The technology and the overall game has changed a lot since I joined the community of independent consultants back when I was in my high school. Back then I lived in a small town called Serampore, West Bengal and to my classmates the idea of working on commercial projects as an individual was quit alien.
Fortunately, over the years people’s view over the work culture changed and now that I have moved to Chennai, I see quite a lot of people prefer working as individual consultants to their regular 9 – 5 jobs. Even in my home town I see engineers providing online consultation to overseas clients and earning quite a lot.
So, what does it actually take to get started or rather become one of those consistent and high paid developers in the crowd? Here are some of the experiences that I have gained so far.
1. Stop thinking like a freelancer and start thinking like a businessman
The most fundamental concept that you have to adapt to is that, at the end of the day, you have to see your work as your business and act accordingly. Every new client has something unique and you have to figure out the best way to serve him so that he gets the most out of his money and you get paid for your work. All it takes is to change your mindset.
Let me make myself a bit clearer. Imagine you get this client who comes to you with a project that requires a new logo, a new set of business cards, a complete overhaul of the existing website, adding dynamic features to it. Now, you are probably a web developer and not an illustrator or a web designer. But rather than being one of those naysayers, take the project. Collaborate with two of your friends who have the necessary skill sets to provide an eye-candy to the client’s website while you can develop an awesome super stable backend to make him happy and take the money.
Now, this does two things – One, which is obvious, you don’t lose the project and the money that comes with it and, two, you just got yourself a team that can work on similar projects in future. You just took your business to a new level.
The point is to be flexible in doing business and be ready for new possibilities that might find its way towards you and not to turn them down.
2. Talk a language that your clients understand
This is the most common mistake we programmers do. We like thinking the world revolving around us which makes us extremely delusional.
Your clients do not have to know all the nuts and bolts of the cool gems that you can use on his project or how cool it is to use AWS mumbo jumbo. Talk to him in a way that he finds it intriguing enough to hire you for the profitability of his business.
A simple example of how you should talk to a client for the first time –
The wrong way
Sir, I work on CodeIgniter. I will use HMVC library for your project which will give a modularity for your feature sets and I will implement twitter bootstrap framework which will help me get a responsive layout for the views of your application in no time.
The above the statement might be very specific about the technical aspects of the project which, however, if he knew, he probably would not have paid you to deliver.
Instead, try pitching him like this
Sir, your new website will be perfect for your business that will give your customers all the information they will ever require and since it would work on all major PCs, tablets and smartphones, it would leave a direct positive impact on your sales.
Just a small example. Which one do you think would make a better sense to your client? Simplicity always works.
3. Don’t focus on features, focus on what those features can do
Similar to the above point, always focus on the possibilities that your product can unleash for your client.
When a client contacts you for a project, he does not have to care about your technical expertise or the cool technology you would implement on his site. All he cares about is how they will help him grow his business.
This is one thought I ventured to some of my team members during a recent meeting:
… do not put your sole focus on what features we can offer to our customers; instead, focus on how our product will help the customers do more.
I am not suggesting that you should not talk about the features at all. All I am saying is that the problems that your product can solve should instead be the center of the attraction.
4. Do care about your clients’ needs
Your clients will never care to come to you for new business unless they know that you care to help their business grow with your service and even if it takes a bit of out of the term practice, you might not wanna be whining at it too much because there is a possibility that your effort will be paid off if you deliver a quality product with ups as well as your client’s interest, it should not be a problem for your client to agree to.
Again, I do not suggest you giving away hours of your consultation for free but imagine – despite having a fixed price over an already approved layout by the client, if he asks for two new buttons to be added on the navigation or a change of his twitter handler, would it be much of a work to decline to?
5. Watch out for the red signals
When it comes to negotiating a deal with the client, I always follow my instinct and so far it has always proved to be right whether I have always been fully couragious to follow them or not.
It is okay to claim 50% of the total project fee as an upfront payment to the client. If the client has a problem with it, DO NOT bother making a deal with him. Clearly tell him that this the way you work and you do not intend to change it under any circumstances.
I would consider you really lucky if you get paid at the end of the project at all with a client like this.
In my opinion, professionals always like working with people like himself. If a client is not confident about his own ideas, how can you have any level of confidence that he will, in fact, pay you at all?coming deals.
If you are a professional and present fair terms to protect both your interests, I can’t imagine how it could be a point of objection for someone who’s looking forward to do some serious business with you.
If you are starting up, it might seem being a bit too rude to your client or that maybe you’re asking for too much. Trust me, you are not.
Also, list down every single task associated with the project and get it signed by your client. This will give you a legitimate ground to answer back to your client in case of any dispute.
Having made enough mistakes in the beginning myself, I can assure you, it will help you a lot if your client turns out to be a “one more thing” fan or simply denies to have ever asked for anything that you built for him.
Remember, if you want your clients to take you seriously then you should take yourself and your business with utmost seriousness.
You don’t have to be rude or be clever in your business. You just have to be honest and play smart with whatever you do and believe in your own product before you sell it to anyone.
Do you have more points to add or an experience with a client to share? Please, feel free to post your thoughts in the comment area. I always love discussing creative ideas over a cup of coffee.