Freelancers: What Do Clients Actually Care About?

By . Filed in Web 2.0

A lot of freelance designers find themselves stuck in the same place, year after year, serving the same types of clients despite their desire to move on to bigger and better opportunities. There are any number of reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is that many designers simply don’t know what these higher quality clients really want.

They don’t understand the problems these clients have, and thus have no idea how to approach them with a solution. We’re going to explore some ways you can dive deeper into the psychology of those coveted ideal clients (whatever that is for you), and how you can present yourself as their ideal designer.

It’s Not About You

Sorry, but I have some hard news: no one cares about you. At least not at first, before they have a chance to work with you and develop a trust in your abilities. When pitching new clients, it’s important to realize that they don’t actually give a damn how awesome a designer you are.

Don’t give me that look – it’s true. I know you might have been told in the past that potential clients are looking for you to “sell yourself” and deliver a book’s worth of superlatives about your work to anyone who will listen

But I’m telling you right now: if you do this, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not about you; it’s about what you can do for them. Using too many “I’s” and not enough “you’s” will almost certainly get you ignored.

Get Into Their World

All right, since it’s about them and not you, how do you convey this to a potential client? They key is to ask people in your target niche exactly how you can help them achieve the result they most desire. Be specific. Asking what some freelancers call “lifestyle questions” can provide you with a wealth of information that you can use to zero in on the perfect solution.

Lifestyle questions are not just about a client’s specific project, but about how the project impacts their business and their customer’s lives. These types of questions help you get a sense of what’s really bothering your client.

The closer your solution is to a genuine, major pain point, the more a client will value your work, and the less they will complain about paying you what you’re worth.

Assist, Don’t Sell

Every business owner appreciates it when someone takes the time to think for them, providing even more opportunities to make money and connect with their customers than they would have thought of on their own. How do your ideal clients earn most of their revenue? What can you do, using your unique skill set, that could help them make even more?

Making independent suggestions for services your clients will appreciate gets them talking about you like little else. It’s important not to actively sell new potential clients on these types of services, as that can make you seem shady and mercenary.

Rather, offer them a taste of your creative problem solving with no strings attached, whetting their appetite for even more money-making possibilities from your designer brain.

Show, Don’t Tell

Credibility is the secret ingredient to any freelance designer’s success. Anyone can list off a string of accomplishments that sound nice, but real top performers are able to prove that they can do what they claim. In a meeting with a potential client, you should always lead with any relevant credentials or connections you have.

People don’t care about what you can do; they care about what you’ve done. They want to see hard numbers and proven results. They prefer a warm introduction from someone they know and trust over a cold, unproven contact. If you don’t have that, an impressive sheet of data proving your value is the next best thing.

Care About Caring

Finally, being genuine and forming real relationships can carry you further in your career than you may realize. Tony Sheh, the founder of Zappos.com, is frequently asked to lecture at other companies about how Zappos managed to build its unique reputation for outstanding customer service.

He’s observed that a surprising number of CEOs have no idea of how to simply reach out and care about their customers.

It seems like such a simple concept, but just taking time out to make a human connection with someone is vanishingly rare in business. It doesn’t take much; a personalized email here, a special gift for a loyal client there. Be the exception and you will stand out to your clients and anyone else who associates with you.

Author:

Addison is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, and culture. She's written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

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