This is written for my fellow freelancers and micro-business entrepreneurs. If you work for a large corporation, you may gather some tips but overall, because the sales process is more complex, most of what I’m about to say will probably not apply.
I spend a lot of time on marketing and developing sales strategies. I may be a bit of an oddball because most freelancers and entrepreneurs do not like sales. We know it’s necessary in order to do what we love to do, but usually, freelancers don’t enjoy this part of running their own business.
When I first started out, I was like any typical freelancer. I was ready to help everyone. Anyone who contacted me for a quote was immediately subject to my full-on sales pitch. I’d quickly assess their need and then jump right into selling them on the idea of hiring me for their copywriting project.
Notice that evaluating the prospect to see if we’d be a good fit was not mentioned.
Many freelancers (and I was one of them), are so intent on helping a client that it’s easy to overlook the fact that not all prospects will make good clients.
That said, here are five reasons why a prospect will not be a good fit. This list is by no means exhaustive but will give you at least some things to think about the next time you’re contacted by a prospect.
1. They immediately want to know your fee.
Of course the issue of cost will come up in conversation, but when a prospect leads with this question, it’s a sign they’re shopping around for the cheapest price.
If you want clients who will respect you and realize your value, you need to find ways to extricate yourself from these types of conversations. You have limited time and spending it on someone who is just concerned with price is a quick way to lose productivity fast.
Not everyone is interested in owning a Porsche. They just want to get from point A to point B the cheapest way possible. But you have so much more to offer than an economy car, right?
This is a good time to think about what makes your services so valuable. Know how to articulate it during these conversations so the prospect understands why you’re not going to create a website for just $100.
2. They want to rush you.
Some prospects come to you desperate for attention and results. For whatever reason, they need it yesterday. And they’re pushing you to see how far you’ll go.
This is not the way to do business yet often, some people think it is. Because we live in a hyper-speed economy where “first to market” is feverishly pursued, there is a lack of strategy and planning. Some prospects just want to be able to tick off “done” and move ahead to their next project.
Do you have different fees for rush projects? You should. If it’s a project that interests you and you know you can get it done, then go for it. Just don’t charge this prospect your regular fees for doing it. The reason for increased fees is because this project will likely consume you for at least a week. The prospect will expect you to work late hours, early hours, weekends… whatever it takes to get the job done.
Your time is worth something and if a client is expecting you to forego time with your family and friends, not to mention time away from other clients and your usual marketing activities, then that time is worth a premium. Make sure you clearly explain this to a prospect if you move forward.
3. They complain a lot. About everything. Anything.
This is a big red flag and for me, I don’t do business with such people. It’s a sure sign that they’re not happy campers. And you know what unhappy campers do?
They make everyone around them unhappy campers.
If a prospect calls you and soon launches into why their last web developer sucked or how they had a graphic designer that just couldn’t get things right—be warned. There’s a very good chance you’re not going to make them happy, either.
Such people find fault with everyone else but rarely take responsibility for their situation. It’s always “the other guy’s fault.” Never their own.
If a prospect goes down this road, you will save yourself a lot of grief and lost income by just saying no. Saying “no” is not only empowering, it quickly brings to the surface potentially bad clients. If you say “no” in a reasonable way and explain your business process clearly, a prospect should understand. If they balk and start complaining or try to intimidate you, you know you’re better off without them. Get out while you can.
4. They try to “nickel and dime” you to death.
Nothing is wrong with trying to get a good deal. Negotiation is part of selling. But when you have a prospect who asks you to lower your fee because of tiny details, then you know you’re dealing with a “nickel and dimer.”
Remember, you’re bringing value to this prospect with the quality of your work. It takes time, effort, and skill to deliver that value. It isn’t something that can necessarily be removed in the scope of work. Again, it’s important that you know what you offer and why you charge the fees that you do.
Many freelancers go over the time estimation to complete a project. Clients often get more than their money’s worth when hiring a good freelancer. It took you time to acquire your skills and master them. Don’t allow a prospect to minimize that or undervalue your work.
5. They want to suck the life out of you.
This is the other side of #3. Prospects who are unhappy are also the ones who monopolize your time the most. They’re full of drama and expect you to ask “how high” when they say “Jump!”
You need boundaries.
I spoke about this in the post, Inspirational Monday: Set Boundaries For Business Relationships. Those who complain can set off alarms and from experience, they quickly morph into emotional vampires.
Such a client will expect you to listen to their rants as you frantically try to figure out a way to make them stop. But there is no “off” button for these people. Their life is a living hell and they’re set on making your life one as well.
These prospects are often seen by others as “pushy” or “controlling” because that’s the way they get things done. They feel that they have to ride herd on every service provider in their life because their outlook is that “people are lazy” otherwise and won’t get the job done right.
So they micro-manage everything. They question everything. They rarely trust you and never compliment you on a job well done.
It is a mammoth task to do work for such a client because you will forever feel as though you’re Sisyphus, rolling a large boulder to the top of the mountain but never reaching the top because the boulder keeps rolling back down. And then you have to start all over again.
Such clients will exhaust you. They’ll always have “one more thing” to tackle just as you thought you were finished with the project. Your emotions will be left raw and your energy level reduced from the constant pulling.
If you’re already in such a situation, the best thing to do is to set very strong boundaries by telling your client there is an end date to the project and you need to move on because you have other client work to do. If they’re still trying to suck the life out of you, it may be worth your sanity to just cut them loose and even refund them money, if necessary.
The point is, you have limited time and limited resources. You want to give your very best to clients who deserve you.
Guard your time and creativity by keeping a lookout for prospective clients who could quickly become a problem for your business. The faster you can identify them, the faster you can bypass them so you can find your dream clients.