Have you ever had a pair of shoes that just didn’t fit? Maybe you loved them on the sales floor and convinced yourself that you’d “make” them work? But every time you wore them, you regretted it. They rubbed blisters, hurt your back, the list goes on.
That’s what it can feel like when you say “yes” to a client that doesn’t fit your business goals.
Yes, your business goals.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the desire for a client that we lose sight of important factors.
Such as, does the work align with our skill set? Is the client responsive when you send emails? Are they ready for a writer?
There’s a term for this in sales. It’s called “qualifying the prospect.”
And it’s the next step in the process.
Early Signs of a Good B2B Client Fit
It’s exciting to land a new client. It’s even more exciting to work with a client who appreciates you, gives you the information you need in a timely fashion, and is overall a joy.
While it’s impossible to predict the future, some early indications can tip you off as to whether or not a prospect is a good one for you. If not, they can cost you valuable time and energy you could be using to look for a better client for you.
Experienced freelancers often refer to these indications as “red flags.” As in, something to avoid.
One example is someone who has unrealistic expectations. My partner, who’s in video marketing, once had an inquiry from a woman who was under the impression that three YouTube videos would make her a star in her field.
I recently had a similar inquiry from someone who wanted one blog post to “test the market.” I politely declined because I know that’s not going to meet their business goals.
The exciting thing about running a freelance writing business is that you get to make your rules for your business. You get to choose your clients and the types of work you do.
At every stage of your writing career, you’ll meet prospects who aren’t ready to hire a writer (though they may think they are), and you’ll meet prospects who aren’t a good fit on a personal level.
These can both be hard to quantify. Here are five questions to help.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Prospect
1. Are the expectations achievable?
Expecting a well-written blog post is different from expecting their first-ever published post to bring in a flood of new sales. The first you can deliver; the second is out of your control.
2. Are you interested in the work for more than money?
Everyone needs to make a living. Yet, sometimes, saying “yes” for no other reason than money can prove expensive in hidden ways. Sometimes it’s endless delays waiting to get approval or an unfamiliar subject that takes you an extra 10 hours in research. When you bill by the project, these unexpected delays eat into your profit.
When the project serves your business goals, you may choose to make concessions. For example, when I take on something in a new-to-me industry, I know that it will lower my profit at first. The reason is that there will be a lot of background research I need to do.
However, I also know that I can take that piece and market myself to that industry later, which can broaden my niche(s). And as you build up knowledge in an area, then you shorten the learning curve for the next client in that field.
3. Do they have a process, or will they follow yours?
A process makes for efficiency. And efficiency means a quicker path to getting paid, usually. But if the client isn’t organized, this can mean waiting weeks for approvals. Alternatively, imagine thinking you’ve sent in your final draft, and suddenly, the client remembers an important stakeholder needs to weigh in. Then, that person has many comments.
When you have a process to follow, things go smoother.
4. Is there the possibility for ongoing work, or is this a one-off thing?
As a freelance writer, you want income stability, and one of the best ways to get that is to have clients who need regular work.
With content marketing, the best clients have a documented content strategy they’re working from and know how much writing (and what types) they need on an ongoing basis.
For most freelancer writers, a one-off project will probably be more expensive for you in terms of time getting up to speed than working with the same client month after month. It’s just the nature of learning how to work with one another and getting to know their business.
5. Does it fit with your business goals?
What do you want out of your freelance writing business, and what is your plan to get there?
Beginning freelance writers are often eager to take on any client for experience or pay. That’s fine as you build your portfolio. However, suppose your goal is to have a business that gives you freedom and flexibility? In that case, you’ll want to identify more parameters.
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations that go into qualifying a prospect. With a little practice, you’ll learn to assess the best opportunities that fit where you are in your freelance career.
What would you add? Are there specific questions you ask yourself before taking on a client?