One of the key areas businesses' struggle with is with obtaining clients. Not having clients can kill off any business idea very quickly, regardless of how good it is.
After much research on the subject, it became clear that there was plenty of information for people wanting to get into user experience full time, but not a practical guide for those starting out in web development.
It is with this in mind I thought I would write about my first experiences of obtaining my first client.
Now in my particular situation, I am looking to obtain a few clients on my journey to build my own business, rather than wanting to work as a freelancer.
Having a constant stream of work will ensure:
- I have cashflow to rely on
- I am less reliant on Meg to support me for everything
- I can purchase help from others when required
- I can continue for as long as it takes for me to build my own business
- I can put a lot of things I have been learning into practice
- I become better as a designer and developer
Yes, you could argue that by obtaining clients I am sacrificing the time to spend on my own business ideas. But I feel that what I am doing is a marathon rather than a sprint. A few considered clients will be good for me. Also, it’s exciting to take on clients, they have ideas and dreams for world domination which are just as relevant as mine!
Every door is open
Clients come from unexpected places, especially if you can build websites. An online presence is expected by most customers nowadays. We are increasingly in an online world and the demand for online experience is only going get stronger.
So far, all of my leads have come from people I was speaking to, not from me actively touting for business. As of yet (touch wood), I have not made one sales call and I am not intending to. Just by being honest, sincere and passionate about what you are doing when speaking to potential leads can be enough.
I find that if you treat everybody with the same consideration and efforts as you would for your friends, you would be amazed how many people require some help with one thing or another. You will be even more amazed at how often people come forward suggesting that you could be the potential solution.
Play to your strengths
I am not a big marketing agency. I am not the cheapest in the market as people can easily get work done in other countries on the cheap. The advantage I have in the market is personality and the ability to be intimate with a client.
Being able to explain something in a clear way goes a long way in a market full of jargon. The ability to have a personal relationship with a client also builds trust and commitment on both sides.
As long as you understand that, then obtaining clients is a challenge, but it is not as difficult as people make out
Obtaining clients requires smart client management
There are some basic rules I follow in potential client meetings:
- Listen rather than talk – You would be amazed how often people wait to talk rather than listen.
- Listen with empathy – Understand the world from that person's point of view, put yourself in their shoes
- If you don’t know something, then say so – No one expects you to know everything, so don’t bother pretending you do.
- Be honest – I am a bad liar and always have been, but do not pretend to do something you can’t as it always comes out in the wash
- Be sincere – I shouldn’t have to say this but actually, care about what you are doing. I have have seen so many people struggle because they see a client as problems rather than potential. This attitude comes across clearly when you communicate.
- Solve problems – You are there to help them solve problems, remember that. Bring every part of the conversation part of the wider part of what problem the client is trying to solve
If you want to do a little homework in this area, you should watch the Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee. https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation?language=en
She covers some of these points really well and I think that her advice would be perfect for anyone not only obtaining clients but with communicating more effectively in general.
Always follow up nicely
Even if a response doesn’t go how you want it to, don’t come across shirty or disappointed. Remember that that person might be helpful or need your help in the future. Never shut off potential because you didn’t get what you wanted. One of the paths to obtaining clients is consistency, clients will remember you at a later point if you are.
The secret to obtaining clients is simple…
It’s you! Be yourself and use that self to really care about others. It’s a massive cliché, but people want to work with people. By being authentic and enthusiastic you won’t need to work on obtaining clients, in the end, your clients will knock on your door.
Maybe my experiences buck the trend but I have seen so many businesses make key decisions based on a preference on personality rather than the product itself. When the product is you, your authentic and enthusiastic self is more than a match for a client.