There it is again. That sinking feeling that you haven’t heard a peep from a new customer in weeks.
You ask yourself for the 100th time, am I cut out for this freelance game?
I’ve been there. I’ve been there not even 3 weeks ago. It’s not a great feeling and you begin to doubt your capabilities.
But, I’m here to tell you to ride that scary wave. Try to hold out a little bit longer. The hard work that you put in the previous 3, 6, 12 months will pay off. I promise.
I went from looking at the job boards to having 3 new clients ready to go in just a few weeks.
Was it a miracle? Luck? Begging? Offering my services for cheap? Hell no!
It was playing the long game.
That’s right, building things over time, taking it slow, being true to who you are. Let me tell you how the long game paid out for me in 3 very different ways.
1. Teach what you know
I’ve worked closely with a graphic designer and good friend since day 1, almost 11 years ago now. We started out like most people in the web arena, hungry for work, but not convinced of our worth. We did things cheap, even for 2005 prices.
The first 2 websites I built I took a split of $500! Seriously $250! And this was stuff I wrote from scratch in PHP and MySQL. That’s right, a simple CMS hand coded for about the cost of dinner and a night out.
Over the next few years we began to increase our prices, I took a ‘real’ job to pay the bills, and the most I ever made on a collaboration was $1000.
Then my mindset changed. Not only did I love what I did, but I started to really see the value I brought to projects and to customers. I wasn’t just someone that built a website, I was someone that helped a business grow.
The biggest shift was about 3 years ago when I came across Double your Freelancing. Brennan Dunn was the man to change my mindset for good. From that day I refused to do a site again for $1000.
Wow, my graphic designer was blindsided with this. He couldn’t possibly see a way to make the clients he found pay more the $2k for a site. It was a small rural town, not a lot of money, everyone would run away. He really couldn’t afford to give me more for what I was building for him.
And so the education began. I started laying out what it meant to find High Value Clients, and to charge what you are worth. Everything that I have posted on this site I spoon fed him, and turned him into a believer.
If you’ve learned something that can help others, don’t be afraid to share.
So about 6 weeks ago I put together a quote for a potential new client he had. He kept telling me that he wasn’t sure that this small mom and pop operation was ready to spend the money. He was afraid if he didn’t offer a low quote that they would just walk away.
I’m happy to say he stuck to his guns, and this small family run business saw the value that him and I bring as a team. When he called to say we got the job.. He also said that they accepted the quote of well over $7K twice as much as any job he’s ever been accepted for before. Thanks Mart… for believing in what I said and putting it into action
That first new client came because I taught something I believed in to someone else.
2. Don’t write off a potential client because someone else said they were cheap.
I talk about this a lot here at HVC. Just because someone says they want it cheap, or say they don’t have a lot of money, doesn’t mean they will not value your skills.
Working for yourself means you hate to turn away someone a friend’s referred to you. Even when that friend tells you that the person will try to get you to reduce your price or that they don’t have much money. A lot of people would think that this is a valid reason to stay away, but I’ve learned that doing things a little differently can have great pay-offs.
I know it seems like something our parents would tell us as children, not to judge people on first impression or on what others tell you. I also know that as I’ve gotten older all of those things I rolled my eyes about when I was younger have a different meaning to me now. It is so easy to cloud and taint your judgement of someone just with a few offhand words from someone you know and trust.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of every new person you meet.
I didn’t ignore what my friend told me but I also didn’t shy away because of it. I approached the meeting with an attitude of trying to figure out why they might not have money for this project.
It was awesome, we clicked, we got each other’s point of view. Best of all, not once was the price brought up in the conversation. Sure, they’d mentioned where they’d spent money in the past without results, but this wasn’t something to make me think ‘they can’t afford me’ but it was the perfect time to build trust. I used the ideas I laid out for Freelance to Freedom to help them get over some of their fears.
This client needed empathy and my approach was slow. It took a few meetings to do this, laying groundwork, building trust, and never selling myself or my services short. What happened? They’ve given me the business of 3 interconnected websites and we have a long term partnership that started this week.
It would have been so easy to not bother calling this person and even easier to ignore their fears, but when you do call and then take the time to listen and support, you can end up with a project that will run in the 10’s of thousands. Win.
3. Don’t be afraid of your niche, even if it doesn’t seem like one.
I have been so tired of hearing that I need to find my niche. Everywhere I turned or where ever I seemed to ask for advice I was told I couldn’t just be a website developer, I needed a narrow specific industry, or problem that I solved.
How I hated to hear this. I find doing the same exact thing over and over again such a bore. Yes, logically I knew that narrowing my focus would get me more and better clients, but why did I have to choose to just work with doctors, or just create booking apps. I left working the 9-5 to avoid that sort of boredom.
I struggled with this for a long time. I kept questioning my stubbornness to not choose something. Something specific. But it just didn’t feel right. Question, question, question…
I wasn’t getting a flood of new clients. Maybe I was wrong.
I got scared. My brain kept shouting ‘I don’t have a niche that I’m good at!!’ I’m that horrible cliche ‘jack of all trades’.
I spent time writing and rewriting the copy on my site. I kept asking the question, ‘who is my ideal client’. How do I speak to them? I subtly changed my message. I waited. I got busy with other things. I worked with current clients. I took a vacation.
Then, there it was again, in my inbox, a request to meet! Whoop, whoop, someone who actually said
“You sound right for what we want . Your approach is completely different to others”.
Hot damn that felt good.
I met this client, had a great discussion and walked away saying, this is my ideal client. He ended the meeting with; ‘when can we start’? Before any cost or proposal discussions.
I was flying high doing a happy dance; 3 new clients in less than 2 weeks.
I bet you are wondering what my ideal client is. How I cleverly managed to speak to them through my website… nothing clever here, just me, speaking from the heart.
Yes, I asked myself, who is my ideal client, and I got specific. I wanted them to be:
- Small business owners who are growing
- With a website that wasn’t working for them anymore
- Aged 40-60 who aren’t afraid of tech, but have business/life experience/wisdom
- Want to do things differently than their competitors
- Value simplicity
Yeah, I know, what kind of niche is that? Not your typical one, but I got specific on the who, not the what. I wrote my web copy with this in mind, and I answered emails and inquiries with these ideas in my head. And it worked!
A niche can be the who, not just the what.
All of my recent clients (however they found me) have all commented on the language on my website. They found something that spoke to them and that is why we met and eventually I got the business.
I know that playing the long game is hard, but it works. I’ve found the best way to manage the feeling of not progressing is to ignore it. Not ignore doing it, ignore what happens after you do it. Spend your time nuturing current clients, speaking to friends about what you do, and learning. Then tweak your message, teach what you learned, and take the time to listen to what others have to say. Then when you least expect it, or when you are feeling your worst, knock, knock, knock, opportunity shows up!
Over to you.
Have you used any of these 3 approaches to get a new client? Or have you tried something completely different that worked? I’d love to hear more.
Please leave something in the comments below.
Until next time…good luck finding those High Value Clients.