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Here is what your clients are really looking for
Portrait of Andy Leverenz
Andy Leverenz

June 26, 2016


Last updated November 5, 2023

Here is what your clients are really looking for

As a freelancer, your clients seek your skills because they lack these skills themselves. More importantly, your clients look to you to help with their chief problems. This article discusses what your clients are really looking for when trying to solve the problems they face and why it should never always only be about you.

Diagnosing different types of clients

Freelancing means you need to be skilled in a wide array of professions. You need to be a doer, a maker, a seller and a pursuer to achieve real success.

I would predict that the majority of freelancers out there are contracted with other agencies or businesses looking for less permanent employees on their roster. Some of these freelancers may have a handful of their own clients, but their main bread and butter are from another business. I am one of these freelancers.

I have clients who are agencies. When workloads increase they often call upon me to help out. Having a few projects every so often from these types of clients is certainly helpful in staying afloat financially, but it does limit my own business from scaling.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work but it does mean I can’t quite show off what I have done. My contributions aid the agency instead of myself due to many non-disclosure agreements set in place. Some clients are cool with me sharing my contributions but most prefer I don’t for the sake of legal reasons. What I need is more of my own clients.

If you are lucky and persistent, your freelancing practice will consist of mostly organic clients(clients you obtained yourself) which eliminate the middle man entirely. I think for most of us, having clients to call our own is ideal but the same old question presents itself; How can you win more organic clients?

To answer that you need to put yourself in the client’s shoes. Think about what your client may be requested from you during initial contact.

  • What drove them to contact you?
  • Why did they choose you over another freelancer?
  • How did they find you in the first place?

Putting your clients first

Your client will always want to be put first. Proposing your services to a new client won’t likely end well if you don’t empathize with their pain points. Listing your skills, what you will provide, and how much it will cost is simply not enough to win business.

Many freelancers fall victim to this problem. They often structure a proposal or a conversation around themselves rather than stating what it is the client will be benefiting from by choosing them.

When we try to sell ourselves we often brag about skills or services. This is great but it doesn’t hone in on the client's problems directly. I often found asking myself the simple question of “you or them?” tends to really aid how I propose new work to my clients. A client needs to feel like if they choose to work with you, their problems will be solved. If you can’t communicate this well enough to the client or provide enough empathy, you won’t win.

Let the client do the talking

If a client comes to you directly you should always let them do the talking. To get to you they likely already did a bit of research. This essentially means you don’t need to reiterate what it is you do if you advertise yourself correctly.

Let the client discuss their pain points and ideas to you so you can understand where they are coming from and if you think the project would be a good fit for your own business.

After they have explained what kind of help they are looking for you can begin to ask more open-ended questions such as:

  • What’s your business-like?
  • When and how did your business start?
  • What kind of mission or goals do you have going forward?
  • What’s a typical day like at the company?
  • What is the main problem you are having right now?

Asking questions similar to these often uncover more information that you can use to better solve the problems at hand. It may even uncover new problems the client didn’t even realize they had.

Empathy always wins

Intimidation is a big part of the sales process when it comes to the service industry. Clients have to somehow put trust in you to get them to commit to working with you. They will always be pessimistic when deciding how to spend their money. You can help deviate this feeling by outlining exactly what you can deliver combined with how it will benefit the client.

Be sure to sympathize with your client’s problem directly. Doing so shows you are there to help.

Try not to get too technical towards “non-techy” types of people. If they understand what you are trying to convey that’s great, if not, try to summarize the big picture for them. For example, say you're pitching a website design and build. Instead of up-selling a responsive design support package, you can explain how some major search engines actually frown upon websites that aren’t optimized for handheld devices which result in poor SEO, thus the need for a responsive website is a great idea. Your client will then be more enticed to consider the up-sell.

Presenting options

When crafting a proposal I often provide budget options to all new prospects. I have found that simply offering a fixed fee for a set amount of items decreases wins on most proposals.

To remedy the fixed fee issue, I decided a while back to include a few budget options per proposal. These options include different project scopes similar to what you would find on pricing tiers associated with your favorite SaaS application. Something like Trello for example, has Free, Business Class, and Enterprise packages of which you can choose the best solution for your needs. As you can see, the features and prices fluctuate between options.

Within these options, I outline all that is offered to the client so they can actually see what services they are getting from me and how it will benefit them.

Presenting multiple options is also a great way to up-sell other services of which you can bundle on. You could, for example, offer additional services, support, or even something like web hosting.

Eliminate the feeling of risk

If your clients' are hesitant to accept your proposal they are almost always weighing the pros and cons of your services and value. This is a tough thing to control as every person is different. Some people are more frugal with money while others try to cut costs in the weirdest ways.

Clients will always want an excuse to say, “no”. It's your job to help eliminate their mindset of risk or at least reduce it.

There are many variables that you cannot control when it comes to decreasing risk. If the time comes for the client to possibly sign on the dotted line they have to make a big decision.

To get them to commit you to have to do a lot of work beforehand to figure out the "why" of the project. This goes back to being empathetic towards the client’s pain points and suggesting solutions of which you can provide with the utmost confidence.

Closing thoughts

Being confident in yourself and your business will always provide a better perspective towards future clients looking to collaborate with you. People always have a fear of spending money. It means they get something but lose something as well. Make sure you do your best to feel like their investment was well worth the risk so they can better appreciate the reward.

I hope you found yourself nodding in agreement with some of my points when it comes to what your clients’ are really looking for. Being flexible but still selling your services with value is the ultimate goal. Prospects would be more than happy to get their money's worth when collaborating with you. It's your job to make them feel their investment is sound so get out there and get to work!

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