Designers who have built a successful freelance business typically get there through one of two routes:
Option 1: They’ve been in business for 10+ years, and slowly built up a quality reputation for their design work. Now they’re basking in their years of experience, and work off of referrals.
Option 2: They’ve been hustling their tooshie off for 2+ years, constantly promoting their work in a sea of other online designers. Posting constantly to Instagram, hosting webinars, interviewed on podcasts… you know the drill.
But do either of these options seem that attainable? For like, right now?
Last week we talked about booking clients without “growing your following.” It was a juicy topic for sure, and my inbox is proof of it! I loved hearing from each of you fellow freelancers who hit home with this article. To catch you up to speed, I unveiled the truth behind why you aren’t booking clients. It isn’t a marketing problem (like most think), it is a process problem. Instead of focusing on “marketing” your business, you should focus on your process — which is hindering you from booking clients!
Which inevitably was followed by a few questions in my inbox — but how can we book clients without “building a following?” Thanks for asking friend, don’t worry, I’ve got ya covered ;).
Read on to discover
- How Renee tweaked one part of her process, which had a BIG impact
- How Rory courted an ideal client with one 5-minute strategy
- How my process has clients coming back for more (even mid-project!)
How your self-defeating processes get in the way of dreamboat clients
What specifically in your process is deterring potential clients from booking your services? Well this could really be a number of things, but typically I’ve seen a few common threads from my lovely Share-worthy Design students.
The initial response: You’ve got that dreamboat inquiry landed in your inbox. You’re giddy — “this is the perfect client I’d love to work with!” but… you’re secretly scrambling behind the scenes. You want so desperately to land this client, so you’re working hard to pull together a quote, outline your process and of course, craft the perfect response to entice them to trust you.
The hangup is… this takes time. When your ideal client comes knocking, you want to be able to respond confidently as soon as possible. A delay in response has them questioning your communication and process before the relationship even begins.
Your first call with a potential client: Yay! You made it past round one with the client, and they’ve booked a consultation call with you. So often this is where freelancers fall flat. You’ve got to do a bit of selling to your client, and build trust in your brand. Leave them thinking — I can’t wait to work together, and she seems like a total pro I’m confident handing my brand over to.
The presentation: As designers, we’re keen on the ole’ mantra “presentation is everything.” Yet, what we often forget is that this goes beyond design. Just like in our initial phone call with the client, we need to SELL our work in the client presentation. Many freelancers (I’ve been guilty too!) opt for the “drop and run” strategy. Upload a PDF for your client, and wait… praying they don't come back with endless revisions. Instead, take the opportunity to show how invested you are in your client’s brand — schedule a time to walk them through the presentation. You’ll also get the opportunity to communicate your expectations for feedback as well, which will make all the difference in your process.
The million dollar question — will a better process really book better clients?
I think you know the answer… heck yes! Once you have your process in top shape, you’ll have a system in place to book those ideal clients quickly, communicate with confidence that you are the designer for them, and you’ll have a dreamboat client experience they can’t wait to rave about to their fellow business pals.
Not to mention, you’ll have TIME! With a streamlined process in your pocket, you’ll have time to devote to your current clients, as well as court those clients sitting in your inbox. This should not be overlooked! Time is what many freelancers lack — busy fumbling around with each client, promoting through social media, delaying responses to potential clients, and running into sticky client situations left and right.
Do this 5-minute trick to book more clients
It’s true — I’m a fan of automation. But only in the right circumstances. When automation interferes with genuine human interaction in your brand, I’m out. You with me?!
But this 5-minute trick will allow you the best of both worlds — automation and personalization. Let me introduce you to my trust-worthy friend… swipe files. I provide these templates in the Share-worthy Design course, and they’ve been a big hit!
This strategy takes 5 minutes to implement, and has such a huge impact.
After one of my students, Rory, used these swipe files to respond to a potential client, she was successfully able to book a consultation call quickly! And with an ideal client to boot. Not to mention, she used another script to follow during her client meeting ;).
Each “swipe file” is a script to follow when communicating with clients. Draft one for each potential inquiry, and load them up in Gmail as a canned response. Now, once that ideal client comes knocking you’ll have a script to follow and customize to make it personal! Go. Do. This. Now.
How my process has clients coming back for more
True story, the past several clients I’ve worked with have requested additional services during the current project. We won’t even be finished with the brand identity, or even shown them the first proof (!!!), and they’re requesting additional collateral. This has resulted in thousands of dollars of additional income, a holistic design experience, and more importantly it’s proof that our clients trust us. So what does our process have to do with repeat clients?
Because we have such a streamlined and professional process in place, our clients lean in and want more. I’ve been on the other end of this as well, and even recently enjoyed my experience so much with my copywriter I turned right back around and booked more work. I couldn’t help it! Our clients feel the same. They have ease in trusting us with their brand, and want more. Your clear communication and process have everything to do with repeat clients. If your client sensed you fumbling around behind the scenes, or didn’t know when they could expect to hear from you, they probably won’t be coming back. And don’t you want to continue those dreamy relationships with your lovely clients? I know I do!
One tweak, HUGE impact.
If I could say there’s one aspect of my business that produces the largest impact, I’d say it’s through presenting the one logo solution. If you aren’t familiar, it is industry standard to present 3 logo options to clients. In true Spruce Rd. fashion, we do things a bit differently. Over the past few years, I’ve only ever showed my clients one logo from the very first proof. The kicker? About 95% of the time it gets zero revisions from our clients.
This strategy has a whole lot of psychology behind it, and a streamlined process to back it up. You’ve got to be confident and know how to pitch your work if you opt for this method. Not for the faint of heart!
When my pal (and Share-worthy Design student) Renee reached out with this win, I was all smiles. You see, Renee has 10+ years of experience as a designer, and has some serious chops I drool over. She deserves to have stellar client experiences to say the least! After making this one tweak — presenting the one logo solution — she had a HUGE break through. Zero revisions from her client, which has never happened in her 10 years! And all it took was literally a 10 minute phone call with the client to walk them through the design. She reached out to our SWD mastermind and said “never be afraid to try something new!”
Are you giddy? I am :). I love hearing these wins, especially when they derive from a simple tweak to an existing process.
So, to answer the million dollar question — yes. A streamlined process will book better clients. I truly believe that each sticky client situation, every missed client opportunity, or an empty inbox of zero inquiries comes back to process. Do you have a firm process for your services? An on-boarding process that makes it easy for your clients to book? And presentations that have your clients wanting more?