This is the first part of a three-part series on how to grow your client base with referrals.
Be Really Good
This is probably the simplest but hardest piece of advice. At the end of the day, you need to be good at your job. Your success will ultimately depend on your ability to do what you say you can do. As long as there’s a decent market for your skills, you should have no problems finding work. Word will eventually spread and you’ll build a reputation and clients will seek you out. If you suck, you’ll constantly struggle and flounder until you get better and get paid better too.
Be Consistent/Just show up
Clients are always looking for dependable and quality labor. No one has time to constantly search for and hire new people and take a chance on someone new. People like consistency. They want to know that you will have the work done on time and done properly. Consistent quality is what keeps clients coming back and sending you those coveted referrals. And in reality, even consistent mediocre work is better than inconsistent high quality work. No one wants to gamble with their budget.
This is an easy one. Don’t drop the ball and let an opportunity slip away. Reply back to that email immediately, be responsive and get that contract signed. If you get distracted by current work or responsibilities you’ll risk losing future business. If you can’t do the job, just say so. Politely decline. And even better – refer the job to someone else who can do it.
Dress to Impress
Now before you go off promoting yourself, you need to make sure your brand is tight and looks as good as possible. Be careful not to spend too much time finessing your brand materials. Sometimes the words “Done is better than perfect” are important to remember. But if you’re a web designer your website should be the best representation of your skills. If you’re a designer your business cards should be impressive. You can’t pitch a client on a brand design when your materials look like crap. If I had a nickel for every designer with a shit website or a developer with a broken page or dead links, I’d have about $113.65.
Don’t Take Shortcuts
Shortcuts will always bite you in the ass. Do things the right way from the start. There’s a reason for the old adage, “measure twice, cut once.” It may be tempting to take advantage of naive clients for a quick profit but you never want to run the risk of getting caught. It’s also a shitty way of running a business. It’s better to do things the right way, the honest way because your clients will know and keep coming back and referring more.
Charge What You’re Worth
This can go both ways. Most creatives have a very high estimation of themselves and that also applies to how much you value and charge for your time. You may think you’re worth $200/hr but in reality you’re not. Overcharging will lead to unhappy clients who look at the bottom line of what they were charged and what they receive. That’s a tricky statement to make when it seems like most people don’t value quality design these days. There is a lot of competition for cut rate work but that’s all the more reason to make sure your work is priced appropriately. If you’re just starting out, you should charge entry level rates. If you’re good, word will spread and work will flood in. Then you can start raising your rates from there after you get more projects under your belt and you’ve learned a thing or two. I would definitely go back to some of my very first projects and do a few things differently. That’s hindsight, but the important takeaway is the fact that you’d do things differently now is an indication that you’ve learned and grown. That experience is what gets you right to charge higher rates. There are plenty of people who also charge too little.
Now on to the next part, networking.
Thanks for reading.
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