Written by: Mike
Any freelancer would know that the art of building a client base can be very tricky. It is a skill that takes a while to master. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about building up your clientele on top of continuing to win new clients and securing repeat business. In fact, I’ve got it down to a science. Three key steps are all it takes.
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If you are a freelancer who’s just starting out, and even if you’ve been freelancing for a while now but just can’t seem to maintain a steady flow of clients, I believe that this article is perfect for you. Hold on to your fishing hats as we go over each of these steps I’ve created to help you reel in clients – hook, line and sinker.
Reeling in Clients
The Hook: Get Noticed
A good first impression counts. Anything and everything you say will be used against you or for you. Stuttering or saying “um” excessively is sure to kill all chances of securing the client. The key factor to ensure that you don’t make this unforgivable blunder is to prepare yourself mentally and visualize the presentation of your first meeting from start to finish.
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In this line of work, you will have to face clients on many occasions. You have to ensure that you have prepared a good speech and that you can eloquently respond to the client’s questions. Anticipating all the possible questions you might face regarding the project and preparing clear and concise responses to them will help ensure you make a good impression and hook your client’s attention.
Be prepared for anything. If you expect the unexpected, you will always come out on top because nothing will be able to surprise or faze you. Bring your A-game right from the beginning and you will come across as professional in the eyes of your clients.
I like to add a personal and friendly touch to my emails. Refine your initial sales pitch to give it a personable and friendly tone, but isn’t too informal, when you touch base with them. I’ve picked up quite a few useful tricks from past experiences. Instead of using the line
If this is something that interests you, you can email me any time;
this is a statement you can use as a better alternative:
Would you be able to write me back and let me know if this is something that interests you?
Using the latter pushes the recipient of the email to respond because it suggests that a lack of response implies that they are unable to write back or in a more crude sense, refuse to respond. It is human nature to dislike being exposed or seen as inept, especially in such a simple task as an email response. As such, you are more likely to get a response if you use the latter statement. The former is too open ended and gives the reader too many opportunities to overlook your email and should not be used.
The Line: Impress to Win
So you’ve gotten interest from a potential client – Great! Now comes the fun part. Like mentioned above, you must always be prepared for everything and anything. Off the wall questions, technical questions and even trivial questions will be a constant in this line of work. The best way to handle such questions is to be prepared. You not only need to be able to respond quickly to all sorts of enquiries, but to give appropriate answers to their questions. This will ensure that you stand out from the crowd amongst the many freelancers in the industry.
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I’ve had my fair share of success in winning over potential clients. One of the lessons I’ve learnt is to listen intently. Let your clients communicate their requirements and what they’re looking for. Pose questions that will allow you to get a better idea of what they need, not just what they want. If your clients are not clear about what they want and cannot give you the necessary information for you to proceed with the project, be sure to give them a helping hand.
For instance, if you ask your potential client if there are any specific styles or websites they are fond of but they give you a vague or no response at all, you should have a couple of references they can take a look at. This will also help you to establish a style bible to fall back on with them, as well as make an impression with them because it shows that you have given their project much thought and consideration. Your own interest in the success of their project will impress and touch them. Do your homework, because preparation is crucial to bagging the contract. A little bit goes a long way.
The Sinker: Seal the Deal with a Good Closer
A lot of people will tell you that hooking the interest of a new client is the most crucial part of sealing the deal. On the contrary, it is not the most important part of the process. Yes, it is definitely an important step. However, you can still lose their interest if you don’t show potential clients that you can deliver what you promised at the beginning.
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You’ve gotten them to notice you, and you’ve impressed them with what you can offer; now you need to know how to close the deal. A simple and direct exchange might go along the lines of “Let’s work together” or “Would you like to work together?” Sometimes, that might do the trick. However, some clients shy away from aggressive and overly direct advances because it makes them feel cornered or forced to make a hasty decision. Taking a softer and gentle approach might work better and to your advantage. Try instead to give your clients space and room to think by using the following:
If there are any other questions you have, please do not hesitate to ask. I’d be more than happy to answer them for you. I would love to have the opportunity to work with you on this project. Is there a time frame on when you’d like to begin? I am available to begin _______.
This lets them know that you are not rushing them to make a decision and you will not leave them high and dry should they be unable to make a decision immediately. It also reassures them of your interest and your availability. Allowing them to feel that they are in good hands and good company is important. If they can feel that you understand and you are willing to communicate with them, they will be able to feel they can entrust their project to you.
If you weren’t able to close the deal in the first meeting with the client, take heart and do not despair. Make sure that you maintain and keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Write them every couple of weeks to maintain contact. With the variety of social media available to us today, it is easier to maintain communication with people around us.
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Remind your client of your interest and your presence by chatting with them on Twitter or Facebook. Stop by their office to offer articles or further information that you feel will be useful to them and the project you’ve both invested an interest in. This will help them to realize that you not only want their business for personal growth or to increase your own clientele but also because you truly care for the project.
You’ve already come so far and laid all the ground work. Don’t let the effort go to waste and abandon this project because of this small bump in the road. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to work together on this project, they might turn to you for future projects because you are the first person that comes to their mind. Your enthusiasm and passion will help make a lasting impression on them and it will work to your benefit.