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
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
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
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?