“First Client” Interview #7: Daniel Box

This interview is the seventh in a series I started to share how web designers and developers got their first client.

Daniel Farbox

Daniel lives in Adelaide Australia with his wife, two children and cat Ziggy. He enjoys everything web from coding and strategy to Internet marketing. Daniel made the shift from contract work and is now the lead strategist and co-director at Farbox Creative, a Hervey Bay web design studio.

1. How did you get your first client?

It all started with the realization that anyone who was truly successful in life seemed to have the same advice to give, “Find something you are passionate about and love doing”. I was on the search for this passion when I picked up a “Sams learn HTML in 24 hours” and started working my way through it. I had run small businesses and spent time trading shares in the past, but neither of these held the interest I was looking for. When I started coding, everything changed. I had found what I was passionate about.

I had only just started to learn web development when, by simply starting conversations about my new hobby, the opportunity came to complete a Christian Business Directory. The Business owners were unhappy with the service they had received from their previous web developer and I took the opportunity to develop the website for them as a learning experience.

2. What did you learn from that first experience?

If you charge $500 for a $6000 website then you will be a popular web designer. Having said that, you will also be poor and hungry. Seriously, even for your first job, I’d suggest not doing this. Even if you really are happy to do the website for a return of $500 for the experience, find an amazing web developer and pay them the other $5500 to mentor you on how to best meet the clients needs. The client will get a good result and good value and you will learn far more, much faster than you would have learning on your own.

From this experience, I also learned that we work in an amazing industry. If you want to learn as you go, the information is out there and a lot of it is freely given. There has been a real culture of give, give, give that made learning about the web quite accessible for anyone with a passion to grow in this area. If you want to fast-track your learning, find the industry leaders who have good communication skills and read their blogs, books and newsletters, listen to their podcasts and then, most importantly, apply what you learn.

3. What advice do you have for folks trying to get their first client?

Be bold. Don’t underestimate the power of this often repeated advice. When you go to close your first sale, and that voice says “You have not done this before, charge less, or warn the client of the possible disaster!” remember that you know more than the person who has asked you for a website. Regardless of how many better web developers there are out there, right at that moment, in that situation, you are the expert. Moreover, if you need help, you know where to go to find it, this alone puts you in a great place to serve them, and you gain that valuable experience you need at the same time.

By charging full rates you can then invest in mentoring. Again, find the best mentors you can in your desired field. Find someone with good communication skills who you ‘click’ with. You will find, even at the mentors high rate, that this can be a great investment and help you grow quickly. If investing is not an option at this point for you, get mentoring, through blogs and forums. Send emails even, it never hurts to ask.

Finally, know your strengths and weaknesses, then find people to work with that compliment your strengths and weaknesses. In the past I have not been one to think quick on my feet in a sales situation, and with time to think in a sales email I would often give far too much information, thus giving a potential client decision paralysis. As much as I tried to grow this skill it was not until I teamed up with people who were great in this area that things started to really move forward. The same thing can happen for you.