If you’re like most freelance designers one of your least favorite parts of the job is sales. While it’s not like a lot of other types of sales, landing projects from new clients does require some sales effort to communicate what you can offer and to convince them that you are the best person for the job.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to increase your effectiveness at closing the deal and securing the work. It’s really all about communication, which is a much more pleasant way of thinking about it as opposed to sales. In this article we’ll take a look at a few tips for improving communication throughout the process that will help you to land a higher percentage of your potential clients.
1. Pay Attention to the Real Issues
One of the keys to closing a sale with a potential client is to find out what they really want and to offer it. Each client and each project is unique, and if you fall into the trap of thinking that each web design client will want the same things you will wind up not offering enough of a personalized service. The key is to offer a customized solution to their problems or to the issues that they want to address.
This sounds pretty simple, and it doesn’t have to be complicated, but many freelancers overlook it. In the past I’ve hired freelancers for a number of projects and I’m always amazed at how many people just send a canned response without even addressing the project’s details. I’ll have a description of the project on a job board and many of the responses are obviously just a generic email template stating the person’s qualifications and sometimes with a link to a portfolio. In many cases the services they are listing in the email don’t even fit with the particular project. I delete those emails very quickly, and I’m sure most other clients would do the same.
On the other hand, what stands out in a positive way is someone who responds (whether through email, a phone call, or face-to-face) in a way that shows they have taken the time to learn about the specific project. They understand the basics of what is needed and they can offer services and expertise that will help to solve the problems and address the issues associated with the specific project.
2. Respond Promptly
When a potential client is looking to get information from you about your services, chances are they are also reaching out to other designers. If they emailed you or filled out the contact form on your website, they may have done the same thing at the sites of a few other designers. If you’re responding to a job listing or placing a bid on a site like Odesk or Elance, you know others are going to be responding as well.
Prompt responses are always appreciated by clients. They send a positive message about your responsiveness and the type of customer service that you will provide, and it also gives you the chance to make a strong impression before others beat you to it. If the clients has already been in communication with a few other qualified designers before they hear from you, your odds of landing the project will be drastically reduced.
3. Communicate Personally, but Professionally
Professional communication is important, but most clients also prefer to work with people that they like. That means you need to be yourself and connect with potential clients rather than being all business all the time. It’s possible to be personable and to show your personality without being unprofessional.
The web design process involves a lot of communication between the designer and the client, and many clients can be intimidated by the process. If the client enjoys the initial conversations with you and if you can put him or her at ease, you’ll be in a much better position to secure the project.
4. Demonstrate Your Expertise
In the first point I talked about the importance of offering a personalized, customized solution based in the client’s unique situation. Taking that a step further, you’ll also want to demonstrate or sell your own experience and expertise. It could be on a general level, but to be even more successful you should show examples of similar projects. Show specifically how you were able to help a client in a similar situation and explain that you’re confident you can be a great asset for this project as well.
Case studies from past projects can be especially helpful if you’re able to show how the client benefited from your work, or if you can show measurable results of the project (such as an x% increase in online sales after a re-design). Some designers include detailed case studies on their portfolio websites, and another option is a printed case study booklet.
5. Ask for the Business
This is a simple point, but one that many freelancers miss out on. Be sure to ask for the business and make sure the client knows that you want the project. If you’ve talked to the potential client about their project and provided a quote, take the next step and ask them to move forward by signing the contract and getting started.
Asking for the business also gives you a chance to get to the root of any potential objections that the client might have. If they like what you are proposing but they are hesitant to move forward when you ask for the business, there is something holding them back. It may or may not be something that is within your control, but if you ask them about their hesitations or what would convince them to move forward, you may be able address issues or concerns that you didn’t even know existed.
6. Follow Up
Another mistake that many freelancers make is simply not following up. How long you wait before following up will depend on the situation and where things were left during your last communication with the client. In many situations you may want to send an email or make a follow up phone call if you haven’t heard anything in a few days.
From my experience, many clients that make initial contact with designers about a project will let it fall through the cracks for a while. So if you haven’t heard back from a client regarding your proposal, don’t just assume that they hired another designer. There’s a good chance that they just haven’t yet made a decision to move forward. If you are proactive you’ll have a much better chance of getting the work.
7. Cut Ties When it Doesn’t Fit
Not every project will be a good fit for you. It could be the type of project, the industry, the budget, the time frame, or any number of other issues. If the project isn’t a good fit for you, explain that to the client and move on. Don’t waste your time. Instead, use your time to do a better job of communicating with other potential clients and you can focus on landing the projects that are the best fit for you.