“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.”
I struggled at sealing the deal with clients when I first started freelancing. “Customer service” was never really my thing. I was let go from Dominos and The Reading Cinema after a month. I lacked confidence and experience. But it’s not the end of the world.. We all fail at times and that’s the only way for us to learn and grow to become better at what we do! I learnt to grow my passion for what I loved doing.
I was 20 when I decided I wanted to pursue a full-time freelancing opportunity. At the time I was leading a couple of design initiatives @freelancer, which is the world’s largest freelancing marketplace. Ironically I thought to myself, it would be great to jump back out and challenge myself and see how far I could take my own freelance business. I had around 5 project enquiries come through my inbox every week. Having a mortgage at the time also motivated me heavily to do whatever it would take to get the business going. Sometimes you need to risk it for the biscuit. So off I went..
Fast forward to now and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with all sorts of clients; small and local to global, newly founded to heavily funded. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt throughout the years is how to effectively, increase the chances of winning a client project. There are many factors that come into play but I want to share my top 5 tips with you.
5 actionable items that can help you win your next client:
This might sound simple and obvious but it’s the deal breaker. Confidence comes with experience. It’s not something that will happen over night. What does help in building confidence when dealing with clients is being able to support your discussions with real life experiences and learnings. So keep hustling, go out and work in teams and freelance on the side. Get as much experience as you can under your belt and explore other areas (such as marketing and business) which will help you grow as a designer.
Optimise your online presence for clients, not designers
- Avoid following trends. Minimalism. Oh please. I have seen far too many portfolios be designed for likes from the design community, instead of being optimised for potential clients.
- Your portfolio and social media are your primary channels to sell yourselves and services. Tell your story. Use words. Remember your potential clients are looking for someone they can trust to bring their ideas to life. Sell them.
- Have a variety of projects on your portfolio. When clients are browsing online for a designer, they are looking for someone who has had experience in working on a similar project before. There have been a handful of clients approach me purely because they have seen relevant case studies on my portfolio.
Be efficient and reliable
- Respond to emails asap (immediately if possible) Never underestimate this simple tip. Your online behaviour is a true reflection of you. Exceed your client’s expectations and show that they are of high priority. We all like to feel special.
- Nail down your processes. Clients enjoy working with someone who knows what they’re doing. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to only have come across a handful of clients that kept me up at night. Through these experiences, I have been able to better refine my process and learn to take more iterative approaches to a project. In the end, your clients and yourself will benefit from this. Formalise this and be confident when sharing it with your client. Show that you’ve done this many times and that you can assure them that working with you will definitely be a positive one.
Share insights and experiences
Have you worked on similar projects before? As-long as you’re allowed, share insights. Back up your statements with data or real life examples if you can. In the end, clients are not just paying you for a .PSD or .sketch file. They’re looking for someone who can bring value and learnings to them and their product.
Understand what your client’s motives and goals are
- When you meet someone new it can either go two ways. Conversation dries up and it’s awkward as hell or things flow and you’re chatting away about your interests.
- When meeting a client, you definitely want things to flow well. However it must flow well with the intention of seeking what their motives are with their product. In my case, understanding what problem are they wanting to solve with the product? What stage of of the business are they in? What are their business goals at the moment?
- Remember you are competing against other designers. Put your best foot forward and show that you are passionate and that you care about the problem they are trying to solve.
So have you been putting off your first client meeting for a while? Or are you still building up experience to get better at it? No matter what reason it may be, I want you to take note of the tips I have provided. Put them into action. Go out there and give it your best shot. Remember nothing worth having comes easy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, let me know in the comments below.