For new service-based entrepreneurs, one of the greatest challenges is finding, attracting, and booking clients.
You may not have a large portfolio, a large audience, or client testimonials. You may not have much experience or expertise. And chances are, you’re probably in a very saturated, competitive industry.
I remember being in that position. And in less than a year and a half, I was able to grow my client waiting list to well over 250 prospective clients.
If that sounds crazy to you, than this will be even more shocking: I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to build my waiting list. All the steps I implemented can be executed by you, too.
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Lauren Hooker: Hello everyone and welcome to this week's Ellechat on how I grew my client waiting list to over 250 prospective clients.
I wanted to do this webinar today, because I have a lot of people ask me about how to gain clients. Now, I know when I first started Elle & Company, that was one of my biggest hang ups, because if I was able to book clients and able to even start a waiting list, then I would be able to reach my goals as a business owner. One of which, which was huge, was to leave my 9 to 5 boring desk job and pursue Elle & Company full time.
I knew that if I booked enough clients and booked far out in advance, that I'd be able to streamline my income and bring enough income in, and have enough stability to be able to leave that pesky day job and work for myself. Clients also mean bringing in more money.
Your business, if you’re a service based business, really rides on whether or not you're able to book clients. You all already know this, that's why you're here today and that's why you want to figure out how I was able to grow my waiting list. So let’s jump right in.
1 | Develop a one-of-a-kind process
I don't know about you, but especially when I first started out, I had a really hard time figuring out how I could stand out in such a saturated industry. There are so many graphic designers out there, there are so many photographers out there, interior designers, coaches, whatever it is that you do, you probably feel like you're one of millions, and you just might be. It's hard to set yourself apart especially when you're first getting started.
You want to be able to set yourself apart in order to attract perspective clients. You'll want to stand out among people who are competing with you for clients. A lot of people think about differentiation in terms of aesthetic. I would argue that your aesthetic is a piece of it, but it goes far beyond that. You can differentiate yourself through other things like your process. I started to think about how I could set myself apart. How could I set Elle & Company apart? Apart from my aesthetic, apart from my colorful more feminine design style? My approach to this was to take a look at the frustrations and the needs of both clients and designers in my industry.
The best way to stand out and really meet people where they are and attract clients, is to take a look at their frustrations and solve them through your process, through what you're offering, through even your brand, the look of your brand. What are their biggest frustrations and how can you solve them? This is where you can get really creative and you all are good at that because you're creative business owners.
Here's what I discovered. One, that for in a design industry especially, timelines are really hard to nail down and stick to. People get really frustrated because it seems like the design process goes on forever, and this is on both sides of the process. Clients are upset because they wanted their project to be done months ago, and designers are upset because they wanted the project to be done months ago. Timelines were really hard to nail down and to stick to.
Client projects had to be juggled. I know for me when I first started out, I would take on every single inquiry that came my way, and I would take them on right away. I was juggling a million projects, staying up until 3 in the morning trying to get it all done, and it was a mess. My clients probably didn't feel very valued because they were one of many clients, and I was doing a terrible job keeping up with everything, so it's stressful on both sides.
Deadlines were often pushed back too. Client communication wasn't very good, and so deadlines kept getting pushed back because a client wouldn't respond in time or I just had too much on my plate. I saw this across the board. This wasn't just with me, but with other people in the industry. Freelance income as a result was unpredictable because you never knew when a project was going to be completed, you didn't know when the money was going to be coming in, when people would book. I saw all these frustrations and thought, how can I design a process that will fix some of these issues that people are having? If I can fix them, then I can set myself apart from the norm in the design industry.
My solution was that I would work with one client at a time, each within a two week time frame. My husband was the first one to pitch this idea to me after I was literally in tears, stressed out about all that I had going on and all that was on my plate. He said, "Lauren, why don't you just take on one design client at a time and get it done in a short period of time?" At first, I thought, "You are crazy. Nobody does this," and there has to be a reason that nobody does this, right? Then I started thinking about it and I was thinking, "This could totally work."
If I was working with one client at a time, then my client would feel valued, I'd be able to figure out how to book clients because I could look at my client calendar and say, "Okay, I'm going to block out this two week timeframe, and then I'm going to leave out a week for buffer time.” I just marked out those blocks of time in my calendar and I was able to see how many clients I could take on, I was able to see how much money I would make if each package cost a certain amount. It started to streamline my process and get rid of those frustrations on both my side and the client's side.
The more I started to think about it, the more it made sense, so thank you to my husband for that, I can't take all the credit. First I shot him down and acted like he was crazy. Here's what this new process allowed me to do. Number one, it allowed me to stabilize my income. Like I said, if I knew I could take on 12 projects between now and the end of the year, I think that first year I took on 24 clients.
I looked at the year and marked 24 spaces in my calendar, which is probably too many, but I was really excited about being able to book clients. I marked out those spaces and said, "Okay, my design package costs this much. If I multiply that by 24, here's how much money I'm going to make for the year." I didn't know exactly when clients would book, so I didn't know exactly when I would receive a deposit, but I knew that by the end of the project I would have all of that money or at least the second half of what they owed. It allowed me to stabilize my income and know how much I was able to bring in.
If I was able to book out that client calendar, then I didn't have to worry about clients for the rest the year. I could start that waiting list that I'm talking about in this webinar. It also cut back on the stress of juggling projects. If I was able to work with one client at a time, I didn't have to manage multiple projects, because I'm pouring all my time and energy into that one client. It gave my clients a definitive start and end date, because I had to stick to that two week timeframe or else it would throw the rest of my client calendar off.
They knew that we would start on whatever date that two week started on, and ended at the end of it and that was their chance to get everything in. They knew that they needed to prepare through client homework, they knew that they needed to respond and be available, and really that was never an issue with any of my clients.
I knew exactly how many clients I could take on. Like I said, because I had that client calendar all mapped out, and I was able to stand out because nobody else was doing this before and it was kind of unheard of. Even though I was just starting and kind of brand new to the freelance industry, I was able to stand out and kind of make a name for myself pretty quickly, because my process was different.
Does this mean that you need to take on one client at a time and do it in a two week timeframe? No. All I'm saying is that, instead of looking at how everybody else is running their business and setting up their process and building up their strategies, think about first and foremost the needs and the frustrations of potential clients. Try to solve them creatively through your process or the packages that you create through your services. Think through how you can creatively solve those problems, so that's the take away. Think about the needs and frustrations of both clients and businesses in your industry, and creatively solve them through your process. When you're able to meet them where they are, meet their needs and take away those frustrations, they will want to work with you.
2 | Simply your design package
I think when you're first starting out, even if you're not just first starting out, we naturally want to appeal to the most amount of people we possibly can. I was guilty of taking on every inquiry and design client that came my way. If people just wanted a logo, I would take it on. If people just wanted a website, I would take that on. If people wanted wedding invitations, sure, why not. I need the income, I really want to go full time. I wanted to provide a ton of services right out the gate.
The trouble with this, and don't feel bad if you're doing it too, because like I said, I was there. Providing too many options overwhelms your potential clients. When they go to your website and see that you do a million things, they're going to be really confused about what you do. If you do any of it well, if you have not specialized, it makes it hard for people to remember what you offer. What ends up happening is people will come to you as kind of a last minute resort for their own hodgepodge project.
They won't end up buying any of your packages, they'll try to make it their own and then you have to quote them. It's just hard, your process is different every single time too, so if you're not offering the same thing every time, you're having to come up with a new quote and you're having to come up with a new process. It takes so much longer than if you just had one or two design packages and could run through that same process every time and streamline it.
Also, it makes it really hard for people to sum up what you do. Instead of being known as a brand and web designer, you're just known as that designer who kind of takes on any project. It's hard for you to tell other people what you do, and it's really hard to specialize and become known for anything.
What to do instead? My approach to this, number one, because I was just completely overwhelmed, number two because I wasn't specializing and really narrowing in on potential clients, was simplifying my offerings. I settled on one design package, just one. I have to admit, that was a little frightening at first too because I thought, "Well, not everybody might want this one design package, what do I do?" The thing about this was, I ended up appealing to the people who I really wanted to work with. I thought about what are their needs, what do people need most when they're starting a business or trying to streamline their brand?
Usually it's a brand, a website and collateral items, and so that's what I offered. I believe and still hold to it that a brand is so much more than just a logo, which is why I will not offer just a logo. A brand is putting your look and not just your logo, but your entire brand, all those elements on every single client touch point. You want it all to look cohesive, that's what makes it look professional, so that brand is so much more than a logo. That is what I have in my package, a brand, Squarespace website and four collateral items, now I upped it to five.
Simplifying my offerings to just one design package allowed me to say no to smaller projects that I really wasn't interested in, and help me set boundaries. If someone came to me and said, "Can you do just a logo?" Before this I would have said, "Sure." I'm a people pleaser and it's hard for me to say no and I try to rationalize it in my mind. If you're like that too, then narrowing down the options will be super helpful for you because, this one design package allowed me to say, "No I don't offer that and here's why," and explain why my design package would be so much more suitable for them.
If it wasn't, that's okay, they weren't my ideal client anyway. It would have been really hard to work with them if they didn't truly understand and value a full brand package like I was offering. Also, streamline my process so that I could get it done in two weeks, because if I was following the same process again and again, I could get really good at that process. I knew that for that two-week time frame, Monday was the inspiration board, Tuesday and Wednesday I could spend on developing logo concepts, Thursday we would hone in on one logo concept and how to revise it.
I just got in this pattern of knowing exactly what to expect every single day, and I was really able to streamline my process and become a lot more efficient and become quicker at what I was doing. If you have a million packages, you're not able to streamline like that. It also helped my clients see exactly what they would receive, not only when they would see the design package on my site and I was able to walk through all that was included, but anytime that they saw a project being shared on my blog or on my social media accounts, they knew that, potential clients knew that if they worked with me they would get exactly that. That that wasn't another design package. That there's only one and that's what they could expect if they worked it with me.
Again, it helped set my business a part. A lot of other designers offer a ton of different options. Mine I only offer one and that might scare you at first, it scared me at first, but it actually set my business apart and made people more willing to work with me and trust me because they saw that process, which I'll talk about in just a second, saw that process again and again and saw exactly what I offered over and over and over again on my blog and social media.
All right, so the takeaway from this point is that, less is more. Don't keep adding to try to appeal to more people. You don't want to appeal to everybody, you want to appeal to a certain kind of client and you're never going to appeal to them if you're trying to offer everything under the sun. Consider the needs of potential clients and come up with one to two service packages that will best accommodate them. One package might not work well for you, but if you can narrow it down and simplify the options more, you'll set yourself apart you'll be able to book more clients and start that waiting list. I really believe that this was one of the keys to being able to attract clients and start that waiting list.
Number one, just as a quick review, was that I developed a one-of-a-kind process through my two week process thinking about the frustrations and the needs of potential clients. Number two is simplifying my design package.
3 | Transparently share your process
I say this time and time again, I feel like I can never say it enough because it is so true. That in order for people to even begin thinking about working with you and booking your services and especially investing money in your business, whether it's $50 for your service packages or $5,000 dollars for your service packages, they have to be able to trust you. If they don't trust you, they are not going to book you.
Most freelancers try to build trust through their portfolio and their testimonials, and both of those are great. You need testimonials in order for potential clients to see, that other people have worked with you and that they really enjoyed working with you. They need to see your portfolio in that. You know the proof is in your work really and seeing exactly what you're able and capable of doing, but I didn't just want to rely on what everyone else was doing, I wanted to think outside of the box.
Think, "How can I build trust outside of the normal portfolio and testimonials?" My approach was to take it one step further by transparently sharing my design process on the blog. I do what are called portfolio blog posts. It's been a while since I've done, but you can see them on the Elle & Company website by going to elleandcompanydesign.com/portfolio and clicking on ... Every single item in my portfolio will take you to a blog post. The reason I do this, here's how it works and how I set them up.
Every single time a project is finished, usually around the time that the brand and website launches for my client, I create a new blog post. Instead of just highlighting the project or even just sharing images with a few words here and there, I try to walk the reader through the process from start to finish. Everyone loves stories, everyone loves following along with stories. I love before and afters, and so I try to combine both of those in the blog post instead of just saying, "Here's the project, hope you like it." I say, "Here's where we started and here was the problem, and I'm going to walk you through the entire process and show you how we solved that problem. Here's the story of this design project, and the before and after."
I share behind the scenes look at exactly how we went about it. I also explain the intention behind every design decision that I make. Instead of saying, "Here's the inspiration board," I say, "Here's the inspiration and here's why I chose these images for the inspiration board. Here's why I chose these colors for the inspiration board. Here's why we chose this logo option and instead of the other two logo options that I came up with," because I want to show my expertise. I want to show that I'm not just throwing up designs on there that look pretty, I want them to serve a purpose. I want them to be effective for my clients.
When I'm able to explain the decisions behind what I'm doing and what I'm creating, I'm able to show people that hopefully I know what I'm talking about to a certain extent. Hopefully I'm building trust and credibility with potential clients who are looking through this process. I'm also familiarizing with them, with the process and with my design package, and I hope that they're reading these posts and looking through it thinking, "This is what it would look like if I worked with Lauren on my brand and my website." That's the hope through those posts.
I also try to do this through social media. I actually did an Instagram story today highlighting an old project, and kind of walked through a short and portfolio blog post of a sorts. If you want to go take a look at that my handle is @laurenelizhook, you can go take a look at that if you'd like to you. It's going to go away after today though, so you can go back to those portfolio post to get an idea of what I'm talking about.
On social media I would try to share sneak peeks on the way to you ... When I started working with a new client for two weeks, after that first day, after the client approved their inspiration board, I would share it on social media to invite people in on the process. Again, be transparent about what the process looked like. I would also, and people love this, whatever this looks like for your business pocket it because this one's huge. People love giving their feedback.
I would share three logo options after my client actually chose one of them, I didn't want that to sway their opinion too much. I'd share three logo concepts and then I would ask people which one they would choose. People would leave comments and I'd get hundreds of comments because people love to give their two cents on these kinds of things and vote.
It invited people in on the process, hopefully made it more engaging for them and just raised more excitement and interest to see the final outcome. When I did post that portfolio blog post, they'd already been kind of following along with the process and hopefully really anxious to see how the end result turned out. What Logo did they actually go with, what does their website look like and all that fun stuff. Inviting your audience in, there's potential clients in there who will eat that up and it'll point them to hopefully work with you.
Not to mention, I get a lot of questions about this too. How do your clients feel about these portfolio blog posts? The truth is, they love it. They look forward to it. It's become an expectation for them. They love on launch day when I share about their business and their brand because it drives traffic to them. The longer it's on my blog, the more traffic it gets, and they continue to get traffic through the links that I share in there. People pin their brand to Pinterest from those blog posts, so they love it. They eat it up and I think they'd be really sad if I didn't do a portfolio blog post on their project, so they don't mind at all.
I'm always sure to ask him before I post anything on social media, I don't want to ruin a secret if they really want to keep everything under wraps until they launch the project, but all of my clients are usually pretty excited. The takeaway from this, even if you're not a designer, think about how you're building trust with potential clients. Are you transparently sharing with them your expertise, your process? Are you inviting them in and helping them to see what it would look like if they did work with you?
I'd encourage you to share your process and try to position yourself as an expert through your content, whether it's on your blog, social media, even webinars, podcast. How can you showcase your credibility, your expertise and put people at ease about working with you and build trust with them?
4 | Establish expertise on your blog
My approach to this was that I use the blog and even things like these, webinars. I've been doing Ellechats for a while now to try to establish credibility in the design field and now and in the creative entrepreneurship world, by sharing about design and brand related topics. Yes, I had those portfolio posts, but I didn't want to rely on just those. I wanted to help people and show that I knew what I was talking about when it comes to design by actually doing posts on them.
A few examples of this where that I shared a series on my creative process. What does it look like from start to finish? How do I create a logo? Starts with sketching and then digitizing, so I shared that process. I also shared infographics about typography and color psychology. I shared the do's and don'ts of logo design, how to create custom brand to icons. I even shared a one month brand challenge that walked people through how to design their brand from start to finish in a month. I did that during the month of February.
You would think, "Lauren, why are you walking people through how to design their own brand if you want them to work with you?" Some people might be able to DIY it, and it's totally fine. A lot of people will find that it's a lot of work and it'll be a lot easier if they hired someone like me to work with them. Don't be afraid of giving away a lot of information.
Even if I share my entire design process, how I create a logo, any of that, people are going to want to book me because they want me to do the work. They don't feel confident in their own designing skills to come up with a brand and website for themselves. Don't let that hold you back from being transparent and sharing what you know.
Also, a little confession here, I didn't always feel like an expert on those topics especially when I first started blogging. I still don't feel like an expert when I'm posting these webinars and writing new content for the blog. There're always new things to be learning and things are always changing, and I feel like there are people out there doing it better. What do I have to share in the conversation?
You might feel like that too. You might feel like there's tons of blog posts out there already on the topics that you want to write about, and I would challenge you on that and say, people who are reading your blog and your potential clients probably aren't reading all those other blogs or following along with all the other people who've written about it before. They don't have your unique spin on it, so it's kind of a fun challenge for me to share what I know and try to develop that credibility and expertise. It also pushes me to keep learning and stay on top of my field and my craft.
I didn't always feel like an expert on those topics, but as I learned things I would transparently share them. The more I shared, the more clients I booked. The more trust I was able to build with potential clients, the more people would reach out to me and inquire about my services. The takeaway for this one is to share what you know and to utilize your blog, webinars. Anyway that you're sharing content to share about topics that relate to your services and gain credibility and build their trust again.
It all goes back to trust. Do those portfolio posts, be really creative about how you're showcasing your work, but really focus on topics and content that will build your expertise, that'll help you gain credibility. All of these were crucial to helping people or getting people to sign up and book my services, and then be willing to sign up for a waiting list. I think a lot of that boils down to trust.
5 | Steer clear of client bias
There are a lot of people out there who will tell you to pick and choose your clients. I know this is a polarizing topic, so you might be surprised to hear me say this. I'm not fond of that approach of kind of weeding out who you want to work with. Some people you might think would be terrible to work with, and end up being your favorite clients. There might be some people that you jump at the opportunity to work with them, it seems too good to be true and it is too good to be true because they're the most difficult people to work with.
I wrote a blog post on this issue. You can go and read about it. I'll share in the show notes as well and you can find that on the Elle & Company blog. There are a bunch of reasons that I don't necessarily agree with this, but my approach is that, I would book anyone who is willing to pay the cost of my design package, because it did increase a lot. Be willing to book during the dates that I had available and didn't compromise, their business didn't compromise my morals or values or beliefs. As long as they met that criteria, they were booked.
Honestly, some of the clients that I didn't think that I would enjoy working with as much, ended up being my favorite clients ever and the design process was super smooth. By not showing bias in who I was booking, I was able to book out my client calendar quickly because I wasn't being picky. I was able to demonstrate my versatility. Some people would book me and I'd think, "Their style is a little different than mine, but they're attracted to my design aesthetic and they're attracted to my process. They want to work with me, this will be a fun design challenge." It pushed me out of my comfort zone and I ended up really enjoying it.
I actually had a lot more creativity doing those projects than the ones I thought, "This is right up my alley." I also found like I said a moment ago, that some clients thought, that I thought would be really amazing to work with, were not amazing to work with. Some clients that I wasn't as thrilled about, ended up being the best clients ever. Again, the takeaway for this one, and you can't afford to be choosy when you're first getting started either. You can't wait through clients if you don't have a waiting list and you're just wanting to book clients. You can't weed out people. Be weary of being choosy. If someone's willing to pay you and follow your process, give them a chance, jump at the opportunity, you might be really surprised. I know I was.
6 | Put in the hard work
In order to be able to book out your client calendar, you have to be willing to put in the hard work. You all probably know this already, how much work goes into having your own business, you can't be lazy and just expect clients to come. You have to work hard because booking clients is really only the beginning. Once I had the clients on the books, then I had to follow through on these promises that I was making on my sales pages, on my website and through blog posts and the content I was sharing. I wanted to go above and beyond for those clients to exceed their expectations. I didn't want them to have these great ideas of what the process would be like to work with me, and then let them down. I wanted to give them the best experience.
This ended up leading to a lot of great testimonials and referrals because the booking was only the beginning. The takeaway for this one, this was a short one, is that the victory isn't in the booking, it's in a positive client experience. If you book them and you give them a terrible client experience, that's a bummer for both people. The booking is only really the beginning.
That's why I launched Freelance Academy for the first time last year, and I just launched it. We're in the middle of the launch this week, it goes until next Tuesday because I wanted to show people how they could not only book out their client calendar, I share about marketing strategies, getting to know your target audience, specializing, all these things that we've talked about in this webinar. Take it one step further, so after you've booked the clients, how do you work with them? How do you manage multiple projects at once if you have different packages and you don't want to work with one client at a time?
How do you know how to book? How do you know how to price your services? What should you do about client contracts and setting up an LLC and making sure that you're going about your business legally? How do you set client boundaries so that they don't walk all over you and stick to revisions? How do you deal with clients who are really hard to work with? I cover all of that in this course.
There's a payment plan involved with it. For those of you who need to split up the payments, the course takes place over the next three months and I spread out the modules so that you're able to follow along really easily. I talk at full of actionable content. It isn't just broad strategies. You can follow step by step through the process. Honestly, I wish I had something like this when I was first starting because it would have saved me so much time and headache in the long run.
I also, and since you all are joining in the webinar, I want to offer this to you all as well. There's a launch bonus going on until the end of the night tonight. It's 15% off and a one on one Skype call with me for 20 minutes if you book today for Freelance Academy or you enroll in Freelance Academy. You can snag those bonuses by a checkout, putting in the launch code launch day 15, and you'll get the 15% off and one on one time with me, which will be awesome and a coaching strategy session.
There's also fun challenges throughout this course. There's three fun challenges. I'm not going to give away what they are, but the first prize is a three month coaching session with me or a three month coaching package with me for free if you win that challenge. Lots of fun things packed in this course, it's honestly my favorite offering that I've ever offered in Elle & Company history. You can actually click on the little called action button. There's a green button down below this video if you want to see more details about Freelance Academy.
With that being said, I would love to answer your questions about how to build a waiting list and the content that I just shared with you all. Feel free to ask questions in the questions and answers section. We have eight in there already, so I'm just going to go ahead and get started, we have plenty of time. All right let me minimize this real quick if I can. There we go.
Okay, so question number one from Rachel. She asked, "How do you manage your waiting list once you book people up? Do you send them emails every now and then to keep them interested? Do anything else or nothing at all? This is something I've gone back and forth on."
Once people book, once I booked out my client calendar and started a waiting list of people, I started, I would check in every now and then, but really just have kind of a launch sequence for my waiting list and invite them. Say, treat it like a launch to book out my current calendar for the following year.
In about October is usually when I start doing it, I usually raise my prices, I'm completely transparent about my prices. I don't, because that usually, not, it all narrow it down to the people who are really interested in the design package. I sent out an email in October letting people know when they would be able to book and kind of treat it like a launch. Then when the booking begins, people can reach out to me and I just do it on the first come first serve basis.
Usually raising my prices will weed some people out, so not all 250 people email me at once. Usually people in the meantime, if they're really in need of a brand sooner rather than later, they might go for another designer and that's fine too. People are constantly going in and out of the waiting list, especially during different times of the year. Right now is a good time to join the waiting list because I'm getting ready to send out those emails and book my client calendar for 2018, same thing with my coaching package. That's usually how I handle it.
You could if you had a waiting list, reach out to people and just let them know when you're booking is coming up, but you can treat it like a launch, which is awesome. That's like the best problem to have, is to have so many people on your waiting list that you're able to book out hopefully in a day or two when your services go live again.
"Just like I asked, I worry that potential clients won't want to wait for my services and will choose to work with another designer who can carry the work out immediately. How can you make a pre-booked design service seem appealing with little or no audience?"
I'll handle the first one first, the fear of people going to other designers or other people in the industry and choosing to work with them, that's okay because you have other people on your, that you've booked out. It's not like you're going month to month trying to get clients. At this point you've booked out your client calendar and you have a waiting list, so you have months and months for people to wait. If they really want to work with you and they value your services, they will wait on that waiting list. If not, it's okay if they go for someone else. The timing just didn't work out well.
The hope is that you have enough people on your waiting list that you'll have enough people there willing to wait and book those spots in your calendar regardless. Don't worry about losing people. If you've booked out your client calendar and you have, you've started a waiting list, you're in a great position. If people signed up for the waiting list, they're usually willing to wait, so you shouldn't have to worry about them.
All right, these are great questions. Rachel says, "How do you handle multiple client increase at the same time? I was recently talking with three prospect clients at once, and I gave them different start and end dates. The second client booked my services and now I have an open spot before them. Then I wrote to the third client that I have an earlier spot because the first client dropped out, and then the first client reached out to me, I don't know what to do. How do you make sure that you're giving away the right start and end dates without changing them?"
I do it on a first come first serve basis. I have my client calendar in front of me with those dates marked out for openings. I give people the different dates that they can book. Some of them like to do it way in the future to give them more time to prepare, that's totally fine, but I do it on a first come first serve basis. If someone says I want that date, they sign a contract and put down the invoice or pay the invoice, then they get to book that spot, first come first serve.
If I have a couple people emailing me all at once, then I tell them that. That there are a few people looking at it, and if they want to grab that date, then I can send them the contract and the invoice and we can get that ball rolling. That's how I handle it. First come first serve basis, give them the different options. They may choose to book in advance and that's great. I hope that makes sense and answers your question Rachel.
Rachel, another Rachel asks, "Have you found sharing prices upfront builds a more valuable and ideal wait list of clients?"
Yes. I never want to waste someone's time if they think that I am charging less than I am. It wastes both of our time to send an email back and forth and try to negotiate. I have always, again, it goes back to transparency in building trust, I ... It says right on my website, it kind of weeds people out in a way.
Then I know that the people on the waiting list have seen my prices and are willing to wait. That they're actually prospective clients instead of just warm leads. I want them to be hot leads, and so I found that being completely transparent about my prices is really helpful for them.
Kelly says, "How do you convince clients to let you show the process work during the project and not just after the fact? Is that something you include in your contract?"
I realize your clients probably assume it at this point, but if you haven't been doing it and you'd like to start, I would just ask your clients if they feel comfortable. I always share after the fact, after they've made decisions. They usually don't mind me sharing something like an inspiration board, but I always like to get their go ahead before I do something like that. You could ask them, "Would you feel comfortable with me sharing this on social media?"
A lot of clients probably won't mind. Some might want to keep it secret and that's totally fine. It's not like I even tag my clients in it. For things like the inspiration board or sharing just a bit of a logo without giving it all away, they probably won't mind, but it's always good to ask. You could also include it in your client, on our client agreement or contract just to be on the safe side and make sure that they understand that before working with you, if you really want to be able to share bits and pieces and sneak peeks along the way.
Great question. Rachel says, "Do you have any times in the year when you open the available spots to your wait list?"
Yes, usually in the fall for booking the up coming year is usually how I go about it. A few months out and I might only open it up for the next three months, for the first three months of the year. Then in January go and open it up for the next three. It just depends on how comfortable you are booking in advance for the entire year or maybe just for six months, but I usually do it a couple months ahead of time.
Chris says, "Sometimes I prospect for work offering a demo, free consult et cetera in order to build trust."
I think that's great. He says, "Often I get no response, but sometimes I get lots. There isn't a backlog for these demos even though I contacted them looking for work, how would you handle this?" I think that's a great idea to do a free demo or a free consultation. It's a lot easier to sell to someone once they trust you and you've probably built trust in your one on one time with them. If you can afford to give up the time, that's great.
I understand the struggle with booking those demos or free consultations. A scheduling tool that I love that makes this really easy is Calendly. Calendly syncs right into iCal if you have it. I use Google Calendar and it allows you to book or make certain times available on your calendar. If you want to book these calls Monday evenings between 6 and 8, it'll show all of your availability and certain timeframe. If I say that I'm going to do you a 20 minute Skype call, that's how I set up the Skype calls for Freelance Academy, then I set it up for 20 minutes and people can book it. Just, you send them a link to your calendar and they can book it.
You might only leave a few open each week, so they might have to book those demos in advance and that's totally fine, but that's how I would do it instead of ... That would streamline it instead of you having to go back and forth trying to schedule a time. It saves so much time on both ends and so much hassle of trying to schedule those times. That's what I would do. Use a scheduler like Calendly, set those different time slots and allow people to choose which one.
Jeanie says, "How did you drive people to your blog?"
A few different ways. I use things like social media is really helpful at first. Pinterest is huge, so pinning my own work, but then other people will start to pin it as they come to your blog. I partnered and networked with other bloggers. I partnered with other people on social media. I put a lot of emphasis on how my social media account looked, so that other people would even share my images and mention me.
I have a blog post on this that I'll link to on the show notes of how I was able to drive traffic to my blog. It takes a little while at first, but then once you get some traffic coming your way, it will grow exponentially because then they'll start sharing your posts. Really focusing on high quality content was huge too, because if people come to your blog, you'll want them to find a lot of information there and continue to return. Having high quality content is really helpful for that as well.
These are all awesome questions. Keep them coming, we have plenty of time, 14 more minutes.
"What if I signed up before this promotion?”
I'm guessing you're asking if you signed up for Freelance Academy, then you already have a Skype session Erin, and I'm really excited that you're taking part in the course. I'm really excited to get to know you better. If you already signed up for Freelance Academy, awesome, you already have a Skype call with me and I'm going to send you more information about that next week, so stay tuned.
Aqua asks, "I'm a filmmaker with lots of different types of things that clients want from me, so for each I have to make a budget and have a meeting to know the specifics of the work. Often times after seeing the budgets people disappear or go off to try to raise the money, leaving me feel like I'm constantly doing work up front and not often getting returns. What would be a better way to set this up?"
A filmmaker and you have to set budgets for each one, maybe even just being really transparent about what budgets look like and even having the starting point on your website. Even if you know that you're going to have to quote each project different, depending on the amount of time and work that goes into it, have a starting point so people understand. When they reach out to you, they hopefully already have an idea of the money that they need to raise or the money that they need to pay.
Then sharing the client process and all that goes into it. I don't know if you can necessarily share the cost of each project if your clients wouldn't be comfortable with that. You can even do a blog post on pricing and how you come up with it and how much time goes into it. Maybe even in your portfolio post you talk about how much time goes into it and then on the pricing page, you talk about your hourly rate or something like that. Just being really transparent about how you set up those budgets, would be really insightful for those who are following along with you and hopefully ward off people who disappear for a while. Hopefully they'll have a better expectation. I hope that makes sense. Let me now in the comments if it doesn't and I'll try to explain better.
Luke says, "Say I wanted to implement a similar process for design clients by blocking out dates. When I get my first client, how long is a reasonable amount of time for them to complete client homework? In addition, do you send them all the homework at once?"
Yes. I would leave a couple weeks at least for them to complete client homework. I never take on a client right away even if I can take them on right away, because I want them to be able to do all that homework and prepare up front.
It also has a client take you seriously if they know that they can't work with you right away, that they need to wait to work with you, that you're booked up, it has them take you more seriously.
"Do you send the client homework all at once?"
I do. As soon as they sign that contract, pay the invoice, then I send them the client homework right away. I set all of my note through Google Docs, and so I put together a Google folder for each one of my clients and share it with them. I already have a master copy of the client homework, so I just create a copy of that. It's a Google Doc. I put it right into their client folder, send it to them and they can get started right away.
Then I'm always sure to tell them, this is client communication 101. When that client homework is due, why it's due on that day and the importance of them having it all done before then. I even try to provide a little incentive. If I check in with a client's homework because it's shared, so we both have access to it, I can see if they're actually doing their homework, which is kind of sneaky, but it's really helpful. If I see a week out that they haven't even started on their client homework, I'll send them a little Starbucks gift card that says, "I'm so," and you can do it online, so I usually just do it online.
In the notes I say, "I'm so excited to work with you in one week," and something along the lines of, "Hopefully a little coffee will help you finish up that client homework," or something along those lines to remind them of the client homework, surprise them and at least remind them in a friendlier way than having to be a stickler and kind of someone looking over their shoulder. If that makes sense. Yes, I send them client homework all at once. They can get started on it as soon as they book.
Gini says, "Does the client homework include them needing to provide all the content or do you ever help provide content?"
I usually give a little bit of direction on content, so they write the content. I'm never writing the content, but I'm telling them the things that they should consider as they're writing their content.
For example, for their website I am always trying to tell them how they can make the user experience better, so they need to call the action on each page. Here's a few call to actions that you might consider for your About page, something along those lines to kind of coach them through the content on their website. No, I don't provide all the content. I ask them to provide it. Photos, headers, things like that, but a lot of my clients come to me now for business advice too, so I end up doing lot of business coaching. I try to give them direction on the type of content for each page as well.
Sometimes I even leave like blank spots on their new website, so they can fill it in as they go, but I really encourage them to have it all done ahead of time. I always make myself available for questions and that's another great reason to space it out and not take a client on right away, but give them plenty of time to work on that client homework, because questions like this inevitably come up.
These are awesome questions. Julia says, "How would you suggest setting up this system for an information consultant, where there are no tangible deliverables like logos et cetera, maybe creating an action plan?"
Yes. You can explain the process as you go, even if you don't have those visuals and those tangible deliverables. Talk about where someone started and the process that you took, the action plan, I think that's a great idea and where you finished.
Something that I didn't mention either that I used to do a lot in those portfolio posts, was have a testimonial from my client at the end of it. You can even do that, have your client share what the process was like for them and what they got out of your consultations and your time with them. I would take this as an opportunity to get really creative with it, but I think you can follow the same process even if you don't have those tangible deliverables.
Great question. Tommy says, "I offer flyer design and it is always my top seller. However, it earns less money than the rest of the projects I offer. How and when should I up my prices?"
All right, this is a tough one. You might want to take it off altogether and just take it on if someone asks you, if you don't want to lose that yet and just highlight the services that you really want to be known for. Unless it's flyer design and you want to become known as the top flyer designer out there, then you can really play that up.
If you don't want to be offering that, then take it off completely. Like I said, narrow the scope of what you offer so that you can become known for the things that you want to be known for. Or my dad always said this, my dad was a business owner as well. One of the tips that he gave me that will stick with me forever is, make it worth your while. If you don't want to offer flyer design, but it's your top package and people are always asking you for it, raise your prices and make it worth your while. That would be my advice for you, that's a hard one.
I think that's all the questions.
Oh, Kelly has one more question, I'll answer it. She says, "What if you're just beginning to freelance and all of your current portfolio is from agency work, would you still do the portfolio blog post even though you didn't do that work alone? Or wait until you have projects you did alone to blog about? I was the only designer on the project, but it involved a CV and copywriter."
Okay, so if I recommend for a portfolio post to share work that is in line with what you want to be offering. If you worked in an agency and you did a ton of different projects, maybe you did packaging design and layouts for magazines and brand and website design, and you only want to do brand and website design, don't highlight the packaging designs. Don't highlight the layout. Highlight the work that you want to be doing.
If it is work that you want to be doing, highlight it. You can even say, "This is what I worked on with an agency," or you can highlight the things that you played a big role in that were actually your designs. Or, if you want to build up your portfolio ahead of time and maybe you don't have work that's in line with what you want to be offering, come up with some sample projects, some fictitious projects. Come up with a design brief for them and walk through the process from start to finish. You can even say that this is a fictitious project. There's no, there's nothing to be ashamed of there. It's just showing your process and the work that you're able to do. That's what I would do.
If it falls in line with what you want to be doing and what you want to be offering, share it and highlight the things that you really played a role in. If it isn't the work that you want to be doing, probably don't share it and come up with some fictitious projects. Then any projects that you book from here on out, just start making it a practice and you can add to your portfolio. You don't need a huge portfolio when you're first starting, you just need a few sample projects.
Stephanie says, we still have time, "My clients choose me over competitors because I offer a variety of services. My focus is local, so each industry requires different deliverables. Any tips on blocking schedule when there has to be a variety of deliverables and each project takes varying amounts of time?"
There's a couple ways you can go about this and I talk about this in Freelance Academy as well, because every business is different.
Like you said, you offer a variety of different services. My tips would be a couple things. If you have recurring clients who are asking for different things every month, you might say, you might have a design package, what did I call it before when I did this? I don't remember, but something along the lines of a certain recurring design fee as a package. Maybe it's different design work every month, but you dedicate five hours to them, so they're paying for five hours of your time and retainer. Thank you Kelly, I appreciate it. Retainer client. Don't know why I couldn't think of that, but you could just block out that amount of time for them every month.
Or I, I'm still doing some collateral projects, but it falls under the collateral for my client. I'll have the brand and the website, and then I'll have five collateral items. They might be things like packaging design, and they might be things like layout and PDFs and pricing guides and that sort of thing, but they fall under that collateral package. You might have something like that too, where you have a collateral package or a retainer package, so that you're able to book it out and increase in consistency with your schedule and your pricing.
Nicky said, "Can you tell us more about Freelance Academy?"
I would love to tell you more about Freelance Academy. Yes, so this is, it has six modules. I drop a new module every two weeks. We start out at the very basics, so whether you have been in business for five years or you've been in business for five days, we're starting at the very beginning with specializing and narrowing your focus and really honing in on your ideal clients. How to attract them, how to book them and then how to work with them. It really is, it goes from start to finish and step by step, where you should start.
Yeah, I compiled everything that I could possibly compile about gaining clients, booking out your client calendar, starting a waiting list and reaching your various goals of going full time. Like I said, go through that link. I'll be sending more emails throughout the week. I'm doing an inside look at the course tomorrow in a Q & A. If you have any questions whatsoever, send me an email. It's firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get back to you as soon as I can with answers.
A lot of information about the Freelance Academy, the model, modules, everything involved in the course. There's a huge workbook, there's a course community. Like I said, if you sign up today you can get a one on one Skype call with me, but all that information is over there, so let me know if you have any questions about it. I would love to see you in the course Nicky.
Last one, I'll finish up really quick. Alice says, "How do you feel about offering freebies on your website to gather content, experience and interest in your services, design, aesthetic, things like a weekly schedule PDF and that sort of thing?"
I think that's awesome. Give away freebies, give away information. Don't go overboard to the point where ... Actually, I even say go overboard because the more that you give away, the more people will trust you and want to follow along with you and end up working with you. I'm all about freebies. Things like content upgrades to get emails, just be strategic about it, why are you sharing it, will this appeal to your potential clients, that sort of thing. I'm all about it.
All right, I think we've gone through all the questions. I hope that you all enjoyed today's Ellechat. I hope it was helpful for you and I'm wishing you all the best with booking out your client calendar and starting a waiting list. I have the Elle & Company community too, which is a Facebook group. Do you have any questions, and that's a free Facebook group that anybody can join, not involved with Freelance Academy. Feel free to go there ask more questions about this if you'd like. I'd love to continue with the conversation over there.
Next week's Ellechat is about hiring an assistant. When should you do that? What should you think about before you hire an assistant? If you're interested in that, you can click on my account and see the upcoming webinar and go ahead and register there. Even if you can't make it live, making it live is pretty awesome though, but even if you can't, you can register and come back and watch the replay at your convenience.
The podcast episode will be available to you. The podcast episode for this one will be available come Tuesday of next week, along with all of the show notes. If you're ever looking for links that I've talked about, show notes, you can find that on the blog every Tuesday. We compile it all together. Even the slides and the transcript, so try to make it as easy for you all as possible.
Thank you for tuning in today. I hope to see you in another Ellechat very soon and have a great remainder of the week. Bye guys.