7 Things I Wish I Knew When Starting Client Projects

I have worked with many types of clients: higher education, healthcare, tourism, manufacturing, law, non-profits, real estate, and restaurants. Through this experience, I have discovered core ideas that consistently contribute to the success of a project. Here are 7 things that I wish I knew when it comes to kicking off web design and development projects for clients:

1. Do your research before you meet with a client

Research will make you appear wise and can increase both the probability of your sale as well as how much money you can make.. Apply your experience and insights to determine the best ways to help a client.

Some things to look for include:

  • How does their website compare to competitors in their region and industry?
  • Does their website’s visual appearance reflect the brand’s identity?
  • How does the website perform on phones or tablets?
  • Is the website functional and is it easy for visitors to accomplish tasks that relate to the business?
  • Is the website accessible to users with disabilities?

For example, Domino’s Pizza was recently ordered to make their website usable for people with vision impairments. If a business owner was looking to expand into e-commerce, you could use that information as an opportunity to sell website accessibility.

2. Focus on the client’s goals

What is it that makes a client’s business successful? Understanding this question is the key to successfully turning web projects around and getting recurring work. To do this, you need to be an active listener and good communicator. Be willing to put yourself in the client’s shoes to see what they are really after when it comes to the online presence of their business.

Ask questions and listen to their needs. Knowing what the client is looking for will allow you to hone in on the key elements that will generate positive outcomes for you and your client. Common questions include:

  • Do they want more customers?
  • Does they want to increase revenue?
  • Do they want the business to be presented better online?
  • Do they want to increase the conversion rate of people who visit the website right now?
  • Are they looking for a complete overhaul over their branding and customer experience?

3. Don’t over-promise on what you can deliver

Always be upfront and honest about what you are capable of delivering in a timely manner. Some projects do have time constraints that allow for learning as you go. However, if time is being spent on learning to do something that has an approaching deadline, it is not being spent on delivering results.

You can be open with a client if they ask for something that falls outside of your area of expertise. This can even be an opportunity to network with other workers who can provide the service that the client is looking for.

4. Don’t undersell yourself

Knowing the value of the work that you do is key to maximizing your time and income. It is easy to undersell yourself, especially when you are getting started in the industry.

Some people who have been convinced by commercials for services like Wix and Squarespace to think that quality web design is a trivial task. There are instances where those services are appropriate depending on the needs of the project. But even these services require somebody who understands and has experience to be utilized to the maximum effect.

The best way to avoid this trap is to know what you personally want to achieve from taking on a project. Set a baseline for how much you think your time is worth. This will take time and practice to understand how long tasks take so you know if a project is worth pursuing or not depending on the amount of income you can make. Try taking on small projects like volunteering to work for a nonprofit or local organization so that you can develop this baseline while also creating something of value for a cause that you support.

5. Know how to bill the client

How much is the client willing to spend and how much time they are willing to budget are key factors in knowing if a web project is right for you. Once you know that you want pursue an opportunity, you can decide whether you want to get paid by the hour, by the month, or by a set amount. This can be determined by how much experience you have as I used to charge a set amount when I first got started but have since moved on to billing by the hour.

For instance, you can charge a flat fee for designing a style guide for a rebranding project or a mockup for a new homepage. You can then create estimates based on an hourly fee and the amount of time it would take to develop it. After it’s built, a monthly or annual retainer can be created for website maintenance and support.

6. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there

When it comes to freelancing, you, the developer or designer, are the brand.  Don’t be afraid to market yourself. Utilize whatever means that is most comfortable with you to increase awareness for the services that you offer.

Do you like to communicate in person? Make some business cards and hand them out to local businesses or attend local meetups to expand your network. Almost all of my client work has been acquired via word-of-mouth.

Are you a visual person who loves typography, graphics, or videos? Create and share content through the social media network of your choice, whether it is Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

7. Always Be Coding

This is the most important point and the one that never fails. The web design and development industry continues to change at a rapid pace. To keep up with new trends, I always keep side projects to push myself through practice. This is a not an easy thing to do as it requires time and commitment but that payoff is be well worth it. Check out my journey when following the ‘Always Be Coding’ motto.