, or perhaps they are not very confident in their products chances to sell.
July 20th, 2009 at 3:01 pm
I try to attract the good clients and weed out the bad ones by using statements of work, timelines and contracts.
You mention the “cash-starved, overbearing, need-it-right-now types”. I find those clients rarely want to talk about scope, deliverables or payment terms. They just want you to send them 5 500-word articles ASAP and they promise they’ll pay you.
Creating a timeline, a proposal, a statement of work and/or a contract doesn’t have to take any time at all, and it provides great protection for you and your good clients. I find the bad ones disappear like vampires in the grocery store’s garlic section when you bring up paperwork.
July 20th, 2009 at 3:04 pm
How to screen clients?
I use price as one way upfront. Unless they are able and willing to pay my price, then I need to move on.
Sounds harsh, but the ones with smaller budgets usually require a lot more time and the best I can do for them is to steer them in the right direction so eventually they get themselves in a position to afford me.
July 20th, 2009 at 3:34 pm
Hire a good looking salesman/woman.
This always gets me a contract close. There are many freelance salesmen/women you can hire for a few days. Getting them to close the deal with your clients really help. It also makes your freelancing business appear more like a network of contacts.
And sex sells.
SanJuly 20th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
Great idea on negotiating scope and not cost. Never thought of that and I’m most definitely going to give it a try!
July 20th, 2009 at 6:03 pm
Great post! Your tips are dead on. I especially think #5 is critical today. I truly believe that a big part of my freelance success has to do with client relations. I take an interest in my clients’ businesses and their success — and I show this in sincere ways (calling them out of the blue with good ideas as I think of them, connecting them to potential partners or prospects, helping them fill a job, etc.)
In answer to your question about how do others attract the best clients and repel the bad ones, best thing you can do is to be very clear about what you do, for whom, and what makes you different. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Take a stand and make sure prospects know what it is. That screens out most time-wasting inquiries.
July 20th, 2009 at 10:22 pm
I would definitely have to agree with #5 the most. These days it seems as though people feel that since they are just sending an email, they don’t have to be personal at all. I like to think that the only way to win in the freelance world is to be personal. You need to spend that little bit extra time and show that you really understand and care. Think of it as a handwritten letter, rather than a typed email. People seem to always be more personal in letters (not so much any more) as opposed to email.
July 21st, 2009 at 1:34 am
Great tips! Especially tip #2. I always take good care of my clients so that they will keep coming back to me for more jobs. This article is a must-read for new freelancers.
July 21st, 2009 at 5:37 am
Great tips for the freelancers especially the tip number 5. I think that without this, you cant win a customer.
July 21st, 2009 at 6:14 am
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
agree above point. Generally speaking I start to talk about personal things after got at least 3 projects from a client.
July 21st, 2009 at 9:36 am
#1 is #1 for a reason… I’ve landed many deals by being the first to respond. It seems that most of my new clients are starving for attention. They’ve either been burned before by a freelancer who disappeared… or they get no other replies from companies they contact. Or, perhaps they get an impersonal “canned” reply. In any event, it certainly pays to be prompt, polite and professional.
July 21st, 2009 at 10:37 am
Question for other web designers – do you really have a hardcover portfolio? I’d never looked at Lulu, but if can create a hardcover portfolio for less than $30, maybe I should do that.
#1 has gotten me more jobs than anything else – I reply quickly most times, but sometimes even if I don’t I still win that client because no one else ever got back to them.
#2, negotiating on scope and not price – I’m getting better at that, and better at quickly distancing myself from prospective clients who are all about the lowest price.
July 21st, 2009 at 4:53 pm
Mason, excellent tips as always! Many of the comments echo my thoughts, especially Ed Gandia’s thoughtful response. Getting very clear on your distinction is critical to reaching the right kind of client. If you are not clear on your distinction it will show up in every aspect of your marketing. A laser sharp message will firmly address your ideal client’s trigger events. Knowing your distinction also gives you confidence in your value.
BebopDesignerJuly 21st, 2009 at 5:32 pm
Brilliant post! Negotiating scope can really filter the type of clients that you want from the type that you don’t. However, it is always healthy to refer those “untaken” clients to guys the you trust and know will be willing to take them jobs, especially when they’re newbies, because they will happily take anything, and those clients will appreciate that you’re doing them a favour. Thanks for such great advice.
July 22nd, 2009 at 5:08 am
Showing portofolio and testimonial is most importance, i think. Thanks the article.
July 22nd, 2009 at 7:37 am
I agree on all except the first. I don’t recommend anybody to check their emails every hour. I have fixed times in a day when I check and answer relevant emails. E.g. start of afternoon and end of workday.
I disabled all email bells & whistles, as to not disturb my train of thought.
As long as you don’t have a secretary, you really can’t answer mails every hour. You have to set fixed moments in a day to check & answer mail. Or you will be extremely distracted and unable to perform your work for currently paying customers…
July 22nd, 2009 at 8:52 am
thanks for sharing.
i agree with all the tips,
July 22nd, 2009 at 1:29 pm
Very nice list, thanks!
July 23rd, 2009 at 12:34 am
Great tips – especially the first one. I wish trades people would learn this one. For many businesses, you wonder if they want the business at all.
If a client asks a question that would take a long time to respond to, a quick acknowledgement with a ‘I’ll get back to you on your excellent question’ takes hardly any time at all.
July 24th, 2009 at 2:09 pm
Great article, the best of all is the advice about negotiate on scope not on price. A nice and useful list
July 26th, 2009 at 4:46 am
And stick to your guns! Don’t be afraid to run away a wise man once told me – so true.
July 26th, 2009 at 6:44 pm
Mason, glad to have found your blog by way of a post by Ed Gandia. #1 “Respond Quickly to Calls and Emails” is so important! E-mail is a lifeline to your business as the telephone is to a traditional business. #5 “Be Personal” – With the Internet and all the digital communication today, your “voice” must be personal. Make sure they “hear” professional, warm and friendly…not cold and distant. With todays social media buzz, responding quickly and being personal sets a good beginning for building solid relationships!
July 27th, 2009 at 10:20 pm
Nice post. I think one of the keys to attracting the kind of clients you want is to really get clear in your own mind who they are, then actively associate with those kinds of people.
Join networking/business groups where they spend time, present yourself in the appropriate manner, ensure that you mirror the sort of language they use, the issues that affect them etc.
Get informed on what matters to your potential clients and develop solutions for their problems.
In other words, do your homework and target the market appropriately. As a freelancer, you are your product, so you need to shape your approach accordingly.
July 28th, 2009 at 2:22 am
Hi, sorry i´m a spanish speaker, so i didn´t understood quite well the point 2 about negociating scope… you mean, that I wouldn´t lower the price but i can low the quality or the effort i invest in the client´s project?
Please can someone explain to me, the scope concept?, thanx!
July 28th, 2009 at 6:32 pm
concept of negotiating scope is that if they can’t afford your original price, you negotiate a lower price, but you reduce what you will do for them accordingly. So you are not devaluing your time, or making your original price invalid.
July 28th, 2009 at 7:57 pm
Thanx Karen now i understand it!!
CelinamacJuly 29th, 2009 at 2:16 am
About having your website, what is your opinion about having a page in facebook instead?
August 1st, 2009 at 9:46 am
I think it is important to maintain your authenticity when dealing with a client. If the client is getting unreasonable in price negotiation, you should not let him dictate.
August 5th, 2009 at 7:22 pm
I really like the hard cover portfolio idea! I’d also like to add a note to being personal and that is, be authentic. If you let your passion come through as you get to know your clients, you will attract more of the types of clients you want to work with. You will also strengthen and energize your relationships with your existing ones.
August 11th, 2009 at 12:50 am
the best and most effective way i found to make yourself more attractive is using http://www.phinditt.com/ this site has helped me so much bring traffic to my site they have a very big network with millions of people. so if you are looking to advertise for free try this site.
August 19th, 2009 at 4:21 pm
effective communication and some extra work for clients make clients happy as a result they give more projects. :)
October 4th, 2009 at 10:49 am
Having a Facebook Page should work for you as well. And I would recommended one even if you already have a website.
Also keep in mind that not all great websites are elaborate with tons of pages. Check out these great single-page websites:
November 2nd, 2009 at 8:06 am
My experience has taught me to be avoid being personal with clients. Be professional, of course, but not personal. The reason for this is that clients – when it suits them – can drop the personable veneer and take on the ruthless business approach. It’s like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I can deal with either if I know from the outset, but I would prefer if the client was consistently one or the other and not change on a whim.
One minute they’re inviting you for coffee, the next minute they’re threatening you with this and that because a deadline has slipped – or whatever – because “business is business”.
Keep it professional. Clients aren’t friends.
November 7th, 2009 at 6:14 am
Another ‘pretty thing’ (as mentioned in point 4) that u can spruce up is your business card.
November 7th, 2009 at 6:45 am
Tip #5 is dangerous in my experience. If you show your humane side many customers will play on it, ask for personal favors, not pay invoices on time “because you are a nice guy”.
March 8th, 2010 at 7:51 am
You give importance to the customer satisfaction also the best way of getting the confidence about our service but not to the price…it nice.I like your attention on the consumers needs and desires..importance..keep sharing.
June 14th, 2010 at 9:39 am
If you try to reply to all emails within one hour, you are going to have problems when you have many client. You will spend most of your time replying to client emails which can take a lot of time (especially if they have issues)! It is recommended you check your email every 2 hours or so. As long as you reply regularly, I don’t think it makes much different.
July 20th, 2010 at 7:38 am
how do I attract clients is the speed in responding to all her complaints. the point is communication
but now i get good tips to attract as many clients from your articles
August 9th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
I really like the points mentioned in this post, mainly the point of negotiating on scope, not on price.
December 25th, 2010 at 7:56 am
Great tips! I always take good care of my clients so that they will keep coming back to me for more jobs. This article is a must-read for new freelancers.
April 14th, 2011 at 3:43 am
As a Client. I really happy to work with people who can easily contacted whether with email or call phones
April 25th, 2011 at 8:38 pm
Brilliant post and still very relevant today.
I think the key is to be genuine (mostly covered in number 5) clients aren’t always going to know what you’re talking about (although you should always talk in way that suits their technical level) so make sure that you genuine, that way they will know that they can trust you, after all you can’t have a long lasting business relationship without trust!
August 5th, 2011 at 1:49 am
Nice post! Thanks for sharing! and I really enjoy reading your post.
December 18th, 2011 at 2:10 pm
And for freelancers who aren’t web designers, there are so many more options for having a professional, well designed and creative site online than using a WordPress. Brushd! http://www.brushd.com caters to designers, and offers space for a blog, shop, and everything in between.
January 5th, 2012 at 10:51 am
wow, thanks for 5 tips. I want to try it.
March 3rd, 2012 at 7:18 am
I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. “‘I have done my best.’ That is about all the philosophy of living one needs.” by Lin Yutang.
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Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.
May 27th, 2012 at 8:13 am
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May 29th, 2012 at 8:30 am
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May 1st, 2013 at 2:38 pm
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