When trying to attract new clients, many freelancers try to offer discounts or cut their rates to accommodate the client. The big problem is that this usually costs the freelancer money, since you’ll earn less than you should and in the long term lose money. Not to mention that many clients, if offered a discount from the get go, will expect the same treatment as they did.
Three years ago, as I was trying to create a name for myself in the web design business, I used to give very small rates and even accept to work with people who couldn’t ‘afford’ working with me. The result? Yes, I did get the client, but I didn’t earn as much as I could have (and as much as others were actually paying me already) and the biggest surprise was that, after 2 years since we worked on that project, the client returned and EXPECTED the same rate (and discount). He was quite displeased to hear that I raised my rates (doh, as if I could have run a business with such low prices) and that I didn’t buy the ‘can’t afford’ excuse anymore. He was announced that my current rate was X, take it or leave it.
This is why many experienced freelancers (people with a serious portfolio and many clients) don’t advise anyone to give discounts from the first job. Sure, if you have worked with someone for 10 projects and feel you’d like to give them something for offering you so much work, you can consider discounting your price or giving them a freebie. But to start with a reduced price just to get the client, might not always work into your best interest.
And yet we hear that we need to go the extra-mile for our client. That we need to offer more than others and make sure they come back to us in the future. Fortunately this can be done without cutting down your prices and costing your business a lot of money. Clients are not always interested in discounts (I mean most people how ask for a web designer’s quote are expecting to pay for said services), but would love getting some better support for instance.
1. Offer a side service/product they can use
In my case my web design clients, who don’t have a hosting account, receive a free one from me. I run a big reseller account and have enough room to host at least 100 small accounts. Most my clients do have small presentation sites and don’t need huge accounts. And some really dislike the hassle of having to go and look for a good host, pay more than it’s worth etc. My usual price for a one year contract for those plans is 12 bucks. I don’t lose a lot, when I host my clients for free, for one year, but it shows them I care enough to solve another of their problems.
2. Do small side services to help
While I don’t like to discount my web design services (since I do consider I deserve my current rates – which are actually pretty small compared to other professionals that deliver the same quality of work as I do), I am willing to do a bit of an extra effort for my clients. Most of them run WordPress sites and, if they are just starting out, would need to install the platform. While it takes me 5 minutes to do this (since I’ve installed hundreds of WordPress sites) I am saving my clients the time it takes to figure it out or the money they’d pay for someone to do the installation for them.
Even if my clients don’t get design discounts, they do get a properly done side-service that will help them start their business site faster and without the headaches they’d have otherwise.
3. Do the work as it was for your site
I never feel their sites are ‘theirs’, but, when I design them, I try to do the best job I can, thinking ‘if it was my site …’. This means thinking about SEO (and asking my clients to give me their keywords to work around them, even doing some keyword research on my own to help them), crafting their design carefully, so that it works properly and they get the best service for their money.
A fast keyword research takes me 5 minutes and I can then see how they’ve done their SEO work. If I can offer an improvement there, why not?
4. Advise your client. Most will thank you for that.
I think THE BEST thing I can do to my clients is to provide FREE advice. I’ve been running web sites since 2002, when some of them probably didn’t even use the internet or knew only how to send an e-mail. I have learned a great deal of things, from small business management, to blogging/forum management, web design, SEO etc. It’s not uncommon for some clients to have no idea how to promote their site, what are the no-no’s when it comes to promoting in Social Media, what platform is best for their forums etc.
My job is not just to slap a cute design on their site, or at least that’s how I feel about it. I like to share my knowledge and help them more than that. I am an experienced forum admin, so I can advise them on the proper platform to use, what’s better, what can do the work, what’s the worst choice for them. I have done SEO for my sites, I can surely give them some tips. I am running a successful business, I presume something I do is right and they can benefit from my knowledge.
I have given good advice to any client who needed it, only one didn’t listen to it and, let’s say that said client doesn’t have a business anymore. I am not a web mogul, but all these years were enough for me to learn some tricks of the trade. I have started with debt and no apparent chance and I am running a successful business that allows me to live a good life and travel. My advice has helped clients stay away from bad platforms, kept them from making a mistake that could ruin their traffic, even helped them understand which providers were legit and which were there just to ‘steal’ their money.
From all I could offer as a web designer, I think the support is the most important for my clients. I have spent an extra half an hour for instance to show them, via a Skype chat session, how to use their site and how to manage the features my themes provided them. Some people, who didn’t have a clue, were happy to get this one-on-one to ask me any questions about their site and learn how to use their platform to the best results. And no, we didn’t only talk about WordPress, I’d advise them on how to promote, maybe a new creative way to secure clients etc.
These are just few ideas that allow you to make your clients happy. I know it’s easier to just run to a discount, thinking money is all they care about. Most clients who are coming to you, might be already convinced you are doing a good job and are already willing to pay your fees. So you can throw in an additional product/service, that doesn’t cost you much, but it SOLVES A PROBLEM. Or you can really put your mind to it and try to deliver more than just a simple service. Think about their business as if it was yours and try to share some ideas. Who knows, maybe your tips can make the difference. Remember all the people who shared some info with you (since most of us had others who gave us even a little advice) and get ready to pay it forward.