This interview is the eighth in a series I started to share how web designers and developers got their first client.
Luke resides in Hervey Bay, Australia and is soon to be married. He has a love for good design, photography and family. Luke was once a freelancer, but has since co-founded Farbox Creative, a Hervey Bay web design studio where he works as Creative Director and Project Manager.
1. How did you get your first client?
After spending my mid-teens playing with design and freshly learning the basics of coding during my holidays, I decided to find my first client. Without realizing it, simply sharing that knowledge with a family friend led him (a trailer builder) to share my details with a serial entrepreneur who was looking for a web designer for his latest business venture, a camper trailer company.
I met with Kevin and listened to what he wanted. As I was totally new to this strange environment and only eighteen years old, the initial meeting was the definitive “What-not-to-do” experience. I didn’t ask any questions, and just listened, finally I assured him that I was sure I would be able to deliver what he wanted for the princely sum of $400.
Kevin is and was a shrewd businessman, he would have known that I was inexperienced but he saw that regardless of that, I was committed to delivering the end result, no matter what it took. I believe it was this attitude that landed me that first job.
2. What did you learn from that first experience?
Diligent work and building relationships with your clients pays off. Although it took a long time, I delivered that site successfully and it led to other work. Over the years I conducted three major rebuilds of his website, and ten websites for his distributors.
Never charge $400 for a job that will take months to complete. If I wasn’t living with my parents there is no way I could live on that kind of money. It also trains your clients to expect you to always work for $400 per website.
Work to your strengths and get help. I almost learned this lesson too late. It is better to focus on your strength and either partner with someone or outsource the elements of the project you are not proficient with, rather than struggle along and stress yourself into gray hair before your time.
3. What advice do you have for folks trying to get their first client?
Build a support network first. So when you are in a bind, you have someone to turn to for help. This can be a paid consultant or a friend in the industry (if you have no local opportunities, you can build friendships online through various communities).
Be confident. Nothing will fill a client with confidence like a confident (but honest) conversation with you. Many new freelancers have sabotaged their own efforts by not displaying confidence. Displaying a lack of confidence is almost like wearing a “Don’t hire me” sign around your neck.
Do not limit your services. Just because your main goal is to build a website, that should not mean that is all you are willing to do for your clients. Are you good with English? For an extra fee, offer to proofread and edit their content. Are they worried about downtime and maintenance? Work out a monthly maintenance plan for them (I wish someone had told me that when I started).
The secret is to keep asking them questions about their business until you start to uncover what they really need, then start filling those needs. Your clients will become loyal to you because you are working in their best interest, and your needs are being met because they will see the true value which you can offer them and in turn, they will be willing to pay what you are worth.