Ask Grace #2: Attracting Quality Freelance Clients

My question is about how to attract quality freelance clients. I freelance full-time and my current dilemma is that I’m working with a start up (of course meaning they don’t have a lot of money to spend) and recently the client has been piling on work that was not included in the initial estimate and is eating up a large amount of my time. My unpaid time. I don’t want to lose this client, so how do I tactfully tackle the issue of their excessive workload.

The underlying question in this is how to attract a better quality client. It is this subject area that I want to address in this week’s Ask Grace as it ultimately deals with the core issue here, as there are several quality articles on how to deal with these types of ‘vampire client’ mentioned which will help in this situation.

By addressing how to attract a higher quality of clientele you can significantly reduce the number of ‘problematic’ clients in the future.

The great news is that there are fantastic people out there who will appreciate your work and time, with interesting projects and healthy budgets. It’s our aim then to reach them!

  • 1. Personality

It’s important to remember that we are selling ourselves as much as our time and services.

As a Freelancer, we are THE business. Freelance Apple actually talks about Personality as an ‘Untapped Marketing Technique‘. As a freelancer you need to be authentic, express your personality and provide value.

It’s time then to flaunt your personality as essentially you are the CEO of your business and brand, and in order to compete against the thousands of other freelancers, you need to make it unique and memorable.

So now you’re asking: what’s the point of all this personality stuff? Well it’s about finding some degree of connection with your target market and using your own knowledge of your personality to bring a unique style to your brand. Put simply, Freelancers with a unique personality and voice (to match the portfolio etc), demand a higher quality of client.

So now you’ve spent working on ‘who you are’, it’s time to find out who exactly you’re trying to connect to, by researching your target market.

  • 2. Target Market

Demanding a better quality client, means knowing your potential clients wants and needs and catering to these. You can start by creating an ideal client profile, for example, his/her:

(a) Has a healthy budget
(b) Cares about quality
(c) Understands the industry
(d) Is a clear communicator

So how do you go about connecting or reaching out to these types of clients? You need to define your market by profiling it using the following metrics:

(a) The size of the market
(b) Who the competition is
(c) Your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
(d) Customer buying patterns

Once you know this information you will be in a much better place to position yourself for the best results. With this research you are then able to tell prospects their problem and offer a highly effective solution.

  • 3. Build Your Brand

Why should clients be knocking down your door to work with you? Working on answering this can help communicate to prospects why they should become loyal customers. Thinking like a client can often aid you when working on building your brand.

To attract the best, be the best. This doesn’t necessarily mean the best in your field (although it’s great if you are), it means make yourself and your business, the best it can possibly be. Create an impressive professional portfolio, gather testimonials from previous clients and sell benefits not features specifically targeted at your core client market.

From there you need to establish your brand and raise your visibility. Use social media and blogging but don’t forget to go local and get involved in local and industry events, join your local chamber of commerce and socialise!

  • 4. Redefine Your Services

As a freelancer, it’s difficult to do everything really well. It could perhaps be time to start thinking of becoming an expert in one area and alongside this – cultivate a network of agencies, friends and colleagues who can fill in the gaps.

One of easiest ways to do this is to build both the expertise and reputation as a specialist in a particular area of what you do. Specialists are usually more in demand than generalists, as people look to find the best solution to their specific problem. It’s because of this they can demand a higher fee and a higher quality client.

If a client is looking for a Drupal developer, will s/he hire a ‘web designer’, or the (relatively) well known expert in developing with Drupal? It’s a pretty easy decision, especially for the clients with the larger budgets, which is essentially what you want. It then becomes super important to pick a specialty carefully, as well as making sure it’s something you enjoy and equally as important, that it’s what your target market really needs.

This doesn’t work for everyone (indeed I’m actually more of a generalist), however it is worth mentioning as it has and does work extremely well for other freelancers.

Conclusions

As much as we complain about certain ‘bad’ clients, we have to look within ourselves (and our business as a whole) to determine whether we are asking the right questions and presenting the appropriate message to attract the type of clients we ideally want.

Once we do this, we can start taking the steps to position ourselves to start attracting the fabulous clients we all desire!

I hope my answer proves beneficial! Do you have any advice to give on this subject, then please leave a comment below.

If you have a question you would like to be answered, questions can be directed on the Ask Grace page or via the contact page.

7 Comments

  1. Laura Earley says:

    Thank you so much for addressing my question, Grace! I’m more of a generalist too, but I’m finding that I need to specialize my services because I waste time working on projects I might not really enjoy and might not be an expert on. I’m also going to reevaluate my target market, this will help a lot.

    Since I sent you this question, I actually talked to this client about him piling on work that’s not in the estimate and he was very receptive and understand, saying he wanted to be “fair” to me. This is refreshing!

    Thanks again for answering my question, your comments will be very useful!

  2. What an informative and well-thought article. Thanks for your thoughts Grace, much appreciated!

  3. I’m sorry to be terribly off topic, but is that you? It’s always really strange when you’ve been reading materials from someone for a long time, and then suddenly, out of the blue as it were, you see an image of them. Are they how you expected them to look?

    • Grace says:

      @Laura No problem, thanks for your great question! It’s fantastic your client was so receptive to your conversation and practices, I’m really happy it worked out! I’m glad the info has proved useful.

      @FreelanceApple Thanks for the support, I also really enjoyed your post on personality.

      @Mark Yep that’s me in the image. Don’t worry I know what it’s like to follow and blog and not be too sure about the person behind it, now you know it’s really me 😉

  4. Mark says:

    Hi Grace. This is exactly the question I have been asking myself a lot just lately.
    I am more a developer than a designer and it’s really hard to sell my services in to people if I stick to that way of thinking.
    So I gave myself an overhaul and decided to open up myself as a “real person”. I gave my web site a face lift and now I have a few more leads than perhaps I normally would :)
    Sometimes the pre-conception is that developers are spotty nerds which doesn’t help !
    Nice post. I’ll be back for some more of you soon !

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