The Two Ways We Have Approached Web Dev: Pros and Cons
Something I have always wanted to talk about is the two ways we have been approaching our web work. Not only our approach but what the outcomes of that have been.
In this scenario, you find yourself at a crossroad as a web freelancer. You can either continue working on WordPress jobs, or you can aim for more custom work. The risk lies in selling potential clients on something more custom for their brand. They might say no and move on. This is why, for so long, we have fallen back on WordPress work.
Often I find it’s easy to take the WordPress theme jobs and run with them because it has become so familiar. WordPress is comfortable is for me and is safe work. Selling someone something custom has the fear of the unknown attached to it.
Selling someone on more custom design is hard enough. With longer timelines, and a higher quote the sale is no small feat. Building a relationship with a client is monumental in gaining their trust. A trustworthy relationship ensures to a client that you are the person for the job. When you sell quick and short WordPress style jobs, they are often built on little trust. This coupled with small budgets create the opportunity for a toxic relationship. This type of work does not produce a client that turns to you down the road for more work.
When you begin to slow down and listen to your clients some great things can happen. Come prepared to meetings, and ask the right questions. That way you start building a relationship based upon trust. When you slow down and understand a project and what the client’s true needs are. This way you can have a much more honest approach which breeds trust. This trust building is key to a project going well and having longevity. We now focus heavily on our discovery and design phases of our projects. This gives us the opportunity to present the client with a meaningful solution to their problem. Since we presented them with an impactful solution, more trust builds. The more trust we gain and the easier it is to form a lasting relationship and push the project further.
I have found that the more we sit down with the client before beginning any work, the easier the project as a whole is to propose. Sit down with your clients. Ask them about their goals. See if their needs actually match your services. If they do, work with them to discover the most effective solution. Schedule your next meeting and give the client some homework. This way, you begin to establish a relationship where they are as excited to have you on the project as you are to do it. When we take the time to listen to a client’s ideas and translate that into a proposal, at low cost we can show them a vision of their potential. This establishes to the client that the design and discovery phase produced results. At this point, they have a working design they can take to anyone to complete the project. Since we did the initial designs, it is almost always that the client wants to finish the process with us. This allows us to quote properly for the work with no dispute on budgets.
Starting a client relationship out on the right foot is key to long term success. Relationships built on trust, honesty, and hard work make the sales side easier. No longer do you have to low ball yourself in hopes it will mean you get a “Yes”. You took the time to understand the client, their business, and their goals. You built trust and produced early results. Getting them on board for development becomes as easy as asking them.
Starting a client relationship correctly has produced much better long term relationships for us. This does not mean that my days of WordPress work are over. I am no longer seeking out work that the priority is for it to be done yesterday. The priority needs to be that it needs to be done right. At times when you flip themes or do basic WordPress jobs, you are never addressing what the real issue might be. Maybe that company does not even need a site. Maybe they are focusing on their SEO over creating content and blog posts consistently and building an email list. Whatever it may be, when you get hired for the quick — low budget — high demand style jobs no one ends in a good place.
The quickest solution we have found is to avoid that work at all costs. Try and find clients who understand that they are hiring you as a professional. You are a professional who can help them with a problem they are having.
Imagine you are at the mechanic. The mechanic suggests you need a lot more work done than a tire rotation. You trust the mechanic’s input because he is a car care professional. Therefore, you pay him for the extra work that will keep you safe while driving. The same goes for web developers. When you get hired for a job you are hired for your expertise in the area. You need to establish that in order for relationships to continue respectfully.
In the end, I would recommend always trying to go slow at the start with clients. Take the extra time to understand the project. Deliver results on a low-cost discovery and design phase. Supply a working prototype that can be ready for development. Then you can worry about the development sale. This approach is all about building trust. The more time you spend up front building trust, the easier the sale will be.