It may sound impossible to win a client while competing with offshore competitors who offer rates up to 90% less than you, yet it looks like crazy outsourcing practices are not so common anymore (Think globally, act locally). Of course, there are companies who are able to find cheap sources of labor out of the country, and some individuals cannot resist $5/hour. However, I meet many people (potential clients) who have had a bad experience with outsourcing and learnt their lessons the hard way – “you get what you pay for.” It turns out most start-ups and individual entrepreneurs understand the power of working with a local web designer.
Below, I have put together my best practices which have helped me personally win local clients (the best feeling is when you are selected for a job on Elance among 60 bidders, even though your bid is the largest one!).
Do not compete on price with offshore companies! Access to a local developer is worth a premium, and companies get many benefits working with developers from the US.
1. Target local clients!
The fact you are in the same city is your strongest advantage over offshore competition, so take advantage of it. Offer meetings, make yourself available and be willing to connect. Having a client in the same city allows you to meet at his or her apartment, office or a local coffee shop. Don’t feel like you need an office space – you do not! A home based office is the normal practice.
- Be prepared for the meeting and do some research about what the client does.
- Dress casually, nothing too fancy.
- Most importantly: take notes during the meeting. This shows that you are organized and the notes become a resource which you will use to write a follow up email or proposal after returning back home.
- Send a follow up email a few hours after the meeting, with a summary of the meeting and the next steps in the process.
If you are a user of my Web Design Leads Aggregator, make sure to search for leads in your “Location” first, before exploring other regions.
2. Do not send generic long email quotes
- Keep email quotes short and address issues the client asked about.
- Include a sentence about yourself, what school you finished/attended, and where you live.
- Write a short and targeted first email, no bullshit. Get straight to the point, DO NOT send automated, generic emails!
- Provide quality over quantity of quotes (see my post “How to Write an Email To A Potential Client” for more details).
- Always address client questions and do not blindly list your knowledge – always back it up with examples of clients/projects.
3. Use good grammar and professional, but casual, language
Make them feel like they are talking to their american colleague.
4. Be responsive
Try to answer emails within 1 hour. If you are busy in the moment or need more time to respond, make a quick reply such as “I will get back to you on those questions shortly.” Of course don’t promise when you cannot deliver.
5. Pick up the phone or call them back
- Call back as soon as you can, and make sure you are in a quiet environment so no noise will disturb the conversation.
- Have a notepad available to make notes.
- Usually, it is also a good idea to have your computer in front of you and enough time for a longer conversation.
6. Offer a variety of payments
Cash, Checks, PayPal, Chase Quick Pay, Money Transfer and Credit Cards (Square is a quick and easy way to begin accepting credit cards). Offshore companies are limited in this regard.
7. Establish yourself at least as Sole Proprietorship
Offer invoices with your EIN/SS number, so clients can use your web development service as an easy to deduct expense.
8. Show you are local
This way they know you work with local businesses, know the area etc. You should keep your location (address with a map), local phone number etc. on your website.
9. Don’t try to introduce yourself as a company if you are not
Most clients like freelancers over companies, and fortunately you don’t need to be a large company to charge +$50/hour.
10. Work on weekends and evenings if needed
Sorry, but nobody promised that freelancing will be easy. Don’t spoil your clients, but going this one extra mile pays back with loyal clients.
11 (Bonus). Don’t do blindly what a client asks you to
This is the issue with cheap labor – they quietly listen to what a client wants and blindly execute it. Show your expertise, offer additional ideas and solutions – if a client wants to implement something impossible or stupid – let them know what you think, and don’t be afraid of their reaction, you don’t want a stubborn client anyway.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for more money if during the development process things are more complicated than initially estimated. Pick up the phone and tell them what is going on, how hard you work to meet their deadline and explain that execution of the tasks takes more than the time estimated. Explain that some additional hours of work are needed, which you would need to charge for and need their approval (you can also suggest simpler solutions or removing some options from the project if budget increase is not an option).
Price is not the only (or the most important) reason clients choose who they want to work with. By working strategically and showing the value you bring to a project, you will be able to compete against cheap, offshore labor, and win the bid!