Sniffing Out Potential Clients for Issues

satisfactionEvery small business owner or freelancer has been there: working on a project that is going downhill. If it hasn’t happened, you haven’t been doing it long enough. For me, it happened about 9 weeks into working for myself when we went over a week without any new clients and I’d already finished all of the work that had come in. I was weak, vulnerable. I let the client run the show, so here is how I’ve avoided making the same mistake again.

  • Whenever possible, I attempt to get as much information as possible about the project in writing before discussing over voice because calls can drag on.
  • I try to limit calls to 30 minutes. That’s an acceptable loss of time if it doesn’t work out and also reasonably rolled into my project pricing so I can recoup the time if the project goes on the low end of time spent.
  • I don’t barter for my services. There is no working for commission that may or may not come from a site or other delayed payment option. That will not pay my mortgage or put food on my table. That is a risk.
  • I don’t negotiate my prices. My prices are fair, my service is impeccable, and my character is untarnished.
  • Want to meet to discuss a potential project? Sure, but you’re paying a consulting fee if it doesn’t work out. I spent 3 hours at Panera (5 hours away from home) with someone who wanted to pay for the work with commission generated from the site. I’d like those 3 hours of my life back or the money due for that time.
  • I try to determine as quickly as possible whether or not the task will involve a lot of technical changes (hosting or site platform) that will entail additional correspondence or labor. Some clients need ALL of the work done for them and don’t know any of their login information – they have to start over from scratch.
  • I write the terms into every estimate and invoice I send to the client so it’s clear when payment is expected, what is included, when my tasks are done, etc.
  • If things start to go badly, take the initiative and make contact to let them know the situation and discuss modification of terms or refunding their money after ensuring the project ends on good terms.
  • I reserve the right to break my own rules in favor of the client, but I also reserve the right to stick to my guns.

Statistically speaking, I’d venture a guess that I have an 80% enrollment rating from any sort of contact, 95% invoicing of clients by referral, and only 1 “good terms” refund from 139 invoices when the scope changed too drastically.

I hope this helps you avoid your own client nightmares and leads to many happy encounters. Are there any additional tips or suggestions that you or your company use when feeling out potential clients?

Kicking it, Busy Style

Sorry for so many posts in a row about American Idol. It’s time to write something for once, but I’ve been working all day every day doing my design work for clients. Thankfully, I’ve got work that I can see all the way through April as far as projects go. I won’t be working all day every day between now and then, but work is still trickling in consistently enough that this venture looks like it’s going to work.

Inter-Disciplinary.netAbout a month ago, I finished a site using Darren Hoyt’s Mimbo Pro theme for Inter-Disciplinary in the U.K. for Dr. Rob Fisher. The site has over 1,600 pages (that’s not a typo) and needed some server intervention to allow the WordPress pages.php to load without a white screen of death in the dashboard. Wild! We ended up using a javascript menu tree in the left sidebar, but it does tend to crap out in Internet Explorer, which he was okay with since no one should be using that stuff anyway.

PhilGerbyshak.comLast weekend was an exciting time as I launched Phil Gerbyshak’s new site using Thesis by Chris Pearson as the framework. It was my first time using Thesis and it was like re-learning theme design all over again, but now I LOVE using it. That project stretched my CSS knowledge to the max and I often spent 4-6 hours figuring out how to implement the design in my head, but I came out on top with ridiculous skills that I can use on other sites now.

OakwoodFL.orgOn Tuesday, after months of office and personal frustration with my church’s website theme that I installed last February, I decided it was time to pull the plug on that theme and do a quantum leap to the latest and greatest one company has to offer with Church Life and get the Oakwood Community Church site going with something kickin’, modern, and functional. They’ve started with Facebook and using video communication, so this was the perfect time to get something to allow that to happen with minimal training and (hopefully) little or no assistance from me to make them look like web pros.

FTPressScience.comAfter more than a month in development for content and graphics, I wrapped up FT Press’s newest division and launched FT Press Science today. I used WP Remix for this theme, which looks really good, but I do not recommend it for people who do not have patience or pretty advanced CSS skills due to the vast number of CSS and PHP template files (in the neighborhood of 100 files) that tend to override each other from time to time.

That’s what I’ve been up to, and I have about 5 sites on the calendar for the next couple of weeks, so I think that my portfolio will begin to round out nicely with a good variation of clients, themes, and content to show my design and customer service skills. Here’s to the future!