Booking new clients for your web design business is challenging. First, you have to find someone who is interested in your services. Then it’s a matter of hammering out an agreement so you can start your journey together.
This sounds easy. But the process can feel like being in a reality show competition. Once in a while, you’ll run into a potential client who plays the part of the sly host. They will test your limits by asking all kinds of philosophical questions and various strange requests.
Frankly, it’s a little unnerving. Sometimes it feels belittleling. You want to land a new client but you have to pass the third step. You may start to wonder if you will ever make it to the project.
How much of this do you have to tolerate? Where do you finally draw the line and say, “Thanks, but no thanks…”?
This is a topic with many gray areas. But to help you decide, we’ll dive right into the heart of the matter. On with us!
Are They Hiring a Web Designer or Doing a Background Check?
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: potential clients have a right to ask questions. It’s their time, money, and reputation on the line. Therefore, a designer should always be willing to answer.
Still, it can go too far. For example, asking if you are available 24/7. Seriously? We are web designers, not all-night donut shops. Many of us have set hours, just like other businesses. If a client wants that kind of availability, they better be prepared to pay handsomely for it.
Sometimes it’s not just the questions they ask – it’s the implication. Some people think that web design is not a serious profession. Their inquiries seem like something you’d ask an untrustworthy teenager in a job interview.
After 20+ years in the industry, I yet run into this often. It makes me think back to landing my first gig in the 1990s. Back then, the web was a new concept to mainstream businesses. Whether it’s a misunderstanding or mistrust, it can be a little offensive.
When you feel disrespected, take a step back. You are definitely overreacting. But if that’s not the case, you better walk away with your dignity intact.
Making the Most of Your Valuable Time
Going beyond the asking stage, you could also get caught up in long, drawn-out conversations with a prospect.
Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with being associated with such heroism. It’s a nice way to build relationships. This is beneficial when working together. But that is not always the case.
In some cases, a potential client (figure) may ask your ear for free advice – even if they don’t intend to work with you. Whether it’s constant phone calls or emails, this can quickly get out of hand.
There is a fine line between showing common courtesy and letting someone waste your time. If a prospect crosses that threshold, it may be wise to politely push back.
You could say, for example, that you are happy to give advice. But to go deeper, you’ll have to charge an hourly fee. This should get the message across.
Looking for Free or Free “Favors”.
Another approach some prospects have taken is angling for free or deeply discounted work. And there aren’t many advantages for web designers to play with.
Think of it this way: if someone isn’t willing to pay you what you’re worth, they’re not valuing what you do. All your hard work, successful portfolio, and hours of learning mean nothing to them. They just want nothing – or almost nothing.
Early in my career, I fell into the trap of giving time and effort away. What I learned is that the working relationship with a client gets stuck in a vicious cycle. They start expecting you to leave money on the table to please them. And you, in case you lose a client, you don’t want to push the envelope.
It is important to remember that you are not owed anything. Even if they are friendly and complimentary about your work, you probably wouldn’t call them a true friend. Therefore, do not sweet talk any arrangements that will not result in fair compensation.
This is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business. You want to offer a great service. But you also want to achieve financial independence. Even if it goes against your nature, you should still make decisions with this philosophy in mind.
Sometimes, a Web Design Project isn’t worth the trouble
Over time, you can develop a keen eye for potential clients. You’ll start to see red flags for projects and people you want to avoid. All told, it comes down to understanding the types of clients you want to work with.
One of the most telling signs of a project is how you are treated during the initial process. While perfection should not be expected, there are some basic principles that clients should follow.
Are you being appreciated and respected? Is the person on the other end listening to what you have to say? Pay careful attention, because these characteristics will help you make the right decision.