Your client: “That sounds great! How do we get started? What are the steps?”
You: “Uh… well, first we, no–wait, first, we…”
Has the above ever happened to you? Your initial meeting with a prospective client was going so well until you made her believe that you had no clear idea of what your own process involves. Which is too bad, because of course you know the steps. But you’re living inside those steps, they are as natural to you as breathing. You just haven’t really considered how to convey that to your clients — and go way beyond it.
This really happened to me. Once. I recovered quickly, saying, “I have a roadmap that I send to all my clients. I’ll provide that to you along with the invoice, OK?” And then I wrote it all out immediately afterwards and sent it, vowing to never get caught short like that again.
You need a way to explain your process easily and clearly to clients, so they have confidence in your ability to deliver. That’s only part of what you need to know, but let’s look at it first. By using these methods myself, I’ve built up my blog consutling and coaching services business considerably in less than a year, and I feel they will help you, too.
Begin with service descriptions
Start at the beginning, with your freelance services descriptions. A list of your skills is not a description of your services. An hourly rate does not really tell anyone what you will be doing. Create service bundles or packages that include common activities in the work you do. A graphic designer could, for example, create a Business Branding DNA package that consists of common startup branding design needs, like a logo, business cards, brochure, letterhead, and perhaps even blog/website (if you don’t do blog/web design, partner with someone who does).
The idea is to create several tiers of service bundles at different price points. Give them fixed prices. When you understand exactly what is included in the service packages, it makes it easier to extract the steps out of them in order to present your clients with a clear, objectives/deliverables-oriented roadmap — your process, in other words. Have an hourly rate for work that doesn’t fit neatly into your service package descriptions or for when the deliverables of a service package are broadened beyond the specified and agreed-upon scope.
Reverse-engineer your process from your service descriptions
Create a high-level general list of the steps that make up your service packages. Then go back and add specific details under each major step. For each item, list its deliverables so your client knows exactly what to expect (managing expectations is vital, and I find the best way to do it is to simply tell them what to expect). Create a list of client responsibilities and deliverables they need to provide you (origninal images, written content, FTP access, payment methods and schedules, etc.)
Use these lists as checklists for yourelf as you manage client projects through to completion. Over time, add notes to them so that you build up your own personal freelance “body of knowledge.” This ensures that you don’t forget something major until the last minute. It helps your client forge precious trust in you because you always know where you are in the process and what comes next. Your clients are looking to you for leadership and expertise. They don’t want to hire an expert only to be handed the wheel. You drive.
Your process is a supercharged sales and branding tool
Having a well-defined process that has a catchy name makes you stand out crisply from the fog of freelancers who offer vague descriptions, lists of skills clients don’t understand, and hourly rates that have no discernable value attached to them. A killer process is the answer to one of the most dreaded questions a client can ask: “Why should I hire you?” Instead of stammering something about skills, you can confidently say, “Let me describe my process, and then you can decide for yourself.”
Remember that you are not selling yourself. You are not selling your skills. You are not even selling results! You are selling the dream of success. Design your service packages and process to help you sell that dream by giving them appealing names and by framing every word in their descriptions so they convey benefit to the client. What you write should never be about you, it should always be about them. By tapping into their desire for success and building trust and confidence, you’re assisting them with the important emotional aspect of their decision to do business with you.