Imagine that you’re about to secure your first paying client and you need to divulge (1) how much the project will cost, (2) how much the deposit will be before you start the project or (3) what payment options you can accept and what their financial obligation will be for the work you’re being hired to perform.
If there’s one area of business many consultants, coaches and designers find difficult, it’s “asking for the money!” You spend years learning your craft, but spend little to honing the art of “asking for the money!” So, what DO you say? HOW do you ask clients for money? How to you make your financial presentation palatable to the client? What do you do with clients who are late paying you? Read on …
NEVER RUSH A SALE! ALWAYS, TAKE ADEQUATE TIME TO CLOSE A DEAL!
You can’t really get started on a project until you know exactly what’s needed, what the client wants, and who the site is directed at. In fact, in most cases you can’t even create an effective proposal until we know those things.
NEVER be too eager to ask for money up front or even during the conversation with any client (old or new). Review all the facts of the project and what the client can expect from you in terms of your skill level and timing — when the project will be done. Questions you will want answers for include (1) Why do you want a website? (2)What is your business about? (3) What makes your business competitive? (4) Who is your prospective customer? (5) What do you expect from visitors to your site? (6) How do you foresee the future for your products/services? By listening carefully to your client to ensure that you have covered all the basis, be prepared for questions from the client. And lastly, you will need to know what the budget is for this project. Once the client appears confident that you can do the job, then it is time to discuss your fees. A verbal agreement should always be followed up with a quote in writing so there are no misunderstandings. client a hard copy of a quote then verbally review it with him/her.
Again, money should be the last item on your agenda for discussion. If you ask for the money to quickly, you might come across as desperate and unprofessional, which might be just the ticket for the client to choose another designer for the work to be done. Some people are uncomfortable with “money” and negotiations. Read your client and know when it’s the right time is to bring up costs. It others are bidding on this project, be prepared to offer your services at a fair price.
By following the format of a formal bidding process can help you keep things organized and professional, and provide you with better information. Your final price should take into account a number many of the same variables considered when first agreeing to bid. This part of the bid is more art than science and involves a number of judgement calls. The basic question is how badly do I want the job and how low are you willing to bid to get it. Finally, there are intangibles such as the client’s feelings about the designer. Will they be easy to work with or a source of ongoing problems? Can they expect full and timely payment from the client? Are there any red flags that suggest greater than normal risk to doing this project.
Don’t rush into the job. Keep the client talking about what they need you to do and WAIT until the very end of the conversation to discuss money. In fact, the longer you take to talk about money, the more the client will be interested in talking to you about our ideas for the site. Allow the client’s emotions to work into the equation before you bring up money. You should maintain the controls and the direction of your proposal.
Now, if the client doesn’t even bring up money or method of payment, you should definitely bring it up. Don’t leave the conversation without getting an answer on your bid for the job and how much it will cost.
HAVE THE CLIENT LIST ALL OF THEIR NEEDS BY PHONE, IN PERSON OR VIA EMAIL
You have the potential to make even more money if you allow your client to tell you everything they want you to do for them including their “wish list.” For example, “[Client name], great conversation! Why don’t you take tonight and put together a wish list of things you’d like me to help you with. Make a list of all the things you need to have completed and we’ll discuss your needs and wants tomorrow. With your list, I can best provide you a quote for my services to do what must be done now and/or to also complete their aspirations. Always ask for all the information you need to make your best quote. You might find a way to bundle the projects together and propose a reasonable fee to get everthing done. At that point, you can now say, “In order to create the best website/book/project/seminar/other usually runs around $____.”
Price your rates competitively should respect your time and the value you bring to the table. If you’re in high demand and the client knows it, then you can charge top dollar because your work is worth it and you can justify your charges with samples of your work and appropriate and strong references. Clients like clarity so base your quotation on all the details and what they can expect from you (including what’s on the wish list).
If you find it hard to ask for money, then you will find it particularly difficult to ask for more money assuming the job demands it. This is the best reason you can have to ensure that your request for money is solid; based on all the information and you are meeting the client’s expectations. So, again, don’t rush into getting the clients to agree with your quote too soon.
If you find that you have a hard time asking for money, then here are some tips to consider:
1) Value your expertise — bear in mind the time, money, energy, and passion you’ve invested in your work. The more confident you feel in yourself, the easier it will be to accept client’s payments and comfortably bring up money issues.
2) Money can be such a loaded topic. It may help to reframe money in a more emotionally neutral way, as energy. You are offering your services and investing energy in a project that will help your client, and they are offering you their energy resource called “money.”
3) Set firm payment policies and stick to them. Clients will take your lead with money issues. Setting consistent policies regarding payment from the onset tells clients what you expect. If you’re anxious about asking for money, your client will feel uncomfortable too. If you’re confident, they’ll likely respond positively.
MORE TIPS ABOUT GETTING PAID
I know you wanted them … so here they are!
WATCH YOUR TIME (WORKING ON THE PROJECT)
Make certain that you’re being compensated for the number of hours that you work on the project be sure that any client you work for respectfully pays you what you’re worth … what you agreed on. Keep track of your hours as well as the phase of the project you worked on during that time.
OFFER DISCOUNTS WHEN CLIENTS PAY MORE UP FRONT
Offer discounts wisely — in exchange for referrals, links, or advertising is a good way to get a head start with your own marketing plans. Offer discounted services in bundles if you can – such as free logo design with every site design, or discounted site hosting with every site developed.
OFFER LIMITED DISCOUNTS WHEN STARTING A PROJECT
Perhaps, 15-20% off a first project or job a new client might want you to perform. Discounts are a good way to get cash flow moving in your direction. For example, you might propose, “If you purchase x-number of hours, I’ll provide you with a discount off my normal rate.” You might say, “My normal rate is $65 an hour, but if you purchase a 10-hour block of time, I will only charge $45 per hour saving you $20 per hour or a potential $200.” Emphasizing savings with reduced rates will get any clients attention. They might be inspired to pay more up front if you need more start up cash to pay for business or personal needs.
It’s not unusual to ask clients to pay a deposit prior to starting a new project. Example: “I’m going to be quite busy next month, as I’ve taken on a few new clients. So, I’m asking clients to pay a retainer up front to reserve time with me over the next month or near future. I am offering a 10% discount now for a healthy retainer. Would you be interested in this opportunity to save some money on your project?”
CLIENTS WHO OWE YOU MONEY
If a client is late paying money owed to you, don’t worry or stress out. In many cases, the client might be short temporarily and unable to pay on the due date. Patience. It’s not your job to worry. It’s the the client’s job to worry (about when/how you will be paid). Make every effort to work out arrangements to accommodate the client so your bill gets paid as soon as possible. You don’t want to lose a good client.
Knowing that you’ll get your money, even if it’s a week late, is reassuring. This is what I figuratively call, “money in the bank!” If the client needs 1 to 3 to 5 months to pay off the remaining balance, should you accept that? Absolutely. Work with them! You’re going to get the money you earned, probably sooner than later, because you’ve reassured the client that life happens. No doubt, you’ve gained a lifetime client because you acted professionally and with some sensitivity. People don’t forget kindness, understanding, and patience.
Now, if it seems as if the client has forgotten to pay you, send out a reminder about the monies owed at this time. Don’t send nasty notes or threaten the client with a law suit. What I’ve done in the past is to send my late-paying clients some of my worldwide famous chocolate chip cookies (BartsCookies.com). The response is overwhelming, “Oh, Bart, these cookies are so delicious. We’re so sorry about not sending you a payment. How much do we owe you? Let me give you a credit card number. Are you ready to take the number down?” Problem solved.
If the client develops a pattern of late payments, this could become an issue. If no compromise can be met, you might want to research how to take the client to Small Claims Court or contact a collection agency. Sometimes, this is your final recourse and depending on the circumstances of the agreement to pay for services, you may get some of the money, eventually.
TIME FOR A PAY-RAISE! HURRAY!
Determining your worth won’t determine the exact amount that you should charge for your services, but it’s a good place to start. There are some other factors that you should consider when trying to determine how much you should charge for your services:
While it may be appropriate to raise your rates or tell a client that you need to charge them a higher rate when you see that your services are in greater demand or maybe the client has a project you’d prefer not to work on. Reassure the client that you will work the project into your already busy schedule and be up front about mentioning that your rates have increased due to demand for your unique skill set.
Here’s some dialogue to use with your client: “Previously, I charged $X per hour, but I no longer do the kind of work you are asking about. However, for a fee of $___ per hour, I would consider working your job into my schedule. When do you need me to get started?” Now, be honest with yourself. When you’re busy, and in high demand, it’s definitely time to raise your rates. Do not raise them so high that you price yourself out of the market because you want to maintain your clients for future projects, right? So, you might keep current clients at $X-rate and charge all new clients $Y-rate. You know what your talents are worth on the market and that’s what you should ask for.
HANDLING REFUNDS & PREVENTING THEM
What if a client doesn’t like your work? What if a client is difficult to work with? What if a client asks for a refund? Here are some tips to handle these sticky situations. Asking for small deposits makes it easier to giverepay the client those smaller dollar amounts versus larger amounts if or when a client not to work with you any longer. By the way, if a client doesn’t want to work with you, it could be for the best, particularly if he/she is demanding and unpleasant to work with! Stop your services. Now, suppose the client calls back to apologize for unprofessional behavior. Some clients just aren’t worth your time which is valuable. It’s a judgement call on your part. You are in control of the situation. Work with those clients that respect you for the expert that you are, your time and the work that you do.
It is a standard practice for web designers to collect a deposit for a project prior to starting work. Making a deposit, the client can see some of your work and the tasks they’ve outlined for their project. The more progress they get to see, as you keep them in the loop, the more they see the time you’ve put into it and can either say, “Halt, I don’t want you to go any further. Keep the money I paid you. But, I don’t think I want to continue with this project right now.” Your response? “Okay, just let me know when you are ready so we can pick up where we left off.”
If a client asks for a refund AFTER you finished the project per the specifications you agreed on, the client needs to understand that you deserve to be paid for the amount of time you invested on the project. You can’t get those hours back. The client agreed to pay me for hours worked at the beginning of the project. This is good reason to get everything in writing even if it’s a simple email that itemizes the work that is to be done, the fee for services, date of completion and any other relevant tasks related to the job. back. TIME is a commodity that cannot be recovered.
On a few occasions when I first started design work, I didn’t collect a deposit and the client would continue to add to the scope of the project just as I was about to finish the works and collect my fee. Without asking for money the project would just continue further locking me into having to finish the new requests because of how much I’d invested already in the project.
Clients have no idea how much their projects are worth. Most don’t know how much work goes into completing their project. The only thing that a client knows is what their budget is to get that project completed.
A client would not consider asking for a refund provided you were upfront right form the beginning. Don’t undertake any work unless you have an agreement in place of how and when you are to be paid for the work you are about to start on. The agreement can be quite brief and straight to the point. The main thing being that you both know where each other stands before you you start the work.
Insist on partial payment or deposit as a show of goodwill. You will be lucky if you are fortunate enough to be in a business where you can insist on payment before you start any work. Don’t start the work until the deposit is received. This usually indicates the client can and will pay when required. It is not always possible but if you are able to be strict in this area right from the beginning you can save a lot of grief.
If the customer is particularly upset, try to difuse the anxiety by asking the customer directly, “What can I do to fix this that would honestly satisfy you?” These words can do wonders, as you have now made it clear to your customer that your goal is to satisfy him/her.
If all else fails and the client insists on the refund, pay it. Pay an agreed upon amount – not the full amount because your time was worth something.
Then, you might add, “You refund may take 2 to 4 weeks because I have to send a request to my accountant who would normally handle this. I would expect you to receive your money within 30 days.” If the client doesn’t like this arrangement, then explain that it is out of your hands, now.
PROVIDE SAMPLES OF YOUR WORK
When you can provide samples of your work online, you reassure the client that you are working on the project and periodic glimpses at the sight show that you are working on target. Plan to show the client samples of your work on a regular basis so they can see that progress is being made. It’s also an opportunity to assess that you are on the right track and to answer any questions the client might have.
Providing samples of your work also helps prevent clients from asking for refunds. If a client can see samples of sites that you have designed for others, they just might like what they see and ask if you can design a website for their needs.
As your skills and services develop, and the projects you work on rise in degrees of difficulty, be sure to replace and post those on your website. Out with the old, and in with the new samples.
Testimonials are another way to provide “samples” of your work. What do others have to say? Satisfied customers will speak well of your workand give you a good referral. By using testimonials (reviews and comments from your satisfied customers) in text, audio or video format on your website, you not only answer questions, you also transform your sales pitch into a credible, unbiased recommendation for your services. Testimonials build trust. Whether your customers are raving about your services or about the opportunity to work with you, they’re telling others first and foremost that they had a positive experience with you. A good testimonial overcomes skepticism and has the power to convince even a “tough sell” prospect that your services really made a difference in your becoming more successful.
IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS OVER TIME
All great designers are constantly improving their skills. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to always be learning new things, and to always be improving. Making mistakes and learning from them is the absolute best way to learn. Think about your past web design years. Were they perfect? Of course not. Take some time to reflect on some moments where you made mistakes, and then know and recognize the lessons learned. Discuss your projects, designs, clients, and best practices with other web designers. Discuss them with graphic designers and web programmers as well. Get opinions, see what others think of your work, and be motivated through that socialization.
As you improve your skills over time, you’ll be able to ask for more money or even raise your rates. Try to add one new skill to your list of services each month. Take classes, read books, attend seminars, etc. Do whatever it takes to learn more skills so you can increase your personal net value to the client. The more you bring to the table, the more you can charge.
In several conversations, I may tell a new client that I wear many “hats” of expertise (audio expert, web design expert, marketing expert, copy writing expert, book publishing/writing expert … among others).
Document your new services on your website, assuming you have one. If not, you need one to showcase your services and samples of projects you’ve done for clients. When a potential client sees all that you can do for them, the more respect they will have for you experience and the more justified you in charging top-dollar for your time and expertise.