As you’re probably aware, there are many more freelancers on the Net than there are employers. Consequently, freelancers often find themselves bidding for a job along with hundreds of other Web professionals. For this reason alone, some freelancers find that they have to bid so low that they can’t make a living. Why not take your business into your own hands? After reading this article you’ll have a sure fire method to attract clients — so read on!
How many small businesses are in your area? The average county has thousands of small business. However, only a third of all small businesses have a Website, and only a third of these sites can carry out a sales transaction. What these businesses don’t realize is that they can probably profit from a Website. They’re in great need of a talented Web professional to not only bring them to the water, but show them how good it is to drink. In other words, let these entrepreneurs see that there are more profits to be made — online.
First you need to prospect local businesses to find out which ones are potential customers. Ask yourself what kinds of businesses are most likely to need a Website. Selecting the best freelance opportunities is a matter of intuition, but I’ve found from previous experience that the following types of businesses are excellent prospective clients:
- Night Clubs
- Grocery Stores
- Travel Agencies
- Law Firms
- Religious Organizations
- Real Estate Agencies
- Insurance / Loan Officers
- Universities and Educational Facilities
- Local governments / County offices
- Customized Item Stores
Of course there are others — start looking around your area for potential candidates!
2. Research Local Businesses
It’s important to focus your energy where there’s likely to be a need for your services. Uncovering a business opportunity often means broadening the range of your skills and services. As you’re targeting all sorts of different businesses, you’ll often need to learn about many different industries in order to be really useful to your clients.
You might find that you want to focus on one industry: for example, only targeting restaurants. You could create online menus, downloadable coupons, reservations, take out orders, and other innovative ideas in an effort to draw in the prospect’s interest. In fact, imagination and creativity are your keys to success. The number one focus of a successful entrepreneur is profit. Your goal is to find out how you can raise the prospective client’s bottom line …and this takes creativity.
Excellent tools for researching local businesses are :
- Yellow Pages
- Chamber of Commerce
- Better Business Bureau
- Department of Small Business Development
- Trade Associations
- Search Engines
- Purchased Lists
You might ask yourself what information you’ll need to find out about each prospective client before you contact them. Slow down — you have some work to do first! At the minimum, you will need to find the business’s phone number, company name, and address. From this information, you can hopefully gain access to verifiable details about this business. Next stop — the Internet. Research whether the business in question has a Website. Use every resource available to access this information. And if you can’t find a Website… then you’ve found yourself a lead!
What if the Company Does Have A Website?
What happens if the company does have a Website? You have two choices: either move on, or further evaluate their existing site. If you choose the latter, this is what you should look for:
- Is the site visually appealing?
- Are the site’s resources being used effectively?
- Are there means for a sales transaction?
- Does the site have a domain name?
- Is site listed in search engines?
- Were meta tags used effectively?
- Does the site load quickly?
- Is there essential contact information available?
- Are there broken links or missing images?
- Do you see a sales strategy that they are missing?
If you find any of the above in your analysis of the site, consider contacting the company to setup a consultation. Remember to always use tact — never come right out and criticize anyone’s site. In most cases, if the site is awful, the owner himself probably tried to build it. All you need to do is show the business owner that they’re losing out on extra earnings. And yes — there are nice words you can find to express this!
3. Organize Your Thoughts
You should keep all the information you’ve gathered in a database, Rolodex, or on index cards. I recommend writing down the information on large index cards. When I find a prospective client, I take their card with me and write down personal information on the back of it. This way, the next time I visit the client, I can ask him how his sick aunt is feeling — showing that I care about him as a person, not just a paycheck.
Next, before you contact your new-found lead, you’ll need to get your thoughts together. Answer the following questions:
- How can a new or redesigned site increase the owner’s profits?
- How much money will you need to charge?
- Are there similar sites on the net that you can show as examples to the client? Try to show the owner how company XYZ profited from similar steps.
- What design and graphic choices will you choose?
- Are there add-ons that aren’t necessary, but effective?
- (If you’re aiming for a redesign) What changes would need to be made to better the site?
4. Write a Script
There aren’t many people that enjoy cold calling, so I assume that you might be a little worried about this. Believe me, I hate cold calling as much as you! But, with the use of a script, and a lot of practice, cold calling will seem much less intimidating.
You should have all the information about the client laid out in front of you. Take a look at it, and make sure you can remember it clearly. From this information you should be able to create a script to use when you call the business owner. Take a look at the following example:
Designer: Hello, Can I please speak with owner’s name?
Owner: That’s me. How can I help you?
D: Is this an okay time for you to speak?
O: Sure, I have nothing going on right now. Who is this?
Note: if the owner says that they’re too busy to talk, ask when would be convenient for you to call back.
D: Hello, my name is your name from your company’s name.
O: How can I help you today?
D: Well first of all, thank you for being so kind to speak with me. I’m familiar with your company and I have heard many good things about it, for instance share an example. Anyway, I tried to visit your Website and I couldn’t find one. Do you have a Website running?
O: No, we don’t need one. I can’t really see how it would do us any good, seeing as we’re only a local company. If someone wants something from us they just walk on over.
D: Well, Mr. (or Mrs.) owner’s name, I spent some time thinking about your business before I called and I came up with a few ideas that could improve your profitability. For example, a similar site to yours, name a domain, started a Website how long ago and developed your idea into their site. Within how much time, they increased their profits by how much.
O: I don’t know, it sounds expensive to me.
D: I’m the most reasonably priced Web designer around. I can give you a free consultation in which we can discuss the idea, I’ll bring you a mockup design of what I visualize for your site, and we can talk it over. You won’t have any commitment to continue, I just want to show you that you can have a profitable online presence.
I’ve already done some thinking about your business. I’d appreciate the opportunity to share my ideas with you. I wonder if I could arrange to meet with you? Is 10 o’clock Monday morning a good time?
O: 11 o’clock is better.
D: Great. I’m excited to meet you.
O: I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.
D: Thanks. I’ll see you on Monday at 11:00.
Adapt this script to your business, ideas, and the client you’re trying to approach. And be sure to read it aloud a few times before you call, so that it sounds natural.
5. Make the Call
When you’re cold calling, try to create a positive, but assertive tone, and try not to sound like a telemarketer. The difference between you and a telemarketer is that you’ve educated yourself about the prospective client, and you work for yourself, not a giant corporation — you have a more personal touch.
Be prepared for a negative response and rude replies. Not every call will go according to the script. Try to figure out ahead of time what kind of objections you might receive, and always respond with a polite, professional response, and of course, never curse or say rude things in reply to a potential customer.
Remember: negative responses aren’t always a bad sign. If the potential client says " I don’t need a Web designer now, I need brochures not banners," then if your expertise includes print design, go in for the kill and get the gig! Maybe you’ll need to educate the potential client on the value of a Website in promoting his or her business before they’ll buy. If you think ahead, and plan your responses to these hiccups, you’ll do great.
6. Prepare for the Meeting
Well done! You’ve just landed your first consultation. Now you need to prepare yourself for the all-important meeting. You’ll need to take on the role of an expert in your field. Don’t just think ‘Sure, I’m an expert’ — be an expert. If you don’t have self confidence, the prospective client won’t have faith in you either. Look and feel confident — you can, and will, build a great Website for this client … you will knock his socks off!
Create a Mockup
Use all the ideas that you mapped out earlier to create a mockup or sample Website in Photoshop. To create a professional presentation of your mockup:
- Take a screen shot of your browser.
- Bring this image into Photoshop and save file.
- Layout all design elements into layers for the home page of the site.
- Go to your local service bureau to print out 2 copies of each design, one for you, and one for the prospective client.
- Go to a business supply store and buy black board, a portfolio case big enough to hold several black boards, a utility knife, an Exacto knife, spray adhesive, labels, and a straight ruler.
- Use an Exacto knife and straight ruler to cut off excess paper. Measure the width and length of the printout. Cut the black board to be about 4 inches taller and wider than the printout. Spray the back of the printout lightly with spray adhesive. Now carefully place one corner onto the black board, about 2 inches from the top and 2 inches from the left of the board. Then pull printout taut from the bottom right as you slowly press down the paper from the upper left — this will keep the printout from bubbling. There should now be 2 inches of blackboard framing each side of the printout.
- Place a label on the back of black board with copyright information, your logo, and a space for the client to sign off.
Organize your thoughts on the project by creating an concept chart. This way you can show the client the rough ideas you have for their site.
Take a blank piece of paper and write down a word or two that match the subject of your previous notes on the client’s site. Branch out with lines to related topics. Make sure that all navigational routes have been mapped out. After you have completed this process, I suggest you take it into Freehand or Illustrator and clean it up. You should also place this on blackboard the way you did your site mockups. Once you’ve completed this step and typed out any further notes on the job, you’re ready for your presentation.
7. Meet The Client
It’s true what they say about first impressions, they do last. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," or so the saying goes. Follow the points below, and you should be fine.
- Always address the client formally (Mr., Mrs., Dr.) until they say you can do otherwise.
- Keep all materials that belong with this project together. For me, it works best to keep all materials in a huge envelope (and I mean huge). Try to find envelopes that are big enough to hold a few binders in them.
- You must rehearse first. If you mess up a presentation, there’s no turning back. Why would a client want to hire a freelancer who can’t even explain in a clear manner how he or she is going to make the business money? Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse! If you like, use images to help you through the presentation — it’s often much easier to talk when the client isn’t staring directly at you.
- When speaking to a client, try to weed out the "Ums". This is hard to do, but with a little practice, you will succeed! We usually say "Um" while we’re thinking of something else to say — too many "Ums", and your client might think that you’re not a clear thinker. Instead of ums, say nothing. Digest the client’s question, formulate your response, and say it. It’s that simple.
- After the meeting, send a "thank-you" note to the client through regular mail. This is a good way to set yourself apart from all the other freelancers. All you need to do is to thank the client for either considering or accepting you for the job (depending on whether you have already been given the job or not).
- Don’t answer the phone if you aren’t ready to talk. It is better to have a good, intelligent conversation with a client at a time that’s convenient for both of you, than to have an awful conversation with him at a time that’s convenient for him but not for you. Also, get a second phone line if you have kids — you don’t want to sound like a stay-at-home mom or dad when you’re talking to a client. Professionalism is critical.
- Dress for the occasion. Brush your hair. Wear a suit or corporate casual if you’re told to do so. Never wear jeans or casual clothes. To be seen as a professional, you must dress like one.
- Be on time, never late. If you’re late to the first meeting, the client will wonder how late you’re going to be with their project?
- Bring all presentation materials that you need, including paper, pen, projector and slides (if needed), and portfolio.
- Look the client directly in the eye and state your name and the purpose of your visit clearly. Shake hands firmly — a limp hand is generally seen to suggest that you’re not confident. Show these clients that you have what it takes to make their project a success.
- Don’t sit until a chair is offered to you, and don’t sit before the client does.
- Make sure your client has your business card.
8. Sell, Sell, Sell
If you follow the above rules, I’m sure you’ll leave a good impression, but will you make the sale? Being a good sales person doesn’t depend on talent, although this obviously helps. What you need most is confidence, and showing that you’re confident will impress the potential client. Follow these points to land your first job:
- Never stop selling. Get used to rejection and understand that you will eventually make a sale. You should try to find an average that you can attain (eg. one out of every five people that you talk to will place an order).
- Don’t lie about your skills or abilities if you want repeat business. If you’re good, other local businesses will be knocking down your door in no time.
- Open up with an attention-getting statement. Put yourself in the business owner’s shoes: what would be important to them? Find the answer to this question, and start off by bringing it to his attention.
- Communicate the benefits of a Website with complete confidence and excitement. The more excited you are, the more excited your client will be.
- Be ready for objections. Before the meeting, think of any objection the business owner could possibly come up with, and brainstorm answers so you’re ready.
- Close the deal by asking when you should start working on the Website — this week or next? In other words, don’t give the business owner a yes or no question, give them a choice between two positive alternatives.
Word of Mouth Sells
Now that you know how to attract local clients, you should have no problems creating a successful freelance business. When working within your community, word spreads like fire. In fact, once you have a few dependable clients, you should have no problem finding new clients. Good luck!