How to get more customers & win more contracts?
Do you find yourself playing every trick in the book to try and win a project? Often ending up with a project that you’re not comfortable with, or even a project that winds up taking you hours and hours to complete that you’re not paid appropriately for? If you and your potential client are right for each other it’ll work out, if not, it won’t. It’s difficult to come to terms with this fact but I think it’s important that you do. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start bringing home the right projects, and working with the right clients for you.
Try not to invest to early
In the past, I have felt like I was beginning to loose sight of a project, and the simple fact that wanted to bring it home would take over. Often I am invested in the project too early, it’s not unusual for me to provide lengthy emails and have long conversations with potential clients, helping them spec out an idea. Sometimes I’m just on the phone with them bouncing ideas around. I can’t help it. I’m a creative person and I like speaking to other creatives about good ideas. I find it difficult to draw the line and recognize the value of all this free advice, and the impact it has on my working day. I’m not kidding, I’ve literally spent entire days just talking to clients about projects that haven’t ever lifted off the ground.
Don’t get me wrong, some of this time spent does indeed lead to rewarding working relationships, other times I’ve found myself wrapped up in the discussion way too early and I’ve realized too late that the potential client wasn’t that serious about moving forward.
This is where for so long I and so many others like me have been going wrong.
First up, know your value.
If the work you do is at a high standard (and it should be!) then let it speak for it’s self, make it easy for your potential clients to view your portfolio, perhaps this is stating the obvious but make sure you have a link to your portfolio in your email signature, and social profiles.
Your attitude towards a potential client will have a direct impact on how they view you. A potential client wants to work with an expert, and an expert is generally someone who’s in demand and who has authority on the subject they speak of. Don’t beg for a project, or pitch to low just to win it. When you pitch too low you devalue your own work and ultimately you make the project less worthwhile for you. This will, no matter how hard you try, have an impact on the quality of work you do. No one likes working for peanuts! Occasionally a potential client may indeed walk away from a quote you give, the simple fact is that it happens, move on.
There is a hugely varied view of the costs and time associated with web design and development, and some will have completely un-realistic expectations, ultimately it’s your job as the freelancer to manage expectations and be transparent. It might be as simple as the potential client not fully understanding what’s involved in the development of their project. That’s fine, just be clear and honest with them. Itemize your estimate, so they understand the costs and why they’re where they are. If your potential client still feels as though you’re quote is too high, then maybe it’s not the right project for you.
You’re the expert, not the employee!
A potential client is not going to become your boss, they’re looking to you for guidance. Naturally it’s important to listen to your client and listen to their ideas, often they know their audience better than you do and their ideas will often be good ones. This doesn’t mean to say that you should be afraid to respectfully identify a bad idea when you hear one, or make a case for a better alternative. You should always remember, right from the start that you’re building a working relationship with your new client, as an equal not as an employer.
Know your limits but don’t be afraid! Build a network of trusted colleges.
This is all about finding the right balance. Sure, It’s important not to bite of more than you can chew as taking on a project you simply don’t have the time or skill set for will likely end in disaster. It’ll probably cause you incredible amounts of stress and your other projects will almost certainly suffer because of it.
That being said, you shouldn’t be scared of a project simply because a portion of it requires skills you do not have. First up, a challenging project which makes you learn a new skill can be great, for example something that might encourage you to learn a new piece of software or a different way of working – this is great. You learn on the job and often you’ll feel more rewarded, you’re essentially getting paid to learn. Brilliant. I like to take on projects which require significant back end development, whilst I’m confident enough in my knowledge of WordPress development to get most functionality up and running, this can some times mean I end up spending hours and hours on a solution which isn’t quite right and probably isn’t very efficient. This is why it’s important to build a network of trusted colleges who can ease your burden, with whom you can collaborate with on projects to provide the best solution to your client. These relationships are great as not only does it rapidly expand your service offering, your network will likely call upon you when they have a project they need help with. For me design and front end is my passion, so my network is filled with lots of excellent and trusted back end developers. You can build your network quickly by talking to people and being active in the community. Post on sites like Freelance Switch or the Envato Marketplaces to meet new freelancers. You can also try hiring people from freelancer sites such as ODesk. Sometimes using sites like ODesk can mean taking a bit of a punt, as you’re going into business with someone you don’t know, this is why wherever possible, I prefer to work with people based on recommendations, however ODesk has a comprehensive ratings and testimonials system. It’s also worth firing out emails to colleagues past and present asking if they’ve worked with any great PHP developers or Drupal specialists. 9 times out of 10 someone comes back with an email address and boom, your network grows by 1. Another door opened, another potential lead.
Show your own website some love!
I’m as guilty as the next freelancer here.. for years my website just sat there beginning to stagnate, to say the least it was unloved. This domain has been representing me for just over 10 years, it’s the first thing a new contact learns about me when I email them. Still, for the best part of the last 10 years it wasn’t really maintained. As most other freelancers can relate, the simple fact of the matter is that it’s hard to find the time to love your own site, especially as the rewards aren’t likely to be instant, or even soon. At the end of the day you just have to consider it a matter of pride.. and believe me, take pride in your website and eventually it’ll repay you ten fold. After some TLC my site is now a valuable tool in generating new business for me, and one I am proud to share my ideas and knowledge on. Love your own website, and it’ll love you back!
Of course, It’s not just about having a good looking site. Google is a self confessed content lover. Without good content, Google won’t give you the position in search engine results pages (SERPS) that you and your beautifully crafted website deserve. Even the best looking website needs some substance. Use your site to demo your expertise and become an authority. Overtime as your archive of rich, interesting articles expands you’ll see more and more readers on your site. Say hello! Follow up with all those new leads you created. Well done you. Good Job. You’ll be a successful freelancer in no time.
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