If you’re casting a broad net to attract new clients, you’re bound to get inquiries from prospects who, for any number of reasons, aren’t a good match. Ultimately, these unqualified clients are a waste of your time – time you may not have a wealth of. But if you’re getting lots of dead-end inquiries, you will want to ask yourself why. Is there something about your marketing, branding or use of media that is sending prospects the wrong message?
Market to your ideal client
Successful creative entrepreneurs know you can’t be all things to all clients. You only have so many actual billing hours per month. To get the kind of projects you want and to earn the level of revenue you deserve, you need to set your sights on attracting a certain type of client. If you haven’t figured out yet who that is, that’s the first thing you need to do.
Now take a look at your website, marketing materials and social media presence. Do they attempt to appeal to a wide audience or to a more select group of viewers? Do the imagery and messaging reflect the tastes and values of your ideal client? Like walking into a high-end retail shop, it should be fairly intuitive for prospects to determine if you would be a good fit for their project or not.
Specify your requirements
Even with proper marketing you’re bound to attract some prospects who admire your work but aren’t a good fit in other ways. You can eliminate many of those inquiries by being upfront about your minimum requirements for a project.
You don’t want to advertise your fee structure, but you can let prospects know in advance what other requirements you may have. I recommend including on your website whether you only take projects of a certain size or type, and/or if you stipulate a minimum budget amount. You may also want to notify prospects of your preferences or policies regarding purchasing or specifying of products and materials. These requirements can deter small projects that will be more trouble than they’re worth.
Many designers have a section on their website with information about how they work with clients or their design process. That would be an ideal place to specify your minimum requirements. If you use an intake form on your website for project inquiries, include your requirements there as well.
Responding to inquiries from unqualified clients is not a good use of time, neither for you nor for someone else on your team. That’s time you could be spending billing and providing a higher level of service to the clients you do want. You may be able to auto-disqualify clients based on what they choose on their intake forms.
Don’t worry that stating your requirements upfront will scare off potential qualified clients. The ones who truly value your talents and services won’t mind and may, in fact, appreciate your clarity and integrity.
When it comes to getting inquiries from prospects, you should focus on quality over quantity. Every bad match is a potential time-suck, but a highly-relevant lead can be incredibly profitable!