Is That Client Legit or Just a Tire Kicker?

When you’re first starting out as a freelancer it’s very tempting to spend a ton of time with each potential client that shows you some interest. After all, you don’t have much work, so it’s important that you try to get every client you can.

However, when you move past the beginning stage of freelancing, it’s important that you don’t waste time with the clients who aren’t serious about using your services, because that means lost time and productivity.

These kinds of clients are called tire kickers because they contact us knowing full well they don’t intend to use our services. Why do they do this? I don’t believe they really intend to waste our time, but are just sending out “maybe-kinda feelers.” As in, “I maybe-kinda want to do this project and if the price is super cheap, I maybe-kinda will buy.”

How Tire Kickers Affect Your Freelancing Business

A few months back, I started to realize how much time I was wasting by emailing these tire kickers. I was probably spending half a day emailing a client back and forth¬†who’d never intended on purchasing. Couple that with five to six different tire kicker emails a day, and you’ve got a lot of wasted time.

So how do you tell if that potential client is legit or not? It’s almost always easy to tell in the first email they send you. Here are some common tire kicker emails:

  • I want a website, how much does that cost? Any serious client would send you a detailed email of what they wanted, because they would know that every site isn’t the same.
  • I don’t have a budget, but…. Stay far away from these ones, even if they did intend to buy, it would only be if you discounted your services to slave labor wages.
  • I have 300 other projects to give you… They never do, I promise.
  • I’m shopping around with 10 other developers/designers/whatever. These people NEVER purchase, because they normally purchase solely on price and they end up wanting a ton more of work than the higher paying clients.
  • I want a website, can we have a meeting? I don’t know what it is about these kind of tire kickers, but these really do intend to waste your time. It seems that clients who ask for some kind of meeting right away never purchase and are always a waste of time.

What to Do with These Emails

While I think we shouldn’t waste time dealing with clients who don’t intend to buy, I don’t think we should completely ignore them either. You never know when it could really be a client who wants to purchase, but who just doesn’t have an idea of the way websites work. We don’t want to lose those guys!

My goal with these clients is to spend the least amount of time as possible with them, but still answer them politely and quickly–just in case they might actually be serious. I also try to be proactive in reducing these kind of requests before they even begin.

  • Place a set of standards on your contact page. Since I’ve done this, I’ve had almost NO tire kickers contact me. I’ve done this by placing a list of polite, but firm specifications on my contact page. These include: a minimum price of accepted projects, the kinds of clients I only work with, and that I DONT do design work (I got five to six emails a day asking for design!)
  • Send one sentence emails back to them. If they ask for a price, ask them for details. If they say they don’t have a budget, give them the minimum project rates you have, or tell them your work ranges from $xxx-$xxxx.
  • Refer them to someone else if you’re sure they aren’t a fit for you (like asking for services you don’t offer).

Turning Clients Down without Being Snooty

I want to give my clients the best service ever so I try to answer emails as quickly and thoroughly as possible. But, I have to make sure I’m spending time as wisely as possible. So I’m not telling you to be elitist or snooty in manner to these potential clients, I’m just letting you in on the sad fact–there are thousands of tire kickers out there and they will take a lot of your time if you let them.

Your Thoughts

How have you been able to spot and deal with tire kicker clients?

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