Finding the Right Clients: A Guide to Avoiding Cost-Obsessed Clients

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As I write this article, I’m approaching almost 30 years as a website designer. Over the past 3 decades, I have found that it is absolutely crucial to attract clients who appreciate the value of my work beyond just the price tag. I’ve worked too damn hard, honing my craft, and learning everything I possibly can about web design over the years, to simply give it away for nothing. While it can be tempting to take on any project that comes your way, finding the right clients who recognize the full scope of your services leads to more fulfilling collaborations, much better experiences, and ultimately… greater success.

Even though I am (personally) a web designer, in this article, I will explore strategies for identifying and avoiding clients who are solely interested in costs. This will enable you to prioritize projects that align with your expertise and passion… no matter what industry you are in.

Clearly Define Your Value

  • Highlight your unique strengths and the benefits clients receive from working with you. When someone calls me and one of the first questions they ask is “What does a website cost?”… I admit, I am immediately put on the offensive. Even though they may not know better, I try to educate them and let them know that I understand that “cost” is a factor, but anyone who strictly cares about the costs is not someone who is serious about their business. And furthermore, anyone who can actually answer that question without knowing more about the business or its goals is not serious about helping them or their business and should be running the other way.
  • Emphasize the comprehensive range of services you offer, showcasing the value-added deliverables beyond price alone. I don’t just build a website and send you on your way. That doesn’t help anyone. Instead, I dig deep and try my best to identify your goals. Only then, can I implement a plan to help you achieve those goals.

Set Clear Expectations

  • Clearly communicate your process, timeline, and the various elements involved in your projects. My discovery process and proposal are like a Dan Brown book. Not really… but I hope you get the picture. I precisely lay out what I expect and what I will deliver in my correspondence with a potential client. I want them to have all of their questions answered before they ever thought of the question. Only then, will I have succeded in not only meeting, but exceeding their expectations.
  • Educate potential clients about the importance of investing in a holistic approach that ensures a successful outcome. It’s up to you to educate the client, no matter your industry. I am absolutely guilty of giving away amazing business advice for free… all the time. But I do it over and over again in hopes that when they potential client needs to hire someone, they think of me first.

Conduct an Initial Screening

A sample of a business plan template.
  • Ask potential clients about their goals, vision, and expectations for the project. This is akin to the massive discovery intake form I send out. Many of your potential clients have no idea what they are doing. If they did, they wouldn’t be reaching out to you. My discovery form asks many probing questions, many that they never would of even think of. This is the first step in my trying to grow their business and find out exactly what they are trying to accomplish. Many times, a website is only a piece of what they need.
  • Pay attention to how they respond to questions about budget and whether they inquire about your expertise and previous work. This is the opportunity to educate a potential client I was talking about earlier. Again, many have no idea what they are doing… educate them and let them make the leap as to why YOU are the best choice for them. Think inception… just not 3 hours long.

Seek Compatibility

  • Look for clients who align with your core values, creative approach, and preferred working style. Not every client is a dream client, I get that. However, you need to make sure that whomever you are working with is truly someone you can “work with”. Don’t chase a dollar if it’s gonna cost you headaches later.
  • Seek out those who demonstrate an understanding of the value you bring beyond cost considerations. I have to say… there is nothing better than working with a client who trusts you and knows you are always acting in their best interest. I have worked with hundreds of clients over the past 3 decades… and I can safely say that most of them are amazing, and have actually become friends. This is who you want to align yourselves with… someone whom you appreciate, who also appreciates you.

Prioritize Collaboration

  • Focus on clients who are open to collaboration, appreciate your expertise, and are willing to engage in a dialogue throughout the project. This goes back to “most potential clients have no idea what they are doing”. If you find yourself with a client who wants 99% input into what you are doing for them, without actually doing it… walk away. These are the most time-suck clients you can have and they are awful. I have had clients like this in the past who question every single aspect of my profession. “If you’re that fucking knowledgeable as to what I do, why did you hire me in the first place?” Can you say… F-I-R-E-D!!!

Be Transparent About Pricing

A man is giving a presentation to a group of people.
  • Provide detailed pricing information upfront, ensuring clients understand the breakdown of costs and the value they receive. I can’t stress this enough because most clients will only think of the most basic things they need… then after you have accepted the project, start adding things. They expect this to be included because they have already paid you, but project creep is one of the most notorious killers of profit out there. Outline what you will deliver and make it a point to include in your contract that additional options MAY incur additional fees. this leaves you open to charge at your will for anything that gets added down the road.
  • Be prepared to explain how your pricing aligns with the quality of work and level of expertise you bring to the table. Many won’t understand why your pricing is your pricing, so be prepared to explain why your pricing is what it is. Once they pick themselves off the floor after viewing your quote, educate them. I get this all the time… but I quickly explain that 30+ years in the industry is worth something and if they don’t like my pricing, I’m happy to put them in touch with contacts I have in other countries who work for much less. Less experience, less communication, less support, etc… all cost less. I try my best to take what they do as a profession and intertwine it into an analogy that puts them in my shoes. Once I do, they have that “ah hah” moment and realize they need to get their checkbook or credit card ready.

Wrapping Up

By actively seeking out clients who appreciate the full spectrum of your services, whether it be web design or something else… you can foster more rewarding collaborations. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to pass on projects where clients are solely interested in costs. I do and have for years. By focusing on clients who value your approach and skillset, you can cultivate long-term relationships and build a thriving business with amazing clients that align with your professional goals and aspirations. This leads to a much better working life, trust me!!!

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I offer free design and marketing advice and am happy will help you to avoid the most common pitfalls associated with identifying the right designer for your business.

Thank you for reading and best of luck on your business journey!

Article written by Erik Allen on October 5, 2023
Erik of Erik Allen Design & Marketing wearing glasses and smiling in his office.