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If you change the way you think, you'll win more clients.Not long after I went full-time with my design business, I met with a fellow local designer for lunch. I was somewhere between six months to a year into my entrepreneurial journey, and my business was growing fast. My clientele was increasing, and most people who contacted me ended up hiring me as their designer. Fifteen years later and I still win more clients than I lose.
The guy I had lunch with was a very talented designer. I knew him through the print shop where I worked before going out on my own. He would bring in projects to be printed for his clients, and his work was always beautiful.
He started his design business several years before I began mine. And when I was at the print shop, I thought he was living the dream. He doesn't know this, but he was an inspiration in helping me make the leap to solopreneurship.
During our lunch, he mentioned how much he was struggling. He was finding it harder and harder to win over new clients. He said that no matter how hard he tried to convince clients to work with him. Only a small percentage ever did. In fact, I learned during that conversation that several of my clients had contacted him before eventually hiring me. I didn't tell him that.
What I also learned, which is the focus of this post, is that he and I had two completely different approaches to acquiring new clients. Where he was trying very hard to win each new client. I, on the other hand, was trying not to lose them. When you consider those two concepts, you'll realize that my way is much easier.
Let me ask you this. Which is easier. Acquiring $100 or holding onto the $100 you already have? I think you'll agree that it's much easier to hold onto $100 than it is to acquire $100. That's the mentality I take when dealing with new clients. And that's what made me different from that other designer. Where he was doing his best to win each new client. I was doing my best not to lose them. Because in my mind, I had already won them the moment they contacted me.
Let me tell you a secret. Are you ready? Clients don't enjoy looking for a designer. In fact, they would much rather be doing countless other things instead. So when a client emails, calls or meets you in person, they are hoping you are the right person for the job. They want you to be the solution to their problem.
Think about that. No client will ever contact you, hoping you're not a good fit for them. None of them are saying, “I'm going to contact so and so designer about this project. I really hope they're the wrong person and waste my time.” No, every client who contacts you wants you to be the last designer they contact.
When you take that concept into consideration, it means you are starting off every new contact with a client in the position that the job is already yours. Your position from that point forward is not to convince them to hire you. But to convince them, there's no need to look for anyone else. And that completely changes the way you communicate with the client.
Does that make sense? Let me repeat it.
You are not trying to convince the client to hire you. You are trying to convince the client they've made the right choice in contacting you.
This is how I've started every new client relationship since I started my business. As soon as the client and I introduce ourselves, we are working together until one says otherwise. If you approach each new contact with that in mind, you'll find yourself winning more clients than you lose.
How does this work in practice?
It's simple. You have to have the mindset that every time you speak with a potential client, you are working with them. From the moment the conversation starts, you are working together until you or they decide otherwise.
Here are some pointers.
Always speak to the client as if you are already working together. “I understand your situation. Here's how we'll tackle it.” “We'll look at what your competition is doing and figure out a way for you to stand out.” “The new brand we'll create will be a strong foundation for you in your market.”
Do you see the way I've structured those sentences? I'm not saying, “if you hire me, we'll look at your competition.” or “I would love to create a new brand for you.” No. I talk to the client as if they've already made the decision to hire me. “This is what we'll do.” “I'm going to do this for you.”
After all, as I said earlier, the client is hoping you're a good fit for them before they even contact you. So show them they were right.
When it comes to conversing with the client, you must take the initiative by leading the conversation. This proves to them that you know what you are doing.
Clients want a designer who shows initiative. Someone who can take the lead. Someone who can work independently and get the job done.
Clients have enough on their plates. They don't want to dictate or micromanage what you do. That's why they're looking for an expert to handle their project.
Now we all know those people who do try to micromanage or dictate things. My experience shows that once you take the initiative and prove you know what you're doing, most of them will be happy to hand you the reins and back off. Anyone who doesn't isn't worth working with.
When talking to the client:
- Listen attentively to what they are saying. This shows you care.
- Ask pertinent questions. This shows you're interested.
- Show you understand the situation. This shows you're knowledgeable.
- Show your willingness to help them. This proves you're a professional.
- Try to identify their pain points, their problems as early as possible. This shows you're an expert.
- Offer solutions. This shows you are confident with their project.
If you can do all of this, there's little chance the client will look elsewhere.
Create a sense of urgency.
Whenever possible, create a sense of urgency for the project. The more urgent the project is, the less time the client wants to spend finding a designer and the higher the chance they hire you. Plus, if you can show them you're on top of things, they'll trust you even more.
Ask the client if they have a deadline. Then backtrack from their deadline to now.
If a client needs a package design for their new product that launches in 60 days, work backwards.
- Two preferably three weeks at the printer.
- One week for prototyping.
- Two weeks to develop concepts and get the designs approved.
- Add one week as a buffer in case of emergencies.
That's seven weeks total. Since the deadline is 60 days (eight weeks), you must start the project within the next seven days to meet the deadline.
Showing this sort of initiative and expertise proves to the client they made the right choice.
Of course, you can't do this with every project. But the more you exhibit a confident “take charge” attitude. The more the client will appreciate you.
Another way to ensure the client they're making the right choice in hiring you is by setting expectations from the start.
Let the client know how often you will be updating them on your progress. How will you be communicating with them? Will it be via weekly phone calls, emailed progress reports, a client portal using a CMS, or what?
Clients don't like to be kept in the dark. So if you show them from the start how interacting with you will be, they'll have more confidence in you.
Explain what the whole process looks like. Explain each stage from research, concept and designing, right through to final approval and production if needed.
Remember, a client contacts you because they are hoping you are the right person for the job. Don't give them a reason to think otherwise, and 9 times out of 10, the project is yours.
All of this to say, your attitude plays a massive role in whether or not a client decides to hire you. The client wants you to be the right person for the job. They don't want to be forced to contact someone else. They want their project off their plate and in the hands of an expert, like you, who will see it through.
Keep all of this in mind and stop trying to convince the client you're the person they should hire. Instead, start showing the client they made the right choice by contacting you, and there's no reason for them to look elsewhere.
Stop trying to convince them to hire you. That's how you win more clients.
Resource of the week Google Advance Search
This is a simple little trick that has helped me out of a jam many times over the years. If you find yourself in need of a certain company's logo and don't want to jump through hoops trying to get it. Use this trick. In the Google Search Bar type “site:companywebsite.com” followed by “filetype:pdf”. What this does is return search results displaying all PDF files at that particular domain. Open the PDFs one at a time until you find one with a good-looking logo (you can usually tell by zooming in). Download the PDF and open it in a program such as Adobe Illustrator. If you're lucky you will have a perfect vector logo you can use.
You can also accomplish this by visiting Google's Advance Search page, but I find simply typing the parameters into the regular search bar is much faster.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at email@example.com