Getting, convincing, keeping and dealing with clients is an art for itself. Whether you’re a freelancer or part of a company, whether you’re a SEO, web designer, programmer or writer you will encounter the same issues again and again. You might argue that everybody is different and no client matches another one. This is true. Nonetheless the situations you will go through often match. So you can prepare yourself for those recurring situations.
After 11 years of web working as web developer, blogger and SEO both in agencies and freelance I have collected a list of 30 timeless tips to get, convince, keep and deal with clients.
How to get clients
To get clients you have to first make them contact you. Cold calling and aggressively marketing is bad for your mental health, most people do not like it and you get the wrong clients this way. You need to attract those clients who need you already. They are out there.
- Make a name for yourself, a name brand and/or a “real” brand. Do not act a one of thousands, stick out by being extraordinary in whatever way you choose.
- Be trustworthy by design, especially if you work in web design, copy writing or SEO where everybody can claim to be an expert. Prove it by showing off current working projects, having a good blog, testimonials, other people writing about you.
- Get clients to get more clients. If you can’t get any clients whatsoever do something for free for friends or charities to show off some work.
- Always keep your own projects alive. Clients will come and go. After a while you won’t be able to show off their work anymore. You need your own projects.
- Do not make a fancy website, show off your work on a usable website where the potential client can contact you easily.
- Be present on the main channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and whatever is industry specific. Some people do not use the overall WWW or email to find and contact you.
- Support your community. Nobody can do everything her or himself so that your “competitors” will bring you new clients.
- Specialize in rare, new and upcoming niches. Do not stick to what everybody does. Everybody offers services like web design, copy writing or SEO but who offers iPhone optimized web pages?
- Be local and proud of it. Many people prefer local businesses they can relate to or even visit.
- Offer more stuff to your existing clients or those you have already worked with and keep track of your clients with some CRM (customer relationship management) tools. There are web based CRM tools and open source ones for free.
How to convince clients
Once a potential client has contacted you doesn’t mean you’ll get him to work with you. Most people will contact several service providers and compare.
- Listen to what the client really wants and reply to exactly this demand. Do not just offer the standard package without even contemplating the specific case.
- Be quick or at least tell the potential client how long she or he has to wait. Use a template reply that has been tested and worked with previous clients of course changing the data and the text where the situation is specific.
- Do not try to teach the client everything about your trade. Concentrate on a few key issues the client has to grasp, the rest is your task and the reason why the client wants to pay you (not to bother with it her or himself).
- Do not talk about problems, speak about solutions. Do not focus on why Flash is bad but how you can use Flash to please both the client and to comply with web standards and SEO best practices.
- Be friendly and be yourself, explain why you are interested in a specic client and project based on your hobbies, family history and experiences. This way you also ensure that you really work for clients you like.
How to keep clients
Once you have convinced your clients to choose you, you want to keep them as long as possible. This may prove difficult just due to the nature of the Web and web working.
- Always say “yes”. Clients do not want to hear a “no”. Always say “yes, you’ll deal with it” and then do it on your own terms. A client wants a Flash intro, an all Flash site, or a bigger logo? Create a Flash intro for first time visitors which fades out on mouse movement, create an all Flash site with a HTML backup, add a layer with a huge logo that disappears when the visitor performs an action on the site.
- Document what you do and explain why. Web development, writing and SEO are often invisible. Clients do not see any changes on the outside after you spend a night on cleaning the code, a day researching for your article, a week testing on different browsers and a month on link building. Document each step.
- Be proactive in communicating issues and when being late. Clients who have the impression that you’re too slow and making too many mistakes you want to hide will quit sooner or later. Be open about issues you encounter and being late with a project.
- Do not stay the same and offer the same solutions even if “times are a changin'”. Clients are prone to buy and pay for things that worked once. They assume they’ll work again and again. The web is changing at a very fast pace. So things that worked 10, 5, 2 years or even a few months ago do not work anymore in many cases. Offer new solutions to old problems before the old solutions stop working.
- Do not keep all clients. To keep your good clients you have to drop those clients who prevent you from spending the right amount of time and effort with your good clients. When you frantically attempt to keep clients who are always discontent you will in the end loose both the bad and the good clients.
How to deal with clients
Working with clients will never be pure harmony only as your interests and those of the clients only converge partly. In many cases your own interest and that of the client differs substantially. You have to deal with that, you can’t ignore it and you can’t let your client dictate everything. Ignoring those issues will make you either insane or inefficient or both and both you and the client will end up discontent afterwards. So make sure to address these issues before they really affect your cooperation.
- Do not answer emails ten times a day. Email is an incredible time waster and very inefficient. It only works if used wisely. When a client emails you more than twice a day with issues and requests set up a todo list instead of answering each and every time. Replying to an email in most cases means that the client will rely too so you’ll end up writing emails all day instead of working. Or just call the client and sort out the issues.
- Charge by the hour and assess the number of hours you need per task beforehand. Otherwise a client won’t value your time. When a task runs out of hand you write a email that the assessed time for this task has run out and if the client wants to pay for another 2 hours.
- Send emails with protocols, todos and tasks for the client all people responsible. Then refer to your older messages.
- Contact clients who are late with answers, materials or payments telling them how it will negatively affect your project and that you might need to work for another clients in the meantime and having to set aside your project for a while due to them being late.
- Always charge upfront. Charge at least 1/3 of the sum at stake. Otherwise clients might even forget about you, hire other people to do the same work or not take your work after you’re done. Of course they just might not pay at all.
- Make sure to be allowed to show off your work. Some clients, especially in SEO tend to be paranoid. Also working clandestinely makes them assign a low value to your work. Sometimes they even tend to propose work that might compromise your integrity.
- Never depend on just one client. In this case she or he might just lay you off as if you are an employee.
- Do not meet a client more often than needed. Some local clients want to meet you several times even before the projects have begun and they paid you a Cent. keep off those clients, they will always want you to attend them in this way. Otherwise charge them the extra costs, both the time and the cost of getting there.
- Never let clients treat you like subordinates. You and the client are partners. Clients who do not grasp that will never make you happy with your work and will steal your time you could have invested in the clients who treat you right.
- Stop dealing with clients who get angry at you, shout and swear at you. Those people will always do that no matter how good you are at your work.
You can’t adhere to all these tips at the same time. Also if you just adhere to the “how to deal with clients” part without first making an effort to stick to the “get, convince and keep clients” parts it won’t work out either. The rule of thumb always must be that both you and the client are happy with your work.
“It doesn’t make sense to give up your life, integrity or self-respect for a client as it ultimately will hurt the client as well.”
That said I’m really, really happy with my current clients. SEOptmise is one of them as I’m a paid writer for their SEO blog. I even accept lower pay from those clients I am happy with which in turn of course makes them happy as well.
To work with clients be it in a SEO, writing or web development you must be eager to work on a project. You can’t be too selfish as you must be proud of the success you generated for others and you have to give the best you have.
My work for SEOptmise is proof of this. I just write once a week for the SEOptmise blog but I generate several thousands of page views with each of my bigger articles, much more than on my own blog.