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Best Way To Take On New Clients?

Discussion in 'Freelancing' started by Joe F, Jun 3, 2016.

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  1. I'm pretty much working to capacity but would also like to take on new higher paying clients to replace lower paying ones.

    Nearly all my work is on a recurring basis, for example, 4 posts a month for this client, instead of one-off gigs.

    The problem I am having is that I get approached by a new client who seems keen.

    We do the back and forth to establish how the work will take place, I send over article ideas, then we discuss formating and all the other little details.

    Then I do a few articles, all the while getting behind with my existing clients, then about a month later, the new client doesn't materialize or turns out to not be what I was expecting.

    During that process, which usually takes a least a month, I've gotten behind with my existing work so not made as much money as I could've done and wasted a lot of time.

    So, does anyone have any tips on how to evaluate whether a new client is going to be for real, and how to avoid getting behind with existing work, while tryiing to upgrade to better paying clients?

    Thanks!
     
  2. We are both in a similar position so I hope I can help with this. :)

    You are doing the right thing by having more work from individual clients.

    You don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket and work exclusively for one website unless they are going to take you on full-time with a contract, pension etc. It is simply too risky to work for one person because if the client decides to part ways with you, you're in a bad situation.

    You need to spread your risk.

    However, you do not want to spread your risk too much. I would much rather have five clients at four blog posts per month than twenty clients at one blog post per month. If you have five clients and one decides to part ways, the worst case scenario is that you make 80% of what you normally do. Plus with 20% extra time in your hands you could spend more time acquiring clients. I have also found that when I do have extra time that when I email existing clients and let them know I am available, I get a little extra work.

    The biggest problem with multiple clients is correspondence. If clients simply placed an order and moved on, taking twenty clients at one blog post per month would be preferable. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. You need to email the client back and fourth so that you can agree terms and do the kind of article they want.

    Everything should be settled in a couple of emails, but it is not unheard of for me to have twenty to thirty emails before anything is agreed, and even then nothing is concrete.

    I receive emails every week for writing for other websites and I receive emails every week asking me to review products on my blog.

    I'd hazard a guess than around 80% of those who contact me are time wasters.

    A good third of them go through twenty or thirty emails and then say something like "Well I don't have the budget for a full review, can you do it for X or Y or Z" or "Can't you drop your writing rate for me?".

    Time wasters. Pure and simple.

    If you look at my blog services and advertising pages you will see that I make it very clear what my rates are. Despite this, I still get lots of time wasters.

    Once I realise someone is a time waster, I walk away. My emails get shorter and more curt and I don't waste my time with them. Occasionally, they will come back and hire me after hiring someone cheaper and not being happy with their work, but I am still a bit hesitant when they do come back.

    Another thing that pushes me away are clients who want to micromanage every little detail of my work.

    With reviews, most advertisers ask to see a preview of the review before it is published. I need to stress why previews cannot be shown, that I always review products and services fairly, and explain that whilst something that is inaccurate will be corrected, my views are my own and my article will not be changed if I am not happy with a product or service.

    With clients who hire me as a writer, micromanagement manifests itself in many different ways. Some want me to check with them after every little thing. Others have wanted me to fill in lots of company spreadsheets or complete the project management page for the article so that the whole team knows where we are etc. If a client says that to me now, I explain that additional tasks such as that have to be compensated for and paid in advance. If they refuse, I walk away; because the time it takes to complete a 1,000 word article and get paid quickly escalates to the time you could have completed a 3,000 word article. Put simply, time is money.

    All of these problems come under the umbrella of Scope creep.

    Scope creep is such a difficult thing to monitor because we don't track the time we spend emailing back and fourth in the same way we do, say, writing 1,000 words of an article. However, the time spent on emailing should not be underestimated.

    If you have a client that emails you and says I want an article and sends you the money, keep them.
    If you have a client that takes thirty emails just to get the terms of one small article agreed, it may be best to walk away.

    As far as telling who is going to be a time waster and who is not, it is very difficult. I have taken hour long conference calls and emailed a company back and fourth fifty times and then they decided that their blog wasn't a priority anymore.

    It's unfortunate but a lot of this is part and parcel about freelancing and I believe the only way to stop it is to get rid of clients that waste your time and keep those that do not. Granted, there are other things to consider, such as how well the client pays, how quick they pay, whether writing on their blog raises your profile etc.

    Vetting new clients is difficult so I think the only thing you can do is make it clear from the start your time is valuable.

    Ask to chat to them for in a Skype call and explain that it is better to discuss details there. If you cannot sort all details via a call then the chances are you are going to have to spend more time emailing them back and fourth and there is no guarantee that it will lead towards them being a client. Unfortunately, many companies think that freelancers should jump through hoops for them and that a freelancer's time is not worth as much as theirs. They like to dangle the carrot in front of you and then not provide the damn carrot!!!

    So how about this.
    • Create a page on JoeCanWrite called "Hire Me" explaining how the process of hiring you works
    • Advice your terms and conditions on that page
    • State that you provide one free 30 minute phone call to new clients to discuss terms and conditions (you can spend longer on the call if you wish, but it is better not to give them unrealistic expectations of chatting to you for hours.
    • Create a page on your website in which new clients can hire you. For example $XXX for a 1,000 word article, $YYY for 2,000 words etc
    • Advise the potential new client to place an order on that page when they are ready
    Right off the bat, this kind of system is going to eliminate a lot of time-wasters.

    This whole issue is something that affects me too. I have put systems in place to dissuade time wasters including publicly stating my rates to discourage people who cannot afford me contacting me, having a dedicated review purchasing page so that I can send people to so I don't have to keep saying the same thing to them etc. I still get a lot of time wasters, but it's nothing compared to what I would get if those measures were not in place. I am probably still too nice about it all and should probably be more previous with my time. For example, a customer who purchased a review wanted to spend thirty minutes showing me their plugin. I said there was no need as I need to review it anyways, but they were insistent. In the end I did it, but doing the phone call and the dozens of emails back and fourth proved to be a waste of time.

    I think you need to try and streamline the ordering process and place more information on your website so that time wasters do not even approach me. Any potential clients you lose who are put off by your new system will be easily offset by the time you save from not having to correspond with as many people.

    I'll be honest. Scope creep and time wasting clients is why I want to start focusing more on my own projects. It can be incredibly frustrating.

    On the positive side, you are in a good position just now with your work.

    If you are working at full capacity and are happy with the rates you are getting, then it may be in your interest to tell potential clients that you are fully booked and will put their name and contact information in a list and contact them in the future if your schedule is freed up.

    Doing this will free up your time to work on launching your own project.

    If you are striving for higher rates, then advise newer clients of this newer rate and keep existing clients on the old rate until you can afford to lose them if they are not happy with your new rate.

    Let me know what you decide to do and be sure to get in touch with me if you ever need direct help with any of this :)

    Kevin
     
    Rhys Wynne likes this.
  3. Thanks, Kevin, some very good info in there.

    Yes, five clients with regular work is a great number. Otherwise, like you say, you spend too much time remembering the different preferences they have etc.

    We are very lucky as freelance writers as most of our work is recurring - I would find it hard to deal with being a web designer and having to find new clients after each project. I appreciate that good web designers will have work booked up for months, but I'm sure lean spells still occur.

    I don't get too many pure time wasters fortunately. Instead, it sometimes gets to one post then nothing which is probably more frustrating! I understand clients have the right to terminate arrangements if they don't like the work, but usually there is no feedback and the opportunity was broached as an ongoing position. If they said, let's do one post then take it from there, I'd feel better going in.

    The scope creep can be hard to deal with as those extra details, like updating tools etc, don't appear until after the job strats so hard to factor into pricing before hand.

    I think I will add a "Hire Me" page that explains the process. I get about 20 hits to my site each day but often no emails in a month, so something is missing. I'm going to overhaul my site soon too as it could do with a refresh.

    ...then advise newer clients of this newer rate and keep existing clients on the old rate until you can afford to lose them if they are not happy with your new rate.
    That is the tricky part, as its hard to take on new clients (at the newer rate), while still working with existing clients, when you are fully booked - not enough hours in the day!

    I've got a monthly income goal and the aim is to hit it, then gradually reduce the amount of work I need to do to hit that goal (by raising rates) until I've freed up time to work on my own project.

    That's the dream anyway, and we all need dreams!
     
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  4. The hire me page is not so much about driving customers to you. I look at it more of a way of sending people to the page for information. I save myself a huge amount of time by sending people there and not repeating everything time and time again.

    Yes I have had many clients who have promised the world and then disappear after one article. I had one client recently who ordered a review who kept dangling the prospect of many more reviews in front of me in the hope that I would give him a better review. The guy wasted so much of my time that I am kind of reluctant to actually take his business anymore as he was such a time waster.
     
    Heather likes this.
  5. Raspal and Leo Koo like this.
  6. That is a great little addition to the page. I might try and add something like that underneath my blog posts too. It will surely help increase business.
     
  7. Yea, I think CTAs at the bottom of posts are interesting :) I do that too for my ecommerce store, and I see good conversion.
     
    Heather likes this.
  8. How do you put it there, @Leo Koo ? Do you have something fancy like that guy's button, or do you just put a link as part of your blog post?
     
  9. Hey @Heather, I've been using shortcode ultimate before this :) But you can use @Brian Jackson's tip as well
     
    Heather likes this.
  10. Yeah good idea! I assume a lot of people wouldn't know you were for hire if they just stumbled upon a post.
     
  11. Same problem in service business. I am also getting unnecessary inquiries which dont help to grow my income or business. Actually, I have started concentrating on quality clients and started saying NO to time wasters.

    Small idea about this - Hiring assistant to help you to deal with clients and reply mails can help. In this way, only quality clients can contact you and unnecessary clients will be dropped or denied by assistant. ( Explaining terms of your service to assistant is crucial in this case.)
     
    Heather likes this.
  12. Yes, that could help.

    Although the amount of effort in training someone up to deal with client contacts, for me, probably wouldn't be worth it. If you're getting multiple leads a day then it would be a good idea I expect.
     
  13. In addition to the advice above, you can weed out people by using something like Typeform to go through a basic onboarding process. I've seen some other freelancers do this.

    You can get people to answer a lot of the routine questions automatically which will save you time onboarding them (and also give you an idea of their budget). If they can't be bothered to go through a Typeform, they're probably not a serious prospect anyway.

    I just added one to my portfolio site so I can let you know how it goes.
     
    Heather likes this.
  14. Good idea Colin.

    I wonder if adding a budget field is a good idea.

    On one hand, people might just put in a low figure to try their luck. Whereas if you tell them your rates up front they might've been OK with that?
     
  15. I've thought about that too. To get around that problem, you could make the budget field a dropdown with preset values. Something like:
    $100-$250
    $251-$500
    $500+

    That way you implicitly tell anyone with a smaller budget that they need to look elsewhere.

    The only problem is it's a bit confusing whether it means the budget per post, per month, or something else.
     
  16. Yes, the more fields you add the most confusing it can get, then there's probably a greater chance of them abandoning the form!

    You can usually tell whether someone is going to be a serious client by their site. If you can see that they are making money from their site, either through their own products/services or their site already gets a lot of traffic and is making money as an affiliate. And if they are already paying writers.

    Although that's not always the case as I recently started with a new client that looked good on paper but ended up not working out.

    Also, if they want to Skype first, that is usually a red flag for me.
     
  17. I clearly state my rates on my website. I have no doubt that it has cost me a lot of clients, but it has saved me countless hours from not having to deal with time wasters. Before I declared my rates I was going crazy with time wasters. I would declare my rates in my first email to them and then after a dozen emails going back and fourth they would ask my rates again and then said they couldn't afford them.

    I agree with what you said about Skype. Those types of clients normally have a thousand and one questions.
     
  18. Haha this reminds me of when I was in College. I would do local housecalls around town for computer repair. At first I was charging $50 an hour. Got so many people and was burning myself out after going to classes all day. Was making good money but I needed less people. I raised prices to $90, no change. They all kept calling. Raised to $125 an hour and finally some of the bad eggs trickled off. Leaving only quality customers.

    So the reverse is also true when trying to get clients. Don't sell yourself too short, because your experience and time is worth something.
     
    Kevin Muldoon and Heather like this.
  19. That is so true...
     
  20. Agree 100%.

    I do not mind a client asking questions as that is to be expected however when someone gets in touch with me and asks a million and one questions I know that the last question they will ask after an avalanche of emails is for me to drop my rates. I tend to just be polite and state that all the information is on my website and for them to place an order when they are ready. Very few do and the ones that do generally turn out to be a pain in the ass who keep wanting additional work for what they paid. For example, paying for 1,000 words then asking for me to write 2,000 as a favour.

    The irony is that the ones who are tight with their money are frequently the ones who are selling high premium items.
     
    Brian Jackson likes this.
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