Every entrepreneur working one-on-one with a paying client, quickly discovers the many joys and pitfalls of running your own business.
As a freelancer, you learn very early on how crucial it is to attract exactly the right type of client.
In the same way that we, as freelancers differ in regards to talent, pricing, communication skills, and level of professionalism, so do the clients we work with. For more actionable advice on choosing the right clients for your freelance business, download our free eBook The Freelancer’s Roadmap.
Not all clients are created equally.
There are some that will be an absolute joy to work with, many more that are pleasantly tolerable, and those dreaded loathsome few who will turn out to be complete nightmares no matter how much excellent service they receive.
No matter how you slice it, learning how to identify and attract only the ideal clients for your freelance business early on, can help bypass years of needless stress and frustration.
Attracting the right clients isn’t that difficult, but it does demand clarity, determination, and the ability to stand your ground while projecting an outward image that’ll filter the junk from the gems.
Here are six actionable steps you can take today, to start attracting higher paying freelance clients for your business.
1. Price out the bargain hunters.
The ideal strategy for attracting premium quality, high paying clients, is to position your business in a way that most appeals only to the high end clients you want to serve.
Often, new freelancers will set insanely low prices in an attempt to bring in some much needed cash.
This sets a dangerous precedent that opens the doors for bargain hunters, and those who are unable to afford the true value of your work.
Once the tone has been set, these clients will forever expect the same level of service and will be resistant to ever paying more, when your prices inevitably rise. Before you have the chance to raise your rates, they’ll likely refer you (and your low rates) to more bargain hunters with similar expectations.
Be choosy about who you work with, as you will never please the bargain hunters. That’s one of the best reasons for why you should start a freelance business on the side while you still have your full-time job giving you a sustainable income. You won’t be attempted to take cheap work that undervalues you, for the sake of needing the money in the short term.
Successful business people understand the price of excellence and are happy to pay you for your expertise. Forget about trying to convince low budget clients to value your work and pay accordingly. Instead, work on weeding out the low ballers and make yourself more attractive to the higher paying clients.
2. Articulate your vision.
Having your services in high demand is an ideal that all freelancers strive for throughout their careers.
Be careful to never come across as desperate or needy. In the long run, it’s the client that needs you and your talents.
If you can’t believe in yourself, how on earth will anyone else be convinced to do so? Sure, it takes a steady flow of consistent clients in order to prosper, but your focus should be on demonstrating how indispensable your skills and abilities really are.
Don’t play hard to get, but impress upon your prospects that your services are of such exceptional quality that it would be their loss not to hire you.
A major part of your job as a freelance business owner, is to communicate a vision for how your services will enhance your client’s business. They’re looking to you to as the expert in your field, and to clearly articulate how you’re going to bring the benefits of your service to life for them.
Being able to impress upon a client, exactly what hiring you will achieve for them, creates a greater sense of desire and need. Explain what you can do, how you’re going to do it, and show multiple examples of past successes, if possible.
If you can instill a sense of the possibilities at hand, then as their excitement grows, so will their certainty that you are the obvious choice to help them achieve their goals.
Price becomes less of a focal point when a client is already convinced that the benefits you can deliver will dramatically impact their business.
State your prices boldly and don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. Another way of saying this is “KNOW your worth, but SHOW your value.”
An excellent portfolio, client testimonials, and an ability to conduct business professionally (and confidently), will always trump hyped up claims and false bravado.
3. Target only your ideal clients.
After working on a dozen or so different projects, be sure to start defining very clearly what constitutes your ideal client.
At the very least, take time to reflect on the common qualities your best clients share in common, and what it was that was so enjoyable about working with them. Perhaps it was great communication, a knack for creative brainstorming, the sense of space and autonomy they allowed you, a clearly defined brief, or a contagious passion about their business?
Do these types of clients tend to all be clustered within the same industry? What other trends can you identify about your best clients that allow you to create your best work?
Having a deep insight into the attributes and dynamics your ideal client brings to the table, makes it so much easier to market your service to more great clients in the future. Life is far too short to spend stressed, uncomfortable, and desperate to please. Setting up your work to foster more passion and joy is the best way to go.
4. Communicate clearly and get everything in writing.
Before beginning any paid work for your client, make sure to understand exactly what outcome the client expects (needs) at the end of your work together.
Ask clarifying questions and allow yourself to drill down as far as possible, to clear up anything ambiguous about your scope of work and agreements.
Here are a few examples of questions you should ask if the answers aren’t already clearly define, during preliminary discussions with your clients.
• What changes would you like our work to bring about for your business?
• How committed are you to seeing this project through to completion?
• What result could we achieve that would completely surpass your expectations?
• How will we know when our work is a success, and which measurable goals will we be tracking against?
• What are your major concerns about this project?
Create written agreements, include progress milestones, and be sure to state up front how much any additional work will cost if needed.
Right here, you can pick up a free download of our Freelance Contract Template with a lot of these fields already pre-filled.
If there’s a likelihood of revisions and more work required after you deliver your initial work, then be absolutely clear what the original terms include and exclude.
Determine the hourly billing rate for any work that exceeds the original agreement (check out our infographic on how to calculate your freelance hourly rate if you haven’t yet). This ensures there are no assumptions or false expectations in terms of pricing right from the start.
If the client ends up requesting revisions and changes, you can refer back to the original terms of your agreement and charge them accordingly.
Clarifying questions can also be a handy way of filtering out the bargain hunters when they first approach you. Ask them up front about their budget, and make very clear what your price range is.
Someone with a small budget is probably going to try and squeeze as much as they can out of you, for as little as possible. This all but guarantees unrealistic expectations, which sets everyone up for failure.
5. Say no with confidence.
If you have the sense you are dealing with a low baller or bargain hunter during your initial conversations, don’t be afraid to turn away their business.
It’s not worth your time to fight hard for your rates, when there are better-paying clients out there just waiting to be discovered.
Don’t be dismissive or unkind, but you want to openly discourage the bargain hunters by using phrases like:
• A more affordable solution may be more suited to your needs.
• If my services aren’t the best solution for you at the moment, then we’re probably not a good fit for now.
• I won’t be a good fit for this project right now, under the current guidelines.
Sometimes, standing your ground and being clear about how your pricing reflects your value can make a client rethink their position.
Naturally, we all want the money we spend to provide value, but as entrepreneurs, we rely upon our value to bring us the money we are worthy of receiving. Trust your instincts and get comfortable with saying no and meaning it.
6. Conquer your self-doubt.
One of the main barriers freelancers have with attracting higher paying clients, is a mindset of doubt and discomfort.
Most people have limited experience in asking for money and clearly stating their financial expectations.
Freelancers that are new to being in business for themselves often feel like they are somehow faking it, or as if their skills don’t compare to all of the other experts out there, which can make it even harder to feel good about setting an appropriate fee.
While it’s true that a beginner has less experience than an established industry leader, you still know far more about your discipline than a client who’s considering hiring you. Someone on the newer side, often has a better shot at bringing a fresh perspective into the role, and being more likely to innovate beyond many of the preconceived notions experts carry around with them.
Never just accept whatever fee is offered for a job, especially if you’re in doubt about whether or not it truly values the work you’ll be putting in.
When in doubt, fear and discomfort are running the show, which won’t result in making your best decisions.
It helps to realize that feelings of self doubt are normal when you’re just starting out. They change with time and experience.
One way to fast track a mindset shift away from self doubt, is by tapping into an array of resources to help accelerate your industry expertise. Look to books, podcasts, seminars, networking events, online resources, social media, coaches, and mentors to step your game up.
Choosing to have an abundance mindset helps you see opportunities everywhere, just waiting to be claimed.
The internal shift that adjusting your mindset brings about, is the absolute conviction that barriers to success are arbitrary and impermanent. Taking charge of your thoughts and actions, to deliberately direct them toward thinking positively about yourself, is an internal affair that has little to do with external circumstances.
Get paid more to work less.
It’s hard to beat the feeling of being paid more to work less. In fact, every freelancer I know would be comfortable with pulling in six figures without the stress of a full-time day job.
The best way to make it happen, is to connect exclusively with clients that are convinced of the extraordinary value you provide, and are therefore fully willing to ensure that their payment reflects their grateful conviction.
It definitely pays more to work smarter, rather than harder. The challenge will be learning about who you work best with and finding more of those ideal clients to connect with.
When you have less of a need need to hustle, and fewer clients to cater to, a greater freedom to really dive deep into the work you do take on, opens up. Being able to dedicate this level of energy and focus to your projects, allows everything you create, to be your best work. When love and passion are poured into your work, the benefits flow outward in every direction.
If you’re ready to start a freelance business, or get serious about growing your existing client base, download our free eBook, The Freelancer’s Roadmap.