Many clients just don’t feel comfortable if they aren’t constantly in touch with you. Of course, there are also the clients who assign you a project and then drop off the face of the planet until the deadline.
I’ve found, though, it’s better to assume that you’re working with the type of client who wants the most from you, particularly when it comes to communication. That way you can actually build a workflow that requires you to put very little effort into keeping your clients up to date.
Sending out status emails, asking for specific information you need from a clients, reminding stakeholders for deadlines — all of these can be time-consuming tasks, as well as incredibly repetitive. You probably have similar questions during each of the similar projects you work on. So why not automate at least some of the communications flow to your clients? Continue Reading
When I started my own design business, one of the first things I put in place was a well-written contract. Before I spoke to an attorney about drafting an official document for me, I made sure I had my design process established.
I also did a lot of research as to what other design firms and freelancers were including in their agreements. With something as subjective as design, there are lots of gray areas that need to be clarified as much as possible on paper.
If you’re in the process of drafting a client contract, or if you are considering revising one that already exists, I would recommend including the following list of items:
1. Estimate Terms
When starting a new project with a current or prospective client, I’m always sure to estimate the project time first. In my experience, giving yourself a bit of extra time on the estimate is a good thing. It will cover you in the event any unexpected snags come up.
My clients are only billed for the time I spend on their projects, so if I don’t use up all the time allotted on my estimate, I look like a hero who came in under budget. On the flip side, if I find the project needs more time for completion (for whatever reason), I’m sure to notify my clients before continuing work and racking up additional hours. Continue Reading
Clients do crazy things. There are entire sites devoted to letting freelancers vent about the most recent piece of nonsense that has come out of a client this week. But while it’s easy to get frustrated at clients who just don’t seem to understand, the reality is that there’s a fundamental disconnect between how freelancers and our customers think.
You had better believe that there are plenty of clients out there who get frustrated by what the freelancers they work with are saying. It’s that same disconnect: each side has very different priorities, experiences and even expectations for a given project.
It’s easy enough to suggest that we should communicate more with our clients, but communication isn’t really the problem. It’s understanding. Continue Reading
In the course of your freelance business you may be asked to do a concept presentation for your more complex projects. A concept presentation is a pre-development or planning phase where you show your client a prototype or draft of what you’re going to deliver.
If you’re a freelance web designer, a design concept presentation is often referred to as a “mockup.” If you’re a freelance writer, it’s often two or three pages of copy and layout work, or an annotated outline of a planned article or report.
A concept presentation is where you present your development work and decide a particular direction before launching into full-work mode. There are three distinct stages of a concept presentation and you can excel in each of them.
We’ve all faced the challenge of exchanging messages with people we’ve never met in person:
Face to face working in an office, the 50 year old businessmen expected a certain degree of presentation. When I went freelance, talking to people online was completely different. I was not sure how to correspond.
Emails and social messages, it soon becomes apparent there are many voices out there –different age groups, agendas and expectations. How do we communicate with them appropriately and get our message across persuasively?
As I became more interactive with strangers, I became less confident in my own voice. In person, I could act the part. In the virtual world, especially with no previous connection, how do you judge the best way to correspond?
In person, there are so many other cues to read the tone of the situation and the interaction. If you make a step towards humor and it is not responded to then you can adjust your tone. In print we have different typefaces that help direct the tone of voice we hear in our head, but what about straight unformatted text?
For example, how often do you receive a text message and are not quite sure of the senders indented tone? It can leave you a little baffled; “Are they annoyed? That was a short answer.”
Online, we have been conditioned to keep our communications minimal as we are constrained to character spaces or have limited energy for unnecessary typing.
We are affected by our ulterior motives. If we are desperate, if we are looking for clients, if we are doing a favor, if we are contacting them as a referral or cold off the bat.
Anonymity means you can re-invent yourself. Do you re-invent yourself with each correspondence, or keep a steady hand on whom you want to be online? For me, I felt myself becoming more chameleon-like talking to so many different voices online.
Being yourself in writing, however, doesn’t mean staying rigid with your communication style. Every time we communicate with someone, we adapt ourselves to the situation. We’ll use a different tact and tone based on who we are writing to and our goals for contacting them.
Here are some angles on how to mold your messages to match the tone of the recipient, as well as persuasive strategies, which will help you land more client deals. Continue Reading
Have you ever said yes to a referral without qualifying the lead?
I did that many years ago, and what should have been a 2-3 week project dragged on for 6 stressful months.
I didn’t know then that I could turn down any client, even a referral. If I had qualified the lead, I would have known it was the client’s first time doing any sort of web project.
He didn’t know that once code is written, it’s harder to change. He wasn’t responsive, which slowed progress to a crawl. He also didn’t understand the agreed-upon benchmarks, so he didn’t want to pay.
Eventually he did pay, and I remember thinking I was so glad to be done with him.
Except that I wasn’t done.
When we began his project, I explained that he needed to find someone to host his site, but he didn’t do it. So I did it for him, volunteering extra time to make sure he was taken care of.
This one lead resulted in six months of headaches, unpaid hours outside of the project scope, and, of course, zero referrals.
So what did I do wrong? Continue Reading
It sometimes happens: You get an unsolicited inquiry by e-mail, phone, or in person out of the blue, a prospect at your doorstep who was neither recommended by others or pursued by you—a surprise prospect.
So, how do you protect yourself and make sure you don’t waste your time on unsuitable clients? You know what I mean: the under-budgeted, clueless, and teasers who just want to pick your brain and that most freelancers should ignore.
While there is no sure-fire way to assess the ideal client—one who’s serious and willing to invest in quality work—wasted effort doesn’t have to be a part of the freelancer’s game. Here are four screening options to help you weed out prospects that add extra hassles to your already busy and over-stretched schedule. Continue Reading
If you’ve been a solo freelancer for any significant stretch of time, you’ve probably learned the hard way that a work project can go horribly wrong. They turn out to be life lessons in the long run, but there are ways to protect yourself.
Working with bad projects or bad clients generally boils down to mismatched expectations and inadequate communication. Your best safeguard is to make sure you and your client are on the same page before any work has even begun using a Terms of Service Agreement, which essentially puts into clear, written language what you expect from your client and what they should expect from you.
By submitting a comprehensive Terms of Service Agreement to your client beforehand and having them return confirmation to agree to abide by your terms, you will be saving yourself (and your client) a lot of headaches down the road and avoiding the kind of surprises that can cause a project to get derailed. Continue Reading
There are loads of different types of clients out there and chances are at some point you’ll get to meet all of them. So let’s take a look through some typical clients and see if you recognize a few of your own in there!
Client Breed #1: The Low-Tech Client
How to Spot One:
Looks confused and disoriented when discussing anything high-tech, calls rather than emails, wants everything to be faxed. The Low-tech client needs to go through everything twice to get it, but will then happily take your advice.
The Low-tech client will rely solely on your sage wisdom for all things technology related. They will look to you as your technology saviour and will stroke your ego with their reverence of your knowledge and advice.
The low-tech client will need to be handheld through everything from setting up their email to opening up PDFs. Charge accordingly. They can also be particularly frustrating if they decide to ‘work it out themselves’. A Low-tech client’s idea of how a website should work for example is often not pretty.
How to Work With One:
The low-tech client needs to be handheld. Make sure everything technical about a job is in writing for them to reread at their leisure. This will save you a lot of time explaining things repeatedly. It’s also best to just accept that you will not be using a lot of the technology that makes our lives easier these days (email, online project management etc) and should instead budget in time for phone calls, faxes and face to face meetings. Continue Reading
A lot of freelancers get excited about international clients these days. But you can create a niche for yourself as someone local — a freelancer just down the street who is happy to meet in person with clients. For those prospective clients who want to make sure that they get a chance to get to know who they’re working with, working with a local freelancer can be worth a premium over working with someone who is only accessible online.
But if you’re going to promote yourself as the local solution, there are some facts that you need to know about.
The Always On Call Problem
Some clients are bad about considering you always on call — but when you’re in a different time zone, you at least get a reprieve when they have to go to bed. When you’re just around the corner, it can be easier for a client to be constantly asking for more. Of course, this isn’t just a problem for local freelancers, though it is certainly worse.
After all, if a client halfway around the planet has your address, it’s unlikely that he’ll just show up one day. I’ve had local clients who have wanted to see where I work, had a question and were ‘in the area’, and otherwise wind up on my front stoop. Continue Reading
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This week we look at How To Find Good Clients by FreelanceJam. Freelancers not only need to know how to find clients, they need to know how to find good clients. In this episode, the FreelanceJam duo Brian and Dave break down the strategies that have worked for them over their years of freelancing. From working the job boards when you’re starting out, to building a strong referral network, and marketing yourself so that great clients come to you. Continue Reading
All too often, freelancers look at their clients as one-off opportunities. They do a job, complete a project, and when payment exchanged, they wave good-bye and never look back. But regular contact with former clients should be an integral part of your freelance business.
Call it public relations or just good business practices, but treating your clients as part of your regular business network– not just as cash cows– can be a wonderful strategy.
Not only will clients feel that you care about them for more than just a paycheck, they will also feel more inclined to recommend you to their colleagues for future projects. The time you devote to nurturing those client relationships becomes a kind of investment that can lead to returns later down the road.
If the rapport is particularly strong, you can also ask clients to be active promoters of your services by having them write recommendations and testimonials that you can later use for your own marketing efforts. In other words, maintaining good client relations means more and better business for you.
Here are five tips for strengthening your business relationship with clients. Continue Reading