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Clients From Hell Podcast

The Clients From Hell podcast is equal parts humorous and helpful as it explores the modern life and times of creative professionals.
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Now displaying: January, 2017
Jan 30, 2017

What to ask a prospective client and advice for a freelancer caught in a client's love triangle. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

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Freelance FAQ: What questions should I ask a client?

When you first meet a client, you need to:

  • Determine if the prospect is a good fit
  • Diagnose their problem
  • Decide if this will be a mutually beneficial relationship

Don’t overwhelm your prospect with 1,001 questions in the initial email, but do ask them sooner than later.

From there, you need to determine:

  • Budget: Can the client afford your services?
  • Authority: Does this person have the authority to make buying decisions?
  • Need: Does the client have a genuine need for your services?
  • Timeline: Does the timeline work for you and your client?

I always try to figure out the negative consequences of not having a solution and the positive implications of having a solution to frame all future conversations.

Regardless, here are some general questions to ask a prospect or client:

  • For what reasons are you looking to hire a new freelancer now?
  • What triggered your decision to hire a freelancer?
  • What’s made this so urgent or important?
  • What experiences, good and bad, have you had with other freelancers? What do you want to be different this time around?
  • What results do you expect to see from the work we do together?
  • What are your company’s goals?
  • What’s your most important priority? What’s your most urgent priority? If they’re not the same, ask: What will it take to focus on the most important priority? How can the urgent priority get downgraded? What’s your company’s biggest marketing challenge?
  • What’s keeping you from overcoming or meeting that challenge?
  • What internal resources do you have to apply to this challenge?
  • How well are your competitors doing?
  • What are your competitors doing that you’re not and wish you were?
  • What do you want to be the best at? What do you want your company or department to be renowned for?
  • What are you willing to stake your reputation on?
  • What’s the average lifetime value of a customer?
  • What’s your customer acquisition cost?
  • What’s your current marketing return on investment?
  • What’s your process for choosing a consultant or agency? Have you used this process before? What worked or didn’t work? What will you do to get a different result?
  • Who’s involved in making the decision? Who signs the contract?
  • If you don’t hire a freelancer or consultant, how will you meet this challenge? What will you do?
  • How will you know we’ve been successful?
  • If we don’t address this issue, what will it cost your company?
  • If we deliver on agreed upon goals, what’s that worth to your company?
  • What problems do you see down the road that could obstruct or constrain our working together?
  • What makes you lose sleep at night? Or what do you need so you can sleep at night?

You may have field-specific questions that you find your regularly asking clients. Based on those repeat findings, you should create an onboarding questionnaire that you go through with clients when they first engage you.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: How do I deal with my client’s controlling boyfriend?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

My client’s boyfriend insists on attending all of our meetings, business or otherwise.

For context, I’m a male, and my client is a female. We know each other from school, but we recently reconnected when she found out I started freelancing, and she wanted me to build her budding businesses’ website.

My client has insisted that this isn’t a big deal – the boyfriend should be treated as another source of feedback – but the dynamic makes me uncomfortable. I told her that she doesn’t have to worry about me trying anything, but she says that’s not really the issue. She insists that the boyfriend has “her best interests” in mind and just not to worry about it because she “really wants to work with me on this.”
What should I do?

– A third-wheel freelancer

 

I had to email this submitter back to glean a bit of additional context.

To summarize: the client and her boyfriend have both cheated on one another, and the boyfriend is not there for his business expertise; the client and the submitter hooked up once “while drunk at school”; by school, the submitter means he and his client attended university together.

One thing that immediately set off warning signs for me is that you’re having meetings with this client that fall under the umbrella of “otherwise.”

Working with friends is something that I probably wouldn’t recommend. Working with a former hookup is something I would almost always discourage. Working with a serial cheater (that you have a history with!) while she’s in a troubled relationship (with a controlling boyfriend!) sounds like the motive the detective will give when he finds your dead body.

Point being: none of this sounds like a good idea.

Even if you weren’t involved with this client on the pretense of this being a client-freelancer relationship – and I’m not convinced you wouldn’t be, as you failed to mention you had sex with this client in the past in your initial email – I would still encourage you to get as far away as possible.

It sounds like this client needs to separate their personal and professional life. And I think the same could be said about you.

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

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Jan 26, 2017

A boss from hell claims ownership of a would-be freelancer's free time; Bryce offers advice for transitioning from a traditional full-time job to self-employment. 

This episode...

  • How do I go from the nine-to-five to freelancing?
  • What should I do about a boss who won't let me have a side gig?

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: How do I transition from the 9 to 5 to freelancing?

Before you make the full-time freelancing plunge...

Know your finances

  • Have 3-6 months of savings before you commit

Start moonlighting

  • Freedom to learn and experiment.

When you do start freelancing…

  1. Communicate with clients (but don’t create unnecessary work for them)
  2. Meet deadlines
  3. Always give your best work (if you can)

Research how freelance taxes work in your state

Look into insurance options

Create a schedule, system or process for work.

  • Occasionally re-evaluate what is and isn’t working. In particular, look for time investments that aren’t showing any returns

Always evaluate your work/life balance

Evaluate your income to expenses

 

Feedback from the Inferno: My boss won't let me have a sidegig -- what should I do?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I moonlight as a freelancer and I know my boss will have a problem with it if he ever finds out. What should I do?

I have done freelance writing here and there for almost 10 years. I enjoy doing it, and I want to really get serious about it.

Here's my problem: I work full-time as an administrative assistant at a law firm, and my boss is not at all supportive of me doing anything that he thinks might take me away from my job. And let's be honest, he has a point - I do intend to leave when I've got my freelancing off the ground. For now, I need the money, and it's not a terrible gig, but it isn't where my heart is.

I already have one client that I got by word of mouth, and I know I need to advertise my services to gain more clients – which is scary enough, as I am an introvert – but I'm scared to put myself out there lest my boss discovers what I'm up to and uses it against me.

I would love just to be honest with him, as I have with my office manager, but past experiences have already taught me that's not an option; as examples, he fired another assistant partly because that assistant divulged that he was going to night school to become an EMT; he also was wary of me getting my CAP-OM certification until I described how it would benefit HIM.

I already dropped hints a long time ago that I really wanted to pursue writing, but that was dismissed and never referenced again.

Many others within the firm have ventures outside of the office, including my boss and all of the partners. But for them, the firm is an anchor. For me, it is a stepping stone.

My question is twofold: is there a way for me to advertise myself stealthily so that I can get clients without my current boss finding out? Or, in the event I just say screw it and put myself out there, how can I prepare to deal with the fallout?

I appreciate any help you can give - I am reaching out to you because I have heard you say to start freelancing part-time before jumping in with both feet, and I figured maybe you'd have some insight into a situation like mine.

I'm tired of holding back and missing out on clients and money because I'm afraid a simple Google search will cost me my job before I'm ready to leave.

– A moonlighter on a mission

 

First of all, this is easily one of the best-written emails I've ever received. You clearly have the chops to make it on your own as a freelance writer.

Second, your boss is an absolute douche.

With that out of the way…

Finding Work

There are tons of ways to market yourself without actually exposing yourself. In nearly a decade of freelancing, roughly 80% of my work came from clients I never actually met.

Word of mouth, job boards, local meetups – they’re all great ways to find work when you’re first starting out. For your first few jobs, simply letting the world know (via twitter, facebook, etc.) you’re available for work is a great way to secure some warm leads.

However, that last bit of advice tickles your main issue…

On being googled

I almost always suggest a freelancer use their name as their business, and I think this should still be the case for you. I understand the fear of Googling – and it's a valid concern – but the idea of this boss owning your name online is utterly ridiculous. Plus, your freelance site doesn't need to be salesy or revealing. Giselle's illustration website is a great example of this.

To address this potential name issue, maybe you can focus on your first or last name to start. Remember, most of your potential clients will be directed to your website through you; very few clients will find you by googling "freelance writer" or whatever.

Preparing to go full-time (AKA dealing with the fallout)
Simply put, I recommend 3-6 months of savings for ALL your living expenses is set aside before you make the full-time freelancing leap.

I also recommend at least three positive client experiences before you make the plunge. Ideally, some of these clients will offer recurring work.

Other resources

Here are two articles I always recommend for this stuff:

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

Jan 23, 2017

This week, Bryce answers common (and not so common) questions about freelancing. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: Where do I find my first clients?

Start with people you know.

  • Announce via social, email, etc. that you’re starting to freelance
  • Reach out to individuals you know that may have need of your services
    • Feel free to reach out for work, but also ask to pick their brain
      • e.g. does your business hire freelancers? What do they look for? Etc.

Reach out to nearby businesses, especially if you have a positive relationship or a connection to someone higher up

  • Local or nearby businesses have the benefit of face-to-face connection. You can succeed with an entirely remote client list, but when you’re just starting out, the flexibility of a local connection should not be underestimated.
  • Attend networking events
  • Reach out to hiring managers, creative directors, etc.
    • Feel free to reach out for work, but also ask to pick their brain
      • e.g. does your business hire freelancers? What do they look for? Etc.

Sign up for job boards and apply for jobs that you feel capable of tackling.

  • Job boards require a lot of experience and thoughtful positioning to be regular and profitable sources of work. However, when you’re just starting out, they’re an excellent source of low-commitment experience.
  • Try to find a unique position point. For example, there are very few freelancers boasting about their webinar experience -- there were all of six on a job board with over 100,000 freelancers on it.
  • The more specific the job board is to your skillset (as a designer or developer), the better.

Pitch publications

 

  • An excellent source of portfolio pieces and income

 

Join online groups related to your craft or services.

Market yourself in directories.

Reach out to job listings for full or part-time work related to your service and see if there’s a way you can help until they hire their permanent fix.

  • I’ve actually had clients close job listings after working with me and then putting me on retainer.

Work for free

  • Set boundaries and expectations
  • Work for a testimonial, referral, and quality portfolio piece
  • Ensure you want to do more work of this type
  • Ensure you’re getting something of value out of this engagement; otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: Where do I find my first clients?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I have a client that insists I do all my work at his office. He insists on this arrangement because he doesn’t really “trust web people.” He admits part of this is just not “getting it” – if I’m there, I can explain things, and he knows I’m honestly billing him for the time.

I really don’t like working at his office: it’s inconvenient to travel to and from there, I have to bring some of my equipment, and my client likes to breathe over my shoulder while I work.

The worst part about this over-my-shoulder work is that he’ll sometimes start to give me a massage. I’m not the only one he does this to, but it’s both literally and metaphorically uncomfortable.

How do I tell him to stop doing this without ruining the relationship?

– A real hands-on freelancer

 

The subject line of this email was “my clint likes to touch me - I do not.”

At first, I thought that was a lot of unsolicited information about a submitter’s uncomfortable relationship with a man named Clint, but boy did that stop being funny once I realized that was a spelling error.

I was unbelievably relieved to discover you’re both male and that this touching is seemingly non-sexual. It’s still 100% not okay that the client is doing this, but this dynamic could be far, far worse.

From what you wrote to me, it sounds like you have an out-of-touch-with-the-times client – both technologically and socially. And it sounds like you could do a better job of pushing back and making sure the working arrangement works for you.

Schedule a one-on-one meeting with your client to discuss how you work together. Decide beforehand where you draw the line. I suggest not working in that office altogether, but you can compromise on him simply respecting your personal space.

Do your research and prepare for this meeting. You should try and anticipate your client’s potential concerns, and you should have your reasons on standby.

For example, address why this client doesn’t trust “web people.” By now, you should have established a working relationship, so some trust should be there. If it’s simply a matter of hours, offer to use time-tracking software. If it’s due to a lack of understanding, ask if there’s a contact at the company who would better understand your deliverables – work that is mutually understood is much more likely to meet the client's goals effectively.

Whatever happens, don’t back down from where ever you drew the line. If all you’re going to push back on is the touching – and I encourage you to have more ambition than that – speak to how it makes you feel and try not to accuse or embarrass the client. Do this one on one, and be straightforward; it’s not okay that he was in your personal space, but it sounds like no one ever tried to course correct him, and he’s ignorant about how inappropriate it is.

If you still don’t want to rock the boat, invest in Mad Max-style shoulder pads.

Jokes aside, if you feel genuinely uncomfortable or physically threatened, cut things off with this client. A big part of freelancing is doing your work, your way – and it seems like this arrangement doesn’t empower you on a personal or professional level.

And try to work on sticking up for yourself! It sounds like a lot of your complaints about this situation came from you rolling over whenever your client requests something.

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Jan 16, 2017

From qualifying clients to education as a lead conversion technique, Bryce Bladon and Kai Davis discuss how they turn prospects into high-paying clients.

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

Jan 12, 2017

Steve Gordon, author of Unstoppable Referrals,  joins Bryce Bladon to discuss how to get client referrals.

They cover:

  • Why referrals are so important
  • Obstacles that impede referrals
  • Reverse prospecting

> Check out Steve's FREE referral course

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Jan 9, 2017

Bryce Bladon and Kai Davis share their plans, their predictions, and their advice for the upcoming year. 

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

Jan 2, 2017

Bryce Bladon and Kai Davis discuss the past year, covering:

  • Lessons learned
  • Lessons we refused to learn
  • Best moments
  • Worst moments
  • A fifth thing!

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

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