Client onboarding and retention when you freelance

Handshake between client and freelancer

As a freelancer you might not be skilled in the art of customer service.  I know many people in my profession of web development, who are horrible at communicating with clients but are great developers.  If you want to succeed in getting and retaining clients, you need to get in touch with your “business side” and learn how to onboard clients and establish a trust that will carry you to new heights in your ventures.

Onboarding clients is when you establish a working relationship with a person/company who has hired you to provide services to them.  You should follow some key steps, so that you retain a “best in class” service to them:

Get the financials worked out:  Money can be viewed as taboo for a novice freelancer, but you need to do it in order to create trust on both sides.

  • Most companies will provide an 1099 for you at tax time if you work enough for them.  Therefore, you will need to provide them with a W-9 form from the IRS before work begins.
  • Your hourly rate should be established before work begins.  (Do your research on what hourly rates are for your services).
  • Define payment methods and terms upfront before work begins.  Clients can pay by check, PayPal, direct deposit, or even cash, so knowing this upfront will help you when the project ends.  Payment terms can vary too.  I usually request a percentage of the estimate before work begins, but only for large projects.  All other times I usually request a 30 day payment term.  If you don’t establish this upfront, though, they may try to bend the rules to their liking.  And if you’ve ever been jaded by a client, it’s hard to bounce back.

Establish working hours:  If you have a fulltime job or other daily commitments, you will need to let the client what your response time will be.  You should be candid with the client about this information prior to any work being done, because they may need someone available during working hours, require you to attend morning standup meetings, or need you to attend calls at random times throughout the day.  By saying “I have a fulltime job but I can spare 2-3 hours in the evenings and anytime on weekends”, you will establish a line of communication that is key.

Become Personable:  You might think you are personable now, but I’ve been in conversations where frustration builds between clients and servicers, and it’s a big no-no.  Remember you are the SME (subject matter expert).  You’re job is not to train the client or explain the inner workings of a flux capacitor.  The attitude you need to adopt is simple:  most everything is possible…it’s just a matter of money and time.  If you don’t come across like you want to find a solution, the client will find someone else who will.  While a half baked vision by the client might seem impossible, it might be possible once you talk through the details and do a little research.  Calmly saying “It might be possible to do, but I don’t know at this moment how long it’ll take or if the vision needs to change a bit.  But give me some time to think about it.” will show initiative and motivation.

Under Promise Over Deliver:  If you want to be a winning candidate for more work, set realistic expectations for yourself and consistently hit the deadline or a little before it.  Don’t go crazy on the amount of time you need to finish a project, or you’ll risk looking like a novice.  By doubling the amount of time onto a project, you’ll find that the quality of your work increases.  And this also allows for those hidden requirements to creep out of the shadows.

Don’t be a doormat:  I’ve realized that clients aren’t out to see how much they can get done in the shortest amount of time.  Clients who are looking for long term relationships, want quality and reliability.  The ones who want it and want it yesterday, are the ones you should avoid.  If you need the time to research, then convey that politely to the client.  If you hit a roadblock with a bug and it’s taking longer than expected and may jeopardize the timeline, then convey that politely sooner rather than later.  Nobody is perfect nor 100% accurate on project timelines, so you have that right to ask for more time.   In the end your goal is provide the client with excellence.

Establish communication methods:  Ask the client what’s the best way to contact them.  Some of my clients like it when I only email them during a project, while some like it when I send an email and then text them to read the email I sent.  I have relationships with some clients who feed me projects through email and I don’t need to contact them via phone at all!  It all just depends on the client.  Phone conversations are the quickest and best, though.  Establishing this upfront can alleviate anxiety and frustration that usually happens when miscommunication takes place.

Contact me if you’d like more advice!

 

How to start a website for minimal cost

how to build a website

I’ve been a Web Developer for over 15 years.  I feel it is my purpose in life to help others in a way I am confident I can.  I’d like to speak to those who are novices with websites.  If you have a business and would like to gain a certain basic know-how of websites, I hope this article serves you well.

I’ll start with the easiest route.  I’m sure you’ve heard of GoDaddy, InMotion, BlueHost, or Rackspace.  There are many others, but you’ll need only one.  I like GoDaddy because they are popular, but I also found BlueHost to be excellent.  These companies are “hosting companies”.  They setup and maintain your “piece of the web”…your place on the internet.  And what you need to provide them is what your domain name will be.  A Domain Name is a unique english word(s) that define your website to a browser (ie.  IE, Firefox, Chrome).  When you type in the domain name “google.com” in your browser, the hosting company receives that request and directs your request to a specific server(s) that hosts that content.

Figuring out what your domain name will be is step #1, because it makes it easier when you begin looking at buying your hosting space.  Hosting companies take care of tying your domain name to your hosting space when you doing it all at the same time.

So now you’ve thought of that cool domain name.  I would not choose a long domain name like “thisisasupercooldomainname.com” or a short domain name acronym like “abc.com” because people will remember a name that relates to your company.  For example, if I tell you my company is The Bockler Group, logically you’ll search for this name, or even try that directly in the browser.  It’s logical that my website domain name is the same (or related to my company name).

You’ve got your cool domain name in mind and you’ve settled on a hosting provider.  When you go to their site, they prompt you in a big area to enter that domain name to see if it’s already been taken.  The domain name must be unique, because the internet can’t have another google.com, right?  How would it know which server(s) to point to?!  You may or may not have to adjust your domain name, but let’s assume you’ve come up with one that isn’t already taken.

As you progress in the buying process, you’ll be asked at some point about the privacy option.  Generally you’ll want this option.  If the website is for personal use, I would recommend buying the added feature.  Because when you buy a domain name, your personal information is available for public knowledge.  Try a WhoIs Lookup and you’ll see what I mean.  Choosing the privacy option for a yearly price is a good thing.

Now onto the hosting.  This can seem a little nuts, but here’s what you need to know.  Since this article is for the novice, I’ll make an assumption that you’d like to use it for a blog or basic company site.  WordPress is the standard for this.  It’s an easy-to-use platform, especially for beginners.  I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re trying to get the most out of the least amount of work.  It is a blog by default, and there are thousands of themes that you can apply to your blog to make it look great.  The big draw is the way it allows you to edit your content and publish it.  No need for a Web Developer!

Choosing a hosting option can seem a little daunting, but keep it simple.  The basic option provided is not permanent, so I would recommend it.  If you ever need to upgrade, it’s something the support team can help you in doing.  As long as it states that it supports WordPress, that’s going to be your best bet.  If they have a one-click install of WordPress advertised for that hosting option, even better.  In fact I would highly recommend it.  The hosting providers mentioned all have this option.

Once you’ve selected your domain name, and have selected a hosting plan, you’ll be good to go.  Once you’ve finalized payment, you should be able to login and see a dashboard (or homepage showing you options on your account).  You should see options where you can setup an email account (I’ll discuss this later) and also to install WordPress.  Go through the wizard, and you’ll quickly have it installed.

At this point your site should respond when typing in your domain name into the browser.  If it doesn’t, don’t worry yet.  It may take 24-48 hours for everything to work.  After which, it should be stylized to a default WordPress theme when it was installed.  More information about themes and WordPress options can be found at sites like WPBeginner.com.

It’s fairly easy to get going on a new site these days.  WordPress makes it super simple.  Even though it takes some “getting in there and figuring it out” time, you’ll find that having a site up and running in hours is pretty sweet.

Happy Coding!  Please feel free to ask me questions about any details I might’ve missed.  It’s what I live for!

A Community of Emmets

A Community of Emmets

I was listening to a very awakening podcast today, and I wanted to share it with you.  Problogger.com has been a valuable resource when it comes to creating a blog to help grow your business.  Today’s podcast refers to ordinary bloggers/entrepreneurs becoming extra ordinary.  Simply put, he states, we are essentially a “community of Emmets”.  Emmet being the main character of the Lego movie.  He is an average, ordinary guy who becomes extra ordinary.

The premise of the podcast is how we all have little voices in our heads that make us feel ordinary or tell that we are out of our league when it comes to fulfilling a dream.  I’m sure I’m not alone when say that I too make myself feel inadequate and think to myself, “what am I doing?  I can’t make money outside of my day job.  I can’t sell myself enough that someone would want to spend money on my services”.

We’re not alone in our dreams.  There are countless examples of those who are average but become extra ordinary, simply because they do one thing…start doing.  It was once said that there are 2 things that ensure failure:  thinking and not doing, and doing but not thinking.  You need to find that minimum, low cost, amount of work on your business idea to get the ball rolling.  It might be brainstorming on several great domain names for your future website and then buying a 1-year term on that domain name.  It might be sitting down with a mentor, just to vet your idea to someone other than your best friend.  It can even be online research to know what the market is like for your idea.

I hope you enjoy this podcast.  It never fails that I feel good when I find good, sincere content that help support my own dream.