Are you a solid web or graphic designer who’s stumped as to what it takes to bring in clients who will pay reasonable rates for your work? When faced with the first meeting with a high-quality prospective client do you get anxious and start doubting your abilities? Please tell me you don’t ask them ahead of time to pick out a few sites they like so you can build them one like it.
What I know from working with hundreds of clients over the years is that the best clients aren’t interested in your portfolio. I hate to break it to you, but unless you have a very definite, sought-after style, your designs probably look a lot like the next guy or gals’. Moreover, a big secret is that clients typically assume you’re competent to do the work, and they’re not usually looking for a designer with the snazziest portfolio.
What are the best clients looking for in a web or graphic designer? They want to know that you “get them.” Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past. Perhaps they are embarrassed they’re not digitally savvy. Whatever their situation, the best clients are looking for someone they can trust.
A good client will be looking for a designer who will spend the time needed to understand the issues and determine the best approach to their project. They’ll want someone who will collaborate with them to design and develop a product that not only looks great but one that will provide results.
During the first meeting if you’re listening to that little voice in your head doubting your ability to come up with an impressive idea you certainly won’t be paying attention to your prospective client telling you about their business. To get the best clients and the best jobs, you need to be confident that you can deliver the results.
That first meeting is the time to be curious about their business and their goals. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t. Find out what they’ve tried before and what results they got. Do they know and believe that their website will bring in business? Do they understand what it takes to do that? Are they willing to do the work?
Find out how much they know about web design. You need to be able to guide the client who has outdated ideas about websites. They need you to show up as a trusted guide. Tell them about the user experience research that people prefer to scroll than to click from page to page. Let them know that their visitors will scroll down the page as long as they remain interested and see that there is more on the page. Tell them about your web design process and how you would work together.
Any artist faced with a blank canvas or a writer with a blank sheet of paper worries that they’ll never have an idea or that they don’t know how or whether it will “turn out.” That’s a regular part of the creative process, and it’s the same when beginning the work to create a logo, a brand, or a website.
So, remember these points:
- Work on silencing your negative internal dialog. The best clients will choose to work with a designer who is confident in their ability to create an effective website even if they are significantly more expensive.
- During your initial client appointment, you and the prospective client must evaluate whether the two of you are a good fit to work together. The decision goes both ways.
- This project is a blank canvas, and you’re not expected to have all the answers right away. Stop trying to.
- The design and development process requires collaboration between you and your client. It can’t be one-sided. The client must play an active role.
- Going outside of your comfort zone will up your game. When the client asks for a feature that you are not familiar with, don’t panic. You can do the research later, and if it’s above your pay grade, you can call in help.
Finally, since most people who get referred to you will check out your website first, make sure you put more emphasis on connecting with prospects by doing the same things online that you will now do in person. Exude confidence in your ability to help your target clients meet their goals. Describe the type of clients that you work with and what you can do for them. Then, offer them a way to get started. I promise that beats out having a snazzy portfolio any day!