Every web designer can imagine their ideal client and project. Whether it’s a project that will use a specific content management system (CMS) or working with a client in a specific industry, we all have our comfort zone.
But many of us are faced with opportunities that are not necessarily ideal. Maybe their timeline is too tight, their budget too low or their project is not within our niche. On its own, that’s all well and good.
The problem is that a lot of time can be wasted before deciding that a potential client isn’t going to work out. For example, you can go so far as to meet with them and write a detailed proposal, only to realize that it’s not a good fit.
So how can you come to this conclusion so much earlier? One of the best ways to get rid of unwanted projects is to ask the right questions.
Get to the Point
When you’re trying to be polite, it can be a little rude to start asking tough questions right away. And maybe there is some truth in that. It is difficult to build a good relationship by asking someone a question.
However, it is possible to be cordial and direct. Depending on your personality, this may be difficult to do over the phone or in person. That’s certainly true in my case, which is why I prefer to keep the process limited to email communication – at least until I have an opinion on whether the project is worth pursuing.
Email provides a medium in which to be friendly, but ask very direct questions. You don’t need to use fancy wording or make things too complicated. The simpler the question, the better the chance of getting a useful answer.
Start with a few questions that give a broad picture of the project. For example, questions such as:
- “What’s your budget?”
- “What is your timeline for completing the project?”
- “Do you need to accept payments online?”
These types of questions are short, sweet, and specific. They will get you better results than something too general, such as:
- “What are the details of your project?”
Beating around the bush doesn’t help the process. And it becomes more difficult to decide if this is a project you want to take on.
If your initial questions get the right answers, it’s time to take things to the next level. This is where you might want to consider a phone call, video chat, or (if you think you have something special) an in-person meeting.
Of course, reaching this point does not guarantee that the project will be a perfect fit. Just that you have found enough potential to dig a little deeper. From here, you can start collecting the smaller data that will help you make a better decision.
This is where another round of questioning comes into play. It is still important to keep things simple and direct.
Hopefully you have the general parameters based on what the client is looking for. But it never hurts to confirm these details by repeating them (“You mentioned that you have about 150 products for sale in your WooCommerce store…”). Verifying this information helps ensure everyone is on the same page.
Now you can start getting into the nitty-gritty of what the project requires. In our WooCommerce example above, you might want to request something like this:
- “Let’s discuss shipping. What is your biggest product? What is the smallest?”
- “Are any of your products available in different sizes?”
- “Who will process your orders?”
As you get more answers, you should have a better understanding of both the project and the client. This should give you all the information you need to sign or not.
Simplifying the Client Screening Process
When you think about it, discussing a potential project with someone is like a job interview. The other party is trying to determine if you are a good fit for their project. At the same time, you want to understand how the project could be suitable for your business.
As a web designer, you should choose your projects carefully. No one wants to dedicate their time and brain power to something that won’t work for everyone involved.
So don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions. You’ll get to the heart of the matter and, if things don’t work out, you’ll walk away knowing it’s great.