Dream clients: Closing

After you reached out to your potential dream clients and filled most of your spreadsheet with companies you've contacted, it's time for the next step, which is ... 🥁

Welcome to part four of the series about how to work with dream clients. If you missed previous parts, check them here:

  1. The Beginning

  2. The Definition

  3. First Contact

Today's topic is the one people rarely share publicly. It's about closing a deal and follow-ups. 

Let’s get into it!

Dream clients: Closing

After you reached out to your potential dream clients and filled most of your spreadsheet with companies you've contacted, it's time for the next step, which is ... 🥁 waiting for responses. Be patient. Give the recipient time to read, analyze, and provide a reply.

If you follow my advice from the previous part and send your emails in small groups – you will have the work to do while waiting for responses from the last group.

You can skip straight to the Deal Closing section and continue from there when you do get a reply. 

But what if you didn't get a response?

Follow Up

How long to wait?

I usually give the recipient 5-7 days to reply. People can be busy. I do it myself – I only clean up my email to zero once a week. So if you don't get back from me for five days – it's okay. 

Even if the person on the other side is interested in working with you, they might not be in the position to reply right away. 

They might need to talk to somebody else (another manager, someone from leadership, or partners). 

They might want to research you a bit before replying. Give them time to respond on their schedule. That's the reason we chose email. Most importantly, don't take it personally if you don't get a response. 

You might also get some responses that won't be that great. They might say, "Thank you, but we already have someone else working on this project for us." Or "Thanks, but we're not in a position to do that project right now." 

That is a good sign that they were polite enough to respond even when not interested. It's far better to know that than to go on wondering.

The follow-up

If after 5-7 days you haven't gotten a reply, now's your only chance to follow up. Again, I'd use email here, but you can also consider a phone call (although I haven't used the phone for follow-ups for a while now).

In this case, a phone call is less rude because your email may have already broken the ice. You can call them and ask, "Did you have time to read my email?"

If they say yes but are too busy to answer, you have a foot in the door to continue the chat and observe their reaction. If they say no, call them and repeat your email pitch to see what kind of reaction you receive.

Be gentle while following up. Don't make any assumptions, good or bad. I think they did not receive your email. You can reuse all or most of your initial email (so they don't have to look for it), but add an introduction at the top.

It can be something like:

I emailed you last week about helping you [YOUR SERVICE]. I'm following up to see if you had a chance to consider my proposal. 

Would you mind letting me know if you have any questions or would like to arrange a time to talk?

Here is a copy of my original email.

You might be amazed at how many people require this slight push of a follow-up. They may see an email and then forget about it, or their inbox may be overflowing, and they missed it the first time. A polite reminder will nudge a few more into action.

Important! This step concludes your interaction with this prospective client. The conversation is finished if you don't hear back after sending a follow-up email or making a phone call. Do not bother them with any more follow-ups. It's time to let go of this lead and move on to others.

Closing the Deal

So you've got a few promising replies from exciting potential clients. How do you proceed?

This is just as vital as your original outreach plan. It's critical to remember that these clients did not come to you in the same way that most others, so you must approach the rest of the relationship differently.

Most of my clients are referred to me by others (word of mouth) or found my web profile through a search (organic). These clients are somewhat pre-qualified in each of these scenarios.

They've already heard positive things about me from someone they trust or looked through my credentials and decided they like the appearance of me and my work. Clients who come to me by word of mouth are more reliable prospects, but even organic search clients come to me with a fundamental understanding, respect, and ideally trust.

These clients are different

When you reach out to a prospective client proactively, they don't come with any of that. They haven't been on the lookout for you. They've most likely never heard of you and have no idea what you're about.

To achieve that degree of trust, you must put in a lot of effort. Following your initial cold email, you must accomplish the following in every piece of communication with this client:

  • Demonstrate your professionalism, dependability, and good communication abilities. 

  • Demonstrate how well-organized you are, as well as how well-thought-out and well-written your proposal is. 

  • Continue to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in their industry and the success of their company. 

  • Demonstrate that you have the expertise and experience to do projects of a similar type, scale, and style to the one you are proposing for them. 

  • Exceed their expectations by adding insights and value to the conversation even when they don't ask for it.

It would be best if you put them at ease. You must earn their respect and show them an appreciation for their knowledge in their industry. You need them to be wholly convinced that you are the right person for the job.

What not to do

Don't work for free or on spec.

Don't show them a design mockup of their product (website, app, etc.) that you worked on all day the day before, hoping to impress them with your ideas before you've even gotten the job. It diminishes your worth. If you want this to be a dream customer, don't start till you have the contract.

Don't turn into a sleazy salesperson.

Getting your foot in the door may spark your interest in charming them and selling yourself. After all, you need to impress them and gain their trust. But, on the "first date," don't try to pull out all the stops. As the relationship progresses, create trust gradually and naturally.

Don't do all the talking. Listen.

One of the most remarkable qualities of a successful designer is their ability to absorb a thorough understanding of the client's business, goals, and challenges. Spend a significant amount of time (by email, phone, or in-person) asking meaningful questions and listening to responses. Repeat what you've heard and understood – you'll be amazed at how well this alone can create trust and confidence.

Rewards of working with Dream Clients

The ripple effects can be enormous if you complete this process successfully and begin earning design contracts for dream clients in industries you care about.

You can make more money, but that isn't the primary purpose. More significant, more sophisticated clients may have larger budgets for finer-tuned services. Allow the carefully designed work to serve as the driving factor.

They do, however, frequently go hand in hand. The larger budget is simply a way of supporting that activity, not a chance to make a more significant profit. Rather than earning more money, your goal during this process should be to find more job that you enjoy, that you can do well, and that gives you more fulfillment.

Your desire to do an exceptional job should result in high-quality work that will undoubtedly gain space in your portfolio.

Last but certainly not least…

Good work leads to more of the same

That first successful project for a client you love in an industry you're passionate about may open the gates to new work for similar clients. 

After my first client in the food delivery industry, I quickly followed it with two more exciting food delivery app and web design projects within the following year. 

I gained more experience and broadened my understanding of the best design solutions for the market's particular issues with each one.

This strategy isn't about gaining more clients. Instead, it's about attracting fewer but higher-quality clients with whom you'd be eager to work. As you develop these relationships with a few clients, you open the door to a stream of fresh word-of-mouth recommendations that you could only have imagined a year or two ago.

If you dedicate yourself to shifting the route of your business closer to your dream clients, it could be the spark that propels your freelancing career in the direction you've always wanted it to go.

If your dream clients aren't coming to you, go straight to them.

The worst that can happen is that you end up with nothing different than what you have now. The best thing that could happen is a total shift into a freelancing career that you sincerely appreciate and cherish every day. 

Isn't it worth a shot?

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Thanks for reading and see you on Monday!

Have a good week,