Are you familiar with the triple constraint? It’s a project management term that deals with the three restrictions on any project: time, cost, and quality (or scope).
As a project-based creative professional, your business lives and dies by this principle. The thing you must internalize about the triple constraint (also called the “iron triangle”) is that you can offer any two of the three things.
When a prospective client shows up wanting a robust, cutting-edge site by the end of next week for $500, they’ll have a choice to make: scale back the site, extend the timeframe, or pony up (a lot) more dollars.
Know which corner you inhabit in the triangle, and counter with whatever terms will keep you there (and keep you in business).
When you’re under pressure and looking for traction, it can be tempting to take on these over-extended jobs just to get some money in the door. But as much as it’s possible, do not compromise. You might make a quick buck, but what you’ll really end up doing is sabotage. You’ll dilute your brand, undermine your value, expend a ton of energy that you could be devoting to business-building, and find it that much harder to stick to your guns next time. Do yourself a favor and just don’t go there.
So how do you climb up the client-quality ladder and start attracting better clients to your web design business? Here are five ways to get started:
1. Get really clear on your ideal customer
You need to know who your target is. Once you’ve settled on the population that you serve best, start researching them. You probably already have a sense of where to get started, based on your previous interactions with these folks.
What do your ideal customers want? What do they think they need? What do they think they’re looking for, and what do they actually need?
Once you’ve established who you’re looking for, it’s time to find them. Where do they hang out, in person and online? Start showing up in their watering holes. Guest blogging is a great way to do this, as is being active in Facebook groups, meet-ups, and the like.
2. Make your offer about the end result
Once you have a good sense of what your ideal clients want or think they need, gear your copy and brand messaging toward that. For example, a fitness expert isn’t going to get any clients by selling a program that will “help you achieve optimum wellness” when what the client really wants is to lose weight. You might know that they need “optimum wellness,” but no one lies awake at night thinking about how to achieve optimum wellness…they’re thinking about how they really want to lose weight. So that’s what they’re going to search for, respond to, and buy.
Once you get your clients on “the inside,” you can educate them about what they really need (maybe, if it’s necessary). But to attract them in the first place, you need to be the solution to the problem they think they have.
3. Raise your prices
This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s a common tale to hear a designer raising his or her prices and suddenly getting more inquiries from better clients. There’s a sweet spot of value-seekers (as opposed to price-shoppers) who understand that they’ll have to pay real money to get something good. Your pricing will either attract or repel those potential clients.
So should you publish your rates? That’s entirely up to you. Even if you don’t make a price sheet available, you can build an “understanding” of your rates into your copy with context clues and even testimonials. You could also add a budget range drop-down in your client questionnaire to give your prospective client a sense of what an appropriate budget range could be. When you communicate your pricing, you might get fewer inquiries and even fewer customers, but the overall quality of your leads will go up.
4. Set expectations right from the beginning
With things like scope creep and high-maintenance tendencies lurking around every corner, you’ll really do yourself a favor by getting crystal-clear on expectations before onboarding a client.
Make sure your prospects know exactly what they’re getting before they try to hire you. That means you’ve clearly stated things like your availability by email and phone, your insistence on one point of contact, and your right to adjust the project fees when the client changes gears (or takes too long to respond). That way, if your ideal client wants to have check-in phone calls twice a week and you haaaaaate being on the phone, you’ll know not to take this one on…or to bump all your prices up 20% to account for the hassle.
5. Build a referral system
Your best clients aren’t unicorns. They probably hang out with other folks who would be ideal clients for you. A fantastic way to tap into those circles is to set up a referral-generating machine. Offer special deals or other incentives for your best clients when they come to you for repeat work and when they send referrals to you.
Many designers advise against offering discounts, but you may want to consider using discounts or bonuses (like an extra month of maintenance or a free website review) for these clients.
“Attracting great clients is about finding them, understanding them, and keeping them happy. ” Once you’re able to nail all three of those down, you’ll be set!
What’s your biggest question when it comes to finding clients?