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  1. #1
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    Approaching Clients

    I am struggling to understand how you should approach clients?

    They almost always send me an email. From this email I send them a questionnaire. They never really know how many pages they want or the complete functionality of the site. I advice them to write the content and develop a rough site-map. From here I wait, wait and wait until I somehow think they have gone elsewhere or given up the herculean task of devising their own content and structure.

    I would be very interested to know how people approach clients? What the typical method of going about this.
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    Most clients that approach me already have at least some idea of what they want. They don't have to know everything in advance, just so long as there is a baseline to start with (some information, a contact form, the usual). You could always expend from there. And in my experience once there is at least something of a website there the client starts to see what's missing and come to you with more ideas.

    At the very least you could ask the client what it is they do, and suggest a base for them to start with, or propose to meet and talk about what they do and what they would want for a website. People are usually more candid when you're just talking then when filling in a questionnaire. Just sitting there and waiting usually doesn't bring anything.
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  3. #3
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    I completely understand what you're saying Scallio, but how can you quote somebody a price without knowing the complete picture?
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    You can't.

    You could maybe give them a ball pack, but you need to careful with that, as it could really hurt you.
    Although I suppose this article can explain that better than I can: Quoting a Ballpark: Home Run or Strikeout? » SitePoint
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    I advice them to write the content and develop a rough site-map
    That's great, once you've got them signed up and deposit paid. At that point, it doesn't matter if they disappear for a while writing their content.

    You shouldn't be telling a prospective client to go away and write content when they are only in the initial stages of the sales process. Your job at this point is to 'sell' yourself to them, make sure you can both work together, and get them to sign your contract/pay a non-refundable deposit.

    I advise that when you get an initial email enquiry, ask for their phone number and schedule a 20 minute chat to discuss their plans so you can get a rough idea of what they want and be able to give them a rough idea of the kind of costs involved.

    Your task is to develop your skills so that you are able to use that 20 minutes most efficiently in order to get all the info you need. For example:

    What sort of site do they want?
    Why do they want it? What problems will it solve for them
    Try to find out what their budget is (i.e. can they afford you etc)
    Do you want to work with them (i.e. do they sound like a nightmare client)
    Are you able to provide what they want (i.e. do you have the required skills and resources)
    When does it need to be done by?
    Who else are they talking to? Do they have any quotes already?
    What's the most important factor that will influence their buying decision? i.e. price, value for money, quality, fast turnaround, high level of ongoing support, convenience etc

    I suggest you read a few sales books. Gill's one is free and fantastic



  6. #6
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    Best quote in that web-pages.

    Quote Originally Posted by http://blogs.sitepoint.com/quoting-a-ballpark-home-run-or-strikeout/
    “Well, it really depends on how elaborate a site you need. We recently did a high-end web site for $25,000.” Then, after the look of shock subsided from their face, I would add: “But you probably don’t need something that fancy. The average cost for a basic site is around $2,000. Is that within your price range?”

    You shouldn't be telling a prospective client to go away and write content when they are only in the initial stages of the sales process. Your job at this point is to 'sell' yourself to them, make sure you can both work together, and get them to sign your contract/pay a non-refundable deposit.
    I completely agree. It makes horrible business sense to me too, but I had an experience with another client who kept changes his requirements because he did not properly think of the site, and let's face it, with no content I can't really do the job. The contract may well get them to give me the money and a quotation, but is this the goal? Do they not at least have to supply a sitemap, or something to that affect? How do you guys normally work?

    Hardly, the goal for me is to develop their site and upon completely take the money I worked for.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    Do they not at least have to supply a sitemap, or something to that affect? How do you guys normally work?
    My point was that you don't need site maps or content until you begin the project. That means get your signed agreement and your deposit, THEN sit down with the client and work on the little details. Why waste time on this stuff until you know you've definitely got the job?

    The order I tend to work in is:

    Prospective client contacts you
    You get a rough idea what they want
    You give them an idea of the kind of costs involved
    They agree that you sound like the best developer for the job
    They sign contract and pay deposit
    You sit down and start working on the finer details of the project
    Client creates content
    Site gets built and put on test server
    Client signs it off and pays balance
    Site is handed over to client.

    BTW, the easiest way around the 'how many pages' issue is to not deal with it at all. Just build a content management system for the client and let them add their own content whenever they are ready. Just make sure you get paid in full first, just in case the client takes 5 years to ad the content.

  8. #8
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    I understand, so the price you give is an approximation, not a definate set-in-stone price. In terms of the functionality, they've already described pretty much what they want, which should not be a problem for me.

    The trouble is many potential clients might see the price as the sole factor to determine their agreement. I could give them a price breakdown, and estimate how much is needed for each page. This would help them, and would certainly help me if they decided to unscruptulesly add stuff on believing it's within the initial quote.

    I understand what you're saying. The deposit you mention is roughly what figure. I was always told 50% is a good mark. I am not too sure that many would be happy to pay that.

    In terms of a sitemap, the only real reason I suggested it is so I know the page number. I really do agree with you, but I am scared if the client decides not to produce any content and then blames me for not completing the website. Not much of a confrontational type of man, just saying.
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  9. #9
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    I'll give them a rough price if they give me rough specs, I'll give them an exact price if they give me exact specs. I don't really do 'static' sites with set numbers of pages, I'd rather just quote the client for the design and implementation into a CMS, they then add as many pages as they want, in their own time.

    The trouble is many potential clients might see the price as the sole factor to determine their agreement
    Then find different potential clients! Price is certainly important, but it doesn't have to be the primary buying criteria. I know it rarely is for me. I'm into woodworking, I buy a lot of tools, and there are a lot of cheap tool sites out there, but the service is terrible, I have to wait weeks for anything to be in stock, returns are a hassle. On the flip side, I can pay a bit more and go to a company like Axminster and get next day delivery, no-quibble returns, friendly phone support etc.

    Price is probably 4th or 5th on my list of criteria - I find convenience and confidence in the seller to be the most important thing for me. When I buy something, I want it there the next day and if there's a problem I want to know it will be handled quickly and with minimum fuss. Amazon is another example of such a company - not always the cheapest, but definitely top service. Obviously price has to be acceptable , but not necessarily the lowest.

    I avoid clients who consider price of utmost importance. I'm not the cheapest, but I am very good, great service, bend over backwards for clients, provide ongoing support and consulting etc.

    anyway, no matter how low you charge, there's always someone cheaper Try to differentiate yourself in ways other than price. If the client likes you and feels comfortable and confident you can produce the results they need, price becomes almost inconsequential (well, to a point.........).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox View Post
    price becomes almost inconsequential (well, to a point.........).
    I've decided, one billion dollars is my asking price :P On a serious note....

    I completely agree with you on price. For me I always buy from Amazon even if there is cheaper companies on the market because I know Amazon will take it back without the grief, and for me, this is one of the most important factor. There prices, like you mention, aren't the cheapest, but they're reasonble, there are times when there prices are particularly low, but in either case I will probably continue buying from them because of there service.

    I think maybe your approximate approach would prove good. Clients would hardly develop content, and even if they did they would not have a clue on site structure/hierarcy or design principles.

    Trouble is I've already told the client to develop a structure so I can quote them. I feel kind of stupid now.

    You said:

    I don't really do 'static' sites with set numbers of pages, I'd rather just quote the client for the design and implementation into a CMS, they then add as many pages as they want, in their own time.
    mm.... how is that working for you? Do they manage to add the pages? A bit off-topic, what CMS do you use? I use to work in a corporate environment and clients had this reputation with killing their own websites, even with hours of training.
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  11. #11
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    I use my own CMS, however if I were starting out these days, there's plenty of open source CMS that would be fine for most sites.

    Trouble is I've already told the client to develop a structure so I can quote them. I feel kind of stupid now.
    It's not stupid, each to their own. To be fair, if it's a static site and the client wants an exact quote, you'll certainly need to know how many pages they want.

    The other option, which many people use, is to just give an hourly rate with an estimate of costs and just bill the client monthly. Some clients are happy to go with this, some are not. It's up to you really, whatever suits you the best.

  12. #12
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    I normally produce a CMS site, but the pages will have to be developed by me. I cannot really have the clients creating their own pages. I am sure this will cause all kinds of problems.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    I normally produce a CMS site, but the pages will have to be developed by me. I cannot really have the clients creating their own pages. I am sure this will cause all kinds of problems.
    Not really, not in my experience. Most clients are able to use Word or write an email, so it's not really any extra leap to enter some text into a WYSIWYG editor and press 'submit'. There's no 'development' involved, certainly not for a typical text page with a couple of images and the odd link.

    I always give them a 2 hour training session, provide documentation (all part of the project fess) and then provide ongoing support (for an ongoing monthly fee). And if they really don't want to add the content, I'll do it and charge them for the time. A 20 page site takes, what, an hour or two to set up, assuming I've been sent a Word doc with all the content?

    Of course, my argument is if they had the tech skill to create the Word document, they will have the skill to use the CMS.

  14. #14
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    The site that I am quoting for is a CMS site, but I was hoping to fill in the content for the clients. I do not really have strong foundation in that I am kind-of the new kid on the block. Saying this I really need to know the proper way in which people approach clients.

    I normally just visit them and give them a handout of what's wrong with their current site based on a questionnaire they fill in, normally accompanied by our services. From here I am in the process of arranging a quote, and this is where I am stuck.

    Maybe I could quote per page, or per template, or something. The old company I worked were somewhat unorganized and they did their own thing in terms of quoting, which did not really lead to any big profit marginns for them. Like you said, each to their own, but there surely has to be a productive way of working and making a living.
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