Have these questions answered before each project!

The 2 questions I get most from freelancer’s are:

  1. How do I charge more?
  2. How do I find/win better clients?

I talked about pricing in my series on pricing but I haven’t talked much yet about finding the right clients.

I’ve always tried to answer these questions for my client and for myself but more as something that was in my head. Now I’ve formalized my process with this list of questions (prompted by reading Rework again).

Some of these have 2 aspects. The first is answering the question for the client, like why are we doing this project? The second is for you, why are you taking the project on?

You should be clear on 90% of the questions below before you take a project on and provide an estimate. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you find better clients and charge more since you’ll be able to provide better service to them.

Why are we doing this project?

Knowing why the client needs a site or feature added will help you answer questions about how to build or design it.

For the client:
Who are the people that are going to benefit from this new feature/site?

Why must it be done now and why can’t it just wait?

For you:
Why do you want to take the project on?

It may be that you need to make rent or you under estimated your tax bill and need some cash. Those may not be the optimal reasons but life happens and sometimes you may need to take a project that is 80% what you want instead of 90% simply to pay some bills.

You should never (and I never will) fault you for taking a project that allows you to put food on the table.

What is the problem being solved?

This question goes for both of you. What is the exact pain point that you need to solve?

Are they bleeding members because the subscription renewal process is so hard?

Do they have a weak call to action so despite high traffic numbers they get few sales?

Do they have no local search presence?

You’re trying to solve this problem for the client so you need to actually know what it is. Yeah laugh a bit to yourself if you want, but can you tell me right now the problem you’re solving for the work you’re currently doing?

Or are you just ‘building/designing a website.’

Even if you can say what the problem is, could your client? Will what they say conflict with what you say the problem is?

How are we going to measure the solution to see it’s success

Great you’ve identified the problem and you’re both on the same page. Do you know how you’re going to measure the solution?

If you’re doing a new sales page are you going to do A/B testing to measure conversion increases?

Are you doing A/B testing of that membership renewal process you’re trying to streamline?

What does success look like? Is it a 1% decrease in membership bleed or do you need to keep working on it till you’ve hit 10% decrease in bleed.

Will a 20% increase in sales from the page be a success or is that simply a stretch goal?

You and your client should be on the same page about what the measurement is and what number makes things a success.

Is what we’re building actually useful and add value?

Yeah this seems a bit silly but you’re going to get projects that come to you for the sole reason that they want to use some new technology. There is no business case for that technology (and maybe it’s not even compatible) but they heard Node.js was cool and of course they’re a cool company so they should rebuild everything in Node.js.

The best projects you get are going to solve real business problems. They’re going to make the good case studies and get you better clients.

For the client:
Will the work you’re going to do actually add revenue (or users or…) to their bottom line?

Is it just a pet feature of one of the executives?

Have customers been asking for this ‘thing’?

Have competitors been having success with a similar approach?

For you:
Will this project get you closer to your long term business goals?

Is the work the type of work that you want to still be doing in 1 year?

Do you want to be known for projects like this?

I don’t want to be the LESS guy so I recently turned down a job from Packt. It simply didn’t fit with the above questions for my business.

Is there an easier way to get the same behaviour out of users?

The client wants to build a product customizer because their competitor has one.

The real ‘problem’ here is that they want to raise the average sale price of their product.

Will a fancy product customizer with updating PNG’s do this or will using the WooCommerce Gravity Forms addon get them 70% of the way there with 10% of the cost?

The first projcet should be to get the Gravity Forms Addon for WooCommerce and build out a basic product customizer. Then look at what the added benefit of the ‘fancy’ product customizer would be.

Is there a more important feature to build or the most important project?

For the client:
Is this thing you want to build the most important feature? Sure maybe you can increase conversions with a better sales page for the ebook but if you’re only seeing 2 people a day then the problem to solve first is getting more traffic to the sales page.

Once you have 50 or 100 people a day hitting the sales page you can actually measure the results of improvements.

So the first problem to solve is getting more people to the sales page.

For you:
Is this the ‘best’ project you could be working on? Do you have other leads that are better? What will you have to say no to because you said yes to this project?

If you don’t have much/any cash savings then you may just have to take a project because it came along and isn’t terrible but if you do have a few months of cash then you can say no to projects that simply aren’t the best work you could be doing.

I’ve said no to 2 projects in the last 2 weeks because they weren’t the best work I could be doing. Instead I’m writing for this site, reading about how to run my business better and working on some premium plugins for release.

All of those things are a better use of my time because I have cash savings and the projects weren’t so exciting that I thought about and talked about them over dinner.

Will the client really see an ROI on your work?

Be honest with yourself here. Maybe the babershop does need a website but if you have a project minimum of $10k will that barbershop actually earn 2 or 3 times that (20 – 30k) over the next 6 months because of the website?

Unlikely.

Be upfront with your clients if the ROI isn’t there. Tell them you just don’t know how paying you to do the work will actually put more money in their pockets than the cost of the work.

For that barbershop a theme off some theme marketplace and some assistance setting it up and getting copy down is a way better investment than a 10k site.

When you take on a new project you should know the answers to 90% of these questions. As I’ve said, you may decide that you just need the money even though there could be other work. That’s fine feed your family, just know that’s what you’re doing instead of flying by the seat of your pants.

photo credit: ArmandoH2O via photopin cc

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