In employment, especially in a bad economy and for someone who doesn’t have much money and is unemployed, the advice is often “take what you can get.” It’s easy to apply the advice to freelancing too, but you really shouldn’t. I know from experience. If you settle for a lesser price or a lesser type of client, you will be stuck with clients who pay less or stuck with clients that are horrible. And when you do make a change, you lose those clients. You really need to lose those clients, but it takes time to rebuild your business.
I have a list of few client types that you should avoid, that I avoid, and ways to avoid them. These are just a few, and I’m sure I can think of some more. Some of these will overlap.
1. The Charismatic-Takeover Client
In your initial consultation/discovery session, you mean to ask certain things to your client, like their budget, what they want, etc. Yet the client just takes over completely. He/she may or may not discuss some of the points you want answered or discussed, but clearly you will not get everything, because they took control of the meeting.
What’s worse, you’ll fail to inform the client of your policies, like a down payment or a contract. This can be very annoying.
As a freelancer, this is your business. You need to stay in control. So:
A) Have a written agenda for the meeting. Send that agenda to your client before the meeting. And go by that written agenda. If the client strays from that, kindly let them know that they need to get back on track.
B) Have a questionnaire to send out before the meeting. Use the answers for what to discuss during the meeting.
C) Have a time limit for the consultation meeting. On Codeable, consultations are supposed to be about an hour.
D) Charge for your consultations. On Codeable, consultations are $59. If more time is needed, the more you’re paid. This will encourage the client to stay on track with the agenda. The more the agenda is strayed from, the more it’s going to cost.
2. The Tire Kicker
This client just wants to know how much a website will cost, but won’t give you enough information to give an actual quote. For a long time, I avoided having a quote form because of this: the tire kickers wasted my time. Now, I work through Codeable and I give estimates through that, though we have room for some discussion about the project there before I give the estimate.
The tire kicker doesn’t want to discuss the project in enough detail. They’re just looking for the lowest quote. And once they get that, then they hire you. Then and only then do they give you enough information, but it’s too late. You already estimated $1000 on a project that should cost $5000.
To avoid this client:
A) Don’t have a quote form on your website. Don’t offer quotes until you have enough information. Require a paid consultation before giving a quote. Or…
B) if you must have a quote form (as I ended up using again recently), have some sort of forum or ability to get more information before giving a quote. And if they can’t give information, don’t give your estimate, OR give a higher estimate since you don’t know what to expect. For web developers, if you become a Codeable contractor, they offer a great place to discuss your project, and you can exclusively work all of your projects through them. You can set you your site similar to how I have my site set up to make this happen.
3. The Client With No Money But Promising Exposure Or Ownership
They promise you that this is the “next big thing”, “the next Facebook”, “the next Twitter”, and more. They say things that hype you up! You know this is going to be a money making site! Yet, they say “we can’t pay you right now, but we can offer you stock options/ownership in the company” or “we’ll give you exposure.
I personally don’t work with this client. Now, if you’re working on your portfolio and you actually want to work with this client, go for it. Just don’t expect any money.
If you’re wanting exposure, that’s fine. But put in your contract what you expect as far as exposure goes. (Oh, by the way, I should mention that you SHOULD have a contract, even with free work.) “The client is required to mention in the newsletter X times the work that the designer did” or “The client is required to refer X paying clients to the designer x months”. If they can’t live up to the terms of your contract, then you should send the client an invoice for the value of the project, which should also be mentioned in your project. Even if you do it for free, the project is worth some dollar amount, so if they can’t live up to that part of the contract, that is what they owe you.
Much like tire kickers, they’re looking for the lowest price possible. They may or may not give you all the details possible, but their budget is way too low.
Make it clear that you will only work with clients with a particular minimum budget. For example, on full-scale web design/development clients, the minimum budget I will work with is $1500. Small website fixes will be less, but I make it clear that my rate is $75/hour, well within the $60 to $90 per hour that Codeable developers are supposed to charge.
Other things to take into consideration
Many times, designers and developers don’t understand the value that the website is providing to the client. How many new customers will the client get? How much is that worth to the client? When you take these things into consideration, you’ll see you should be charging more.
Consider value based pricing when giving your estimates. You can learn more about value based pricing in this discussion here. This will help you make sure you’re always paid what you’re worth.
On your quote form, make sure you have a minimum budget field. Set the form up so they can’t put in a lesser dollar amount. You’ll have a few put in one but tell you that the budget is less than that. But you made it clear on your website that you don’t work with less than that.
Place a pre-consultation/pre-dicsovery session form on your website. Require the person who is requesting consultation to fill this out BEFORE the consultation is scheduled. You could require it before they pay for the consultation. This will give you a good idea of who and what you’re working with.