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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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3 Great Ways To Attract Higher Quality Clients

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Money Quality Time

This is a guest article contributed by Lior Levin.


You have probably been in a situation where you felt like a client was not willing to pay you enough or did not appreciate the quality of work you had put into a project. For freelancers & business owners, this is not something unusual.

Many people who hire you, especially if you are a freelancer, may undervalue your work or even insist that they pay you as little as possible for a ridiculous amount of work. Far too often, designers in that position cave into these outlandish demands and end up in an unbearable situation.

These types of clients are ‘low quality’ clients, and there is little you can do to change that. Instead of trying to convince low quality clients to set the bar higher, you should focus on attracting ‘higher quality’ clients. There is no magic formula that will attract them, and there is no absolute way to stave off all low quality clients from even contacting you. But you can orient your business or freelance services toward higher quality clients by increasing your self-confidence and following these tips.

1. Know Your Worth

Value

This may be easier said than done, but you should know what your services are truly worth. Few people think their time is worth $5 an hour, but fewer still realise the true value of the work they produce.

If you appear desperate, as though you will starve if your client does not hire you, it will reflect in his or her perception of your worth. High quality clients want high quality designers, and they will make an extra effort to get someone they think will deliver something spectacular.

If you have the confidence to say, “I’m worth more than that. My work is worth this much,” high quality clients will take your word for it. If they do not, you need to be firm and insist on the price you can actually afford to deliver. Taking low-paying gigs too often may be a way to get noticed, but it will be the wrong type of attention – that of low quality clients.

This is not a license to be arrogant. You are not indispensable, but there is nothing wrong with making it seem like you and your business are. If your clients truly believe no one can do it like you can, they will pay top dollar.

2. Be Flexible but not Bendable

Flexible

Some clients expect you to be on call for their every need, yet they are not willing to pay for the actual cost that such a service would require. Instead they pay the basic design fee but then are constantly emailing you, calling you, and even asking for you to add additional features and components.

It is OK to be flexible, but don’t get yourself in a knot. If you start a project and the client decides to change something, make it clear that a change is fine, but there may be additional costs for it. If you were painting someone’s house red and then halfway through that person decided he wanted brown instead, you would have to charge him extra for the paint you have already wasted and the work hours it took for the half-painted house. Your design work is no different.

Make sure your clients know exactly what they are getting from you up front. That will help avoid awkward moments and animosity over what they perceive as unfinished business. The best clients will trust your creative genius and allow you to freely take control. Others will attempt to micromanage every detail. In either case, make sure you dictate the flow of the development process and keep the client within your boundaries.

3. Offer Services Clients Really Want

Demand

Find out what types of options and features interest high quality clients. They have likely come up with some idea about what they want by looking at larger business websites or even at their competitors. Those sites likely have certain features that attracted them. Find out what those features are and make sure you highlight them in your advertising and sales promotion.

You may want to invest some time in market research to find out what the clients you want to attract need and what types of services attract them. In some cases, it may be that one feature you say you offer that makes them choose you over someone who may offer the same thing, but not mention it. This will work particularly well if you are able to provide samples of those features in action.

Find a Balance

It is important make sure you balance your ideals with your reality. Sometimes it is impossible to know that a seemingly high quality client will turn out to be horrible. But in most situations, you can usually tell from the beginning. For some situations there have to be compromises, but you should never leave a project feeling as though you worked for too little or were not able to do your best work because of client restrictions. Find a balance that works for you and stick to it.

Remember, the best designers are those who find good clients.

What methods have you used to attract higher quality clients?

*Article by Lior Levin who works for a psd to xhtml service company from Oregon and also advises as an online marketer to a to-do list tool company. Photos by Shutterstock.



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35 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Robin Cannon Reply

    Excellent advice. I was initially surprised when I was freelancing more regularly that I often attracted *more* clients when I raised my prices, rather than less. But then I realized that having previously undervalued my work, I’d created an impression of being a “budget option”. When I started paying more attention to my market value, realistic pricing meant that my work was respected more. Nowadays, whether in terms of freelance or salary based roles, I’m far more confident to genuinely ask for what I think I’m worth, and prepared to walk away if I can’t get that.

    In terms of the flexibility, I’ve always found it really useful to provide some basic standards on this in an initial quote. E.g. as well as outlining milestones and costs, I also factor in (and make sure the client knows) that the quote includes “x” hours of alterations and updates. This seems to be well received (many clients don’t even use that time), and means that clients tend to take a little longer to consider whether they’re making changes for the sake of it, or whether they’re really needed.

  • Climax Media Reply

    “The best clients will trust your creative genius and allow you to freely take control.”

    Couldn’t have said it any better. Most clients that are hesitant to trust your creative direction, or have problems with handing over authority end up being headaches in the long run.

    Stay away!

  • Navigator Multimedia Reply

    Attending networking events can provide opportunities to meet the “faces” of businesses and assess the types of clients you would like to pursue. Speaking with entrepreneurs and CEO’s in a casual environment can give you valuable insight into how business owners gauge “value” for services like web design, and help you target the right clients.

    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • Deborah Jordan Reply

    The hardest thing also is doing work for friends or friends-of-friends, giving them work for free/nearly free and then they get an attitude. I don’t understand that. The weirdest thing happens when you undercharge – those cheap clients tend to be the most high maintenance. It’s as if they get it into their head that you are working for them forever for free. Another reason to hold your ground and charge decent market-value rates – you get more respect.

  • Julia Agnes Reply

    Looking for interesting resources and for new information, you will surely appreciate the proposed material. Your advices a great and useful. Thanks!

  • Ben Clarke Reply

    Great write up and read! Of which the points you bought up i very much agree with!

    When it comes to being flexible for the client its always nice to be flexible and willing to give them the best experience possible. But as you stated bending over backwards to meet their needs will most definitely carry on putting you in a bad place! Word of mouth is a great way of gaining clients and if one client tells another client he did this and that for me of which you chucked something that took a while in for free to keep your client interested everyone else is going to be wanting the same for the same price.

    Thanks for the great read!

  • Peter Gabany Reply

    Seems like a 100 years ago when as a photographer I billed myself out at $75/hour. Large city photographers were billing $350/hour +. When I arrived at a shoot with my mountain of photo gear the client would watch as I struggled to move each piece from the car to the lobby to the site location. You learn quickly – bring things in roller cases and bring a dolly, put cords in milk crates, etc. Frustrated and tired an less productive as half the time was spent moving things I doubled our rates.

    Problem solved. Now when met at the door the marketing manager would have several minions their to meet us (by now I was bring an assistant and charging for their time as well). The equipment was scooped up and brought to our location. We were usually brought to an office or lounge fed coffee and reviewed the needs of the shoot. Within 20 minutes we would be on location, all of our equipment in place. A happy, cordial meet with manager and clear direction of the job. If we needed to move to other locations the minions did so willingly.

    Also we ended up shooting more and delivering more as we had the time and the manager was focused on getting good bang for their buck. Consequently, better work, better relationship, less argument about billing (not paying for moving equipment) and all in all a happier customer. That was 26 years ago… nothing changes!

  • Matt from Bizcard Reply

    Great post.

    I feel there is huge amount of technical knowledge to help designers create awesome work, however there is very little authoritative content dedicated to helping freelancers/companies run or grow their business. In the end we aren’t just doing artwork to show how talented we are, we are also doing it to make a living.

  • Stephen Emlund Reply

    Great thoughts here! I recommend reading Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines – or at least referencing the sections related to what you do.

  • Courtney Reply

    This is a great article.. we discussed this on LinkedIn. When dealing with clients, flexibility is a must but you should never break your back. I will throw something in on some deals, if the amount of money offers me the luxury of doing so.

    You should never have to beg a potential client. It is okay to be persistent if you can see yourself gaining an edge, but don’t let good business pass you by pursuing the “one that got away”.

    If you are doing design work for a major corporation or a business that makes money, never give your work away for free. In order to feel the part, you must dress the part. Respect yourself and your work and people will respect you and your work also.

  • Dennis Salvatier Reply

    Simply put, higher prices. If you want premium clients, you need to charge premium prices. And never work with friends and family.

  • Anaradam Reply

    Thank u for the useful tips… All our team has following by your war… great job..

  • Mike Reply

    I used to be involved in headhunting niche and I can say that if you ask higher price your client will think that you offer better service and chose you instead your cheaper competitors while the service will be equal.
    If you know how to keep prices high you will gain a lot more because you will need fewer clients so more time to deliver better service

  • Stacey Reply

    Under “Know Your Worth” I would add “Show Your Worth”. Back in the day, freelancers (copywriters, anyway) carried portfolios displaying hard copies of samples of their work. Today, I always advocate doing something similar: Carry results in your new offline, online or verbal portfolio.

    When you complete an assignment: (a)go back sometime afterwards and ask that client how (in percentages or some cognizable chunk of info) your work benefitted their business (b) ask if they would give you a written, audio or video testimonial and (c) mold that percentage/result into your elevator pitch that you share with prospects. “ABC Carpet’s business increased 30% the month after they handed out my brochures and that was their only marketing method that month.” Of course, this is only if this is true.

    Give prospects some visuals as to how things will change after your work is done, because that’s what they are really shopping for – the ultimate result. Let your results speak for themselves.

  • Lillian Davenport Reply

    That’s my new year’s resolution.. I have a client compatibility “test”, if you will, that will be the first form of communication about a project before phone calls or worse yet, time-wasting meetings come about. I’m thinking of questions such as “what is your budget (0-$500, $500-1000, $1000-$2000, $2000-$3000, etc.)” “what sort of value are you looking to bring to your business through design” and “how motivated are you to begin and finish this project”. I think this will help to weed out the wishy-washers and needy people, as well as get serious about working with me from the start. This was a great article that will help me consider more questions to add to my “test” (currently trying to think of a better word than “test”)

  • Kiren Reply

    I have to learn every few months, never charge less than your worth in order to get business. I’ve followed that road way too many times, great article!

  • Courtney Reply

    What Stacie said is very important to understanding “Your Worth”. Doing this lets the client know that you are not just their to design and be done, instead you care about the direction of the company. This in exchange builds business relationships.

  • Thomas Reply

    Great post! These are very usefull tips. Because of the financial crisis most of my clients start to think I will work for “free”.

  • David Christian-Woodruff Reply

    Excellent advice here. Valuing your business and work at a suitable level is key to its success. There have been many occasions in the past where I’ve completed a project, set the site live with the client coming back wanting a whole host of changes. My conscience being what it is, I’ve agreed to do them, meaning I’m working at a loss on the value of my time and work.

    It’s not so much that we should deny them the right to tweak things that they aren’t 100% happy with on their site, but to set it out from the off how many changes or hours of work they will have available, as has been mentioned on here. Don’t be afraid to let them know that they will have to pay for all additional work. It’s going to be difficult and the client may not like it, but it’s just part of the course of building websites. The analogy of painting a house is perfect in this instance.

  • April Neylan Reply

    Great article Lior. Some very helpful tips there.

  • Earl Reply

    Great advice, alot of graphic artist in my area love to work for very low amounts I will share your post with them.

  • MicroSourcing Reply

    Value is one of the trickiest things to determine because the individual has to strike a balance between self-respect and marketability.

  • APNA JAHANIAN Reply

    Yep, It’s really true because mostly when I give good services with flexibly then most of clients want more and more even bend me, hehe.

  • Daly Reply

    The old truth is that nobody will appreciate you if you don’t appreciate yourself. The same goes for clients.

    With all the work force coming from the East, working for the ridiculous money, I think that it’s best to find the fine balance between overpricing and under-pricing your work.

  • Javier Reply

    Pure true, undervalue our work it is not the way to attract good clients, when I arrived to LA 5 years ago, I thought deliver good work for a cheap price was a good strategy to introduce my work, then get the big project….. but that was totally wrong, this is like gravity law, cheap price attracts cheap client.

  • qammar Reply

    Lior Levin, really worth to read and share,
    what a great article. I just denied to work
    for a client, as he ask me a simple drop down
    menu for his website and when I quoted the price
    for a simple drop down menu in php/javascript, In his next email he provide the “details” :) with many other demands search, xml map, site navigation, menu admin panel, blah blah …

    I am freelancing for many years, see many different clients, many of them change requirements after getting first quote.
    and got connected with many better clients too.

    Your article really help me to decide quickly.

    I am tweeting it :P

  • Graphic Design Company in New York Reply

    Great thought. It’s true ” you must say about the extra charge for extra work”. Clients wants his work complete at minimum cost but you have to power of convince for taking money according to work. it’s possible if you give proper service him.

  • flash components Reply

    Mr.Cass,
    That is really useful tips for a designer.
    There have no way without maintaining money,time and Quality.Every designer should be follow it for self carrier.In freelance Marketplace without three things,He will be rejected in short time.So be careful and i want more tips like that to you.Thanks for Sharing.

  • Trish F. Reply

    As a soon-to-be graphic and web design graduate I find this topic very educational for those of us just starting out. It’s hard not to undercharge when I feel we don’t have the experience to “demand” higher fees. I hope to just get a few clients under my belt then forge ahead. What do you think
    Thanks for the great input!

  • rupam { xhobdo } Reply

    @Jacob Great to read your post.Truly great.Thanks a lot.

  • Web Design in Abuja Nigeria Reply

    Great article Lior, every word you wrote is true.
    The more you undervalue yourself, the less people value you

  • Ken Reply

    Very nice write up. As a freelancer, you should really know the value of your time and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re not liking what you do mainly because it doesn’t pay well.

  • barcelona chair deals Reply

    This seems to be well received (many clients don’t even use that time), and means that clients tend to take a little longer to consider whether they’re making changes for the sake of it, or whether they’re really needed.

  • DesignFacet Reply

    Great article. I think most designers should charge what their time is worth regardless of how much they need the money. Few high paying clients are better than few low paying ones.

  • Patrick kennedy Reply

    When you are brand new to the business, with little or no real portfolio, then it can be advisable to underprice at least until you get a few paying clients under your belt. Even pro-bono work for non profits if need be. Then, once, you have some representative sites to show your talents, then you’re in a position to get your price more in line with the going rate for your area. Location is an important part of the equation as well. A company in NYC, for example, would expect to pay a higher rate than a business in central Idaho or wherever.

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