The first time you email/call a prospective client, you’re basically auditioning for them. Much like an actor you’re given a small window to impress the client so that, hopefully, they offer you the leading role.
At least that’s how most people think about it.
A Mutual Dance
I think of the beginning of a client relationship more like a dance. You’re both investigating the other person to see if they dance in a compatible fashion to you.
You’re both auditioning for the other person.
I’ll Ask for References
During this dance audition, or dance off if you’re competitive, it’s not uncommon to have the client ask for references. They want to know that the other people you danced with thought you were a good partner as well. Unfortunately most clients are taken aback when you ask for references from their former dance partners.
Most clients seem to view themselves like a director. Of course you want them to grace you with their work, just like that snotty director that ‘everyone’ wants to work with. But no, I may not want to work with you, you’re on the spot to.
I want to know that you dance well, that you know the steps or at the very least can be taught them with little effort.
But What if They Haven’t Danced
Yes there are clients out there who have never danced, or maybe they’ve only danced solo. The steps they’ve learned (editing files live on a server) worked when it was just them, but now they’re just going to step all over your feet.
So they have no references, it’s up to you to turn them in to a good dance partner. Teach them the steps and make sure that if you stop working together they dance well.
Remember, you’re investigating a dance partner not getting on stage in the spotlight. Feel out your partner, and get references. Only dance with partners that are compatible. That’s the only way you’re going to be a dancer (developer) for the long haul.