This is intended to just be a short list of tips for web designers – old and new – to help make doing business a little less painful. Education is something that is very important to us here at Geeks Worldwide LLC. That comes from not only the realization that knowledge is power but also the fact that growing up in the early days of the web we understand how much of a struggle it can be to find information when one is going into uncharted waters.
Even with the internet as a resource there are plenty of things today’s up and coming designer can only learn from experience that they just won’t find in any how-to article. To help ease the pain of the learning process we’ve compiled some good basic tips on handling clients as well as directing your business efforts towards greater success.
1 – Always answer your customer – or especially your prospective customer – as soon as possible! There is nothing worse than losing a job simply because you didn’t take the 5 minutes to reply back and let them know the status of their job, or answer their questions.
2 – Take notes. Every phone call, every meeting – take notes of what the customer is telling you. These can really save your bacon when two days after a meeting you don’t remember what the customer wanted. If you take good notes you will be a step ahead.
3 – Be flexible. If you are doing a site for a small company, or individual, or non-profit you might need to adjust your pricing to suit them. This doesn’t mean cut your own throat, but it does mean you need to understand Joe Average might not be able to sink $7,500 into a site as easily as a large company or high-end customer. If you can’t lower your price offer to work out a payment plan, or offer a slightly less intricate design as an option. It’s called negotiation; if the client is sensible they will generally be open to it.
4 – Understand the customer is coming to you because they can not (or do not want to) create their own website. In most cases your customers will have about all the tech savvy of a hard boiled egg. Be prepared to explain what you are offering, and how you can accomplish it, in very basic language.
Remember: no body wants to buy an iron, they want wrinkle-free shirts. Sell the solution, not the product.
5 – Get your customers full contact info at the first meeting. God forbid they decide to skip town and screw you on payment, but if they do having more than just a first name and telephone number could make all the difference in tracking them down and getting paid. Good info to get: Full Name, Address, Home and Cell phone numbers; if possible find out where they are employed or where their business is located.
6 – Create invoices. Duh, right? You would think this would second nature…even enjoyable…I mean, it’s the way you GET PAID. Nonetheless doing the paperwork that will make you a success is often where people drop the ball. Any time you open their site and do work, keep track of your time and what tasks you accomplished. Also use your invoices to keep track of payment received so if there is ever any question you can find exactly what money has changed hands. This will save you a lot of headaches down the road, and will allow you to create accurate receipts and billing statements for customers as well.
7 – Get it in writing. I realize in the first meeting with a potential customer they very likely won’t have any more idea of what they really want from their site than you do. But once those initial details are discussed and the basics have been established, write up just a brief contract detailing what tasks you will accomplish, a timeline for changes to be made, how long the customer has to make changes to the initial design without incurring further charges, and other details. This will save you endless trouble when you get those clients who want the world for free or who after the site goes live decide that they want to reinvent the wheel.
Have it all laid out in black-and-white: this is what you will be getting, this is what it will cost, if you want it changed after its done it will cost you X amount. This is also a good means to establish what your hourly fees will be etc. Otherwise you can get caught making endless changes and updates either for free or end up having to find a way to tell the customer they have to shell out more cash for what they thought they already paid for.
8 – Be Positive. Not just positive as in “certain of a thing”, but positive as in attitude. The customer isn’t always right, plain and simple, so some times you will need to gently correct them – and there really is no better way to tell someone off than to do it with a smile! Honestly though, keeping positivity in the forefront of your mind and actions will help you solve more problems and seal more deals than anything else – it’s an energy and confidence that puts you in a much better place to deal with any situation.
I hope this has been of some help – I will be adding more as they come to me, or if you have some ideas you think are important to include send them along!
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