In 1997, I was fresh out of college, had very little experience, and was looking for a way to pay rent. Armed with three (unpaid) websites in my portfolio — a university department site, a church website, and my personal site/online resume — I hoped to turn my baby skill set into a paying job.
I still remember my first interview for a freelance gig designing banner ads for a radio station’s website. I was nervous, inexperienced, and probably over-eager, but in the end that radio station hired me.
What Your (Potential) Client Wants to Hear
For those of us in the freelancing (a.k.a. customer service) business, our livelihood depends on regularly hearing the words “You’re hired!” After many years and countless interviews, here are 7 things I’ve learned…
1. I’m interested in your project
Which statement makes you want to work with me more?
“Yeah, I could definitely squeeze you in. This is a slow month anyway.” Or…
“I would love the opportunity to work on your project because _________”
Even if the first statement is true, I promise you it’s not what a potential client wants to hear. If you’re interested in a project, tell your potential client WHY. It lets them know you’ve got a genuine interest in them and their product, beyond just turning a buck.
2. I’m confident in my ability
I’ve been asked many times by potential clients if I believe my skills are a match for their project. It’s critical to answer this question honestly. If the project’s not a good match, do yourself and your potential client a favor and say so up front.
On the flip side, if you know you can deliver confidently and with a side of fireworks, say it! That’s not arrogance, it’s confidence. A potential client wants to know you’re more than capable of handling their project.
3. I’ll return your calls and emails
Your potential client wants to know that you’re attentive and will take time to communicate throughout a project.
The reverse is also important. I let potential clients know I need them to respond to questions on time to meet deadlines and delivery dates. Your potential client wants to know that you will manage communication competently and professionally.
4. This is what you can expect
Ever been to a doctor’s appointment for a procedure and didn’t know what was coming next? Or landed in a foreign airport and couldn’t find your driver? Hello, anxiety!
Take care of your potential client by explaining the process of working with you – lay out the timeline, who does what (and when), the communication schedule, third-party costs involved, etc. You can prevent anxiety and make your potential client feel comfortable by setting expectations up front.
5. This is the cost of doing business
I recently had my bathroom remodeled. Work was going smoothly and then I made a small scope change by asking the tile guy what it would cost to add a soap dish in the shower. $7 bucks, he said. Let’s do it! Later, when I got a bill for a $40 soap dish, I was upset. Why? Because the tile guy quoted his material cost and failed to mention his labor. Had he said $40 up front, he still would have gotten the extra work – he just wouldn’t have surprised me with the bill.
Potential clients don’t like surprises, especially when it comes to their money. Be up front in your proposal about your costs, third-party costs, and possible add-ons. Be considerate of their budget and communicate honestly about what’s possible or what’s not.
6. I’ll deliver on every dollar
My price tag is not cheap. Most potential clients have price-shopped at least a little, and if you’re more expensive than the competition, it’s important to communicate why their money is better spent with you.
Everyone has a different value proposition – maybe it’s your connections or industry background or post-project support offerings. For me, it’s my promise of exceptional customer service and the level of client care during a project. Whatever it is for you, let a potential client know they can expect this offering on top of the tangible work they’re paying for — let them know every dollar spent with you is well worth it.
7. You’ll love the finished product
I’ve had many potential clients come to me frustrated because they’ve already blown their budget with another company and didn’t like the finished product. You need to assure your client they’ll be happy with you.
How can you guarantee a potential client will love the finished product? Because you’re taking the time to listen, plan, document, communicate, and create. If your work is in tune with your client’s wishes throughout the project, they’ll be excited and thrilled and the end of the process.
Bonus: The “Hit by a Bus” Document
A common complaint I’ve heard from customers is that they’ve been “held hostage” by their previous web developer. The developer disappeared off the planet, refused to share passwords, etc.
I like to reassure potential clients that at the end of their project they’ll have complete control over and access to their web properties. I call it the “In Case I’m Hit By a Bus” document – it’s just a simple, single piece of paper with URLs, passwords, and a brief description of a client’s domain registrar, web host, WordPress login, database login, etc. – everything a client would need to manage their website in the event that 1) they want to maintain their own site, 2) they’re grossly unhappy with me and hire someone else, or 3) I’m unexpectedly run over by a bus.
Power to the potential client!
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