Do you have a hard time getting freelance web design clients?
Many freelance web designers struggle with this. They are making pitch after pitch, but rarely get replies, and sometimes even see the job going to someone who is seemingly less qualified. What’s going on?
Today I’d like to offer you a glimpse into how things look like from the other side of the table.
I’m not a web designer, so when I need something design-related, I hire freelancers. You want to know why most proposals get rejected immediately?
I’ll tell you why.
#1 Mistake Web Designers Make When Pitching Clients
Let me share a story from my personal experience in hiring web designers. I needed someone to design a landing page for me, so I posted an ad on one of the freelance job boards, and, sure enough, got a lot of responses straight away. The problem was that all the pitches were terrible. Why?
Here’s an excerpt from one of the pitches that is representative of the rest of them:
“I am a freelance web designer with having more than five year experience in Website designs, HTML, XHTML, Web2.0, J-Query, HTML5, Layout, W3c Standard, CSS, iPhone and Android UI Design, environment with projects involving Requirement gathering, High level design, low level design, e-commerce, Magento, Joomla Home page Design and theme integration.”
Now, what do people care about when it comes to landing pages? Conversion rates. So, you would think that it would make sense to talk about conversion rates when pitching someone who needs a landing page, right? Well, designers who pitched me didn’t share that opinion, and for some reason thought that it would be more effective to send me a list of skills that aren’t relevant to the project at hand, sprinkled with acronyms that I don’t even understand. You know who would have gotten the job straight away? Someone who would have offered me a design that is proven to increase conversion rates. Yet no one even mentioned the term “conversion rate”. Instead, I got a lot of messages about HTML, CSS, jQuery, and so on.
This is the most common reason why freelancers have a hard time getting clients – they think about themselves, not about the client. Okay, you know HTML, CSS, and jQuery, good for you, but why would I care? If I’m hiring a web designer, I probably don’t know that much about design (otherwise, I’d just do it myself, right?), and therefore it’s quite likely that I have no idea what HTML, CSS, jQuery, etc. even mean. So why are you talking about it?
You see, from your perspective, all these things are important, but from the client’s perspective (with some rare exceptions) all this talk about your technical skills is just a meaningless babble. Imagine if I’d pitch you in Lithuanian – everything would make perfect sense to me, but all you would hear is an intelligible stream of sounds that are foreign to you (unless, of course, you also know Lithuanian, in which case… Labas, kaip sekasi? :P ). Would you hire me? Yet many freelance web designers are talking in a language that their clients don’t understand, then are schocked when no one wants to hire them.
Now, the question is, how can you learn to talk to potential clients in their own language?
Here are three questions that will help you become better at it…
Question #1: Who are your clients?
Many freelancers, especially the ones who are just starting out, go the “I’ll work with anyone who will hire me!” route. The problem is that if you don’t know who your clients are, you won’t be able to tailor your pitch to apply to their specific needs (e.g. the same pitch won’t work on a popular blogger and on a tech start-up founder). Plus, when your work is all over the place, you won’t have the credibility that comes with specialization.
Example: Imagine that you are a tech startup founder. Would you rather hire:
a) A web designer who works for all kinds of clients and whose portfolio consists of e-commerce store, pet blog, grandma’s knitting website, etc.
b) A web designer who specializes in web design for tech startups and whose portfolio consists of several tech startup websites.
I think the answer is pretty obvious.
Are you serious about freelancing? Yes? Then it’s time to niche down, specialize, and build a portfolio that reflects that specialization.
Question #2: What do your clients want?
Once you know who your clients are, it’s important to take some time to understand what they want (hint: it’s not web design).
Example: Okay, so you decided to specialize in web design for tech startups. But what do tech startup founders want?
They don’t care about pretty web design – they want higher conversion rates, more sales, and more revenue. Why are they looking to hire a web designer then?
Because they think that it will help them to improve their business in one way or another.
This applies to most potential clients. Yes, aesthethics matter, but in most cases your potential clients are either hired by entrepreneurs or are entrepreneurs themselves (since these are the people who can afford to hire web designers), and their most important concern is the business that they are working on. Your job isn’t to solve design problems, your job is to solve business problems via design.
Question #3: How can you convey the value of your work in a language that clients understand?
Now, once you know who your clients are and what they want, you have to explain to them why they should hire you… in a language that they understand.
Example: Now that you know that tech startup founders care about improving their business, you have to show them how your design would help them do that, and the best way to do so is to talk to them in their language. This means talking about split-testing, user interaction, conversion rates, sales,revenue, etc. Sure, they may ask you about your technical skills, and then it’s okay to list them, but it’s your knowledge of problems that are specific to tech startups that will make you stand out of the crowd.
You have to remember that what may seem obvious to you may not seem obvious to your clients. Sure, maybe knowing jQuery is crucial for the project at hand, but reality is that most entrepreneurs (tech startup founders are an exception of course) who hire web designers and web developers don’t know anything about things like that. You have to show them the connection between the design you are offering and the results that they want.
It’s not about you, it’s about the client!
You can’t afford to be self-centered when it comes to dealing with clients. People are busy – they don’t have time to read irrelevant ramblings, decypher acronyms, and connect the dots. Want to get hired? Stop focusing on yourself, and start focusing on your clients. That’s what makes all the difference.
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