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Ekim Kael
Ekim Kael

Posted on

Let's talk about clients

I think there are freelancers here too.
So I really started this activity as a developer this year, and although I like working from everywhere and (sometimes) at times that suit us, I struggle.
Then I humbly come to you for help.
I'd like to know how you're doing:

  • find clients
  • what to do, what not to do
  • If possible, is it better to meet the client when they contact you first?
  • how do you establish your prices (are there apps that make your work easier?) etc... Here I would like us to linger more on the Internet but everything is good to take. Even on the field, it could help someone

Thank you

Top comments (10)

kelly profile image
Kelly Vaughn • Edited

Freelancer-turned-agency owner here!

Step 1 before anything is make sure you have a portfolio up and running. Whether it's client work or fun projects or case studies, put it all up there. Make sure your skillset is clear to visitors, and make sure it's easy for people to contact you. Some people are happy to fill out a contact form, some prefer to email you directly, some prefer calling you (if you want to offer that as an option).

Getting your first clients:
I found my first non-friend/family clients many many years ago via social media. I saw some "I need freelance dev help" tweets from a couple other freelancers who had too much work on their hands. That's actually how I got my start with Shopify, which is now what my agency focuses 100% of our efforts on. I'm also a member of some development/freelance Facebook groups (such as Freelance to Freedom). People often post leads there for work that doesn't fit within their niche or it's just not something that can/want to take on.

What to do, what not to do:

  • Don't over-promise what you can't do. If it's a similar skill and you just haven't had the opportunity to dig into a specific facet of your preferred development language, it's fine to take on the project if you know it's something you can do based on your current skills. But don't say you can code an iOS app for a client if you've never done any iOS development before.
  • Don't do anything for free. Your time is valuable. The client wouldn't be giving away their product for free, and neither should you. If you're still building up your portfolio, you can discount your rates if you want so you can get some paying clients under your belt.
  • Always, always, always send a contract. Never do any work before you have a signed contract and a down payment. How much you want to set your down payment for is entirely up to you. On some of our projects we require 100% up front, and on others we'll accept 40%.
  • Be realistic about your time frame. If you think something will take you a week to code, tell the client it'll take two. Things always come up that will throw off your schedule. It's better to deliver earlier than expected than to have to push out a launch date.

Client communication:
We always send a questionnaire to the client before scheduling a call with them to make sure we're a good fit for them and they're a good fit for us. Whether you want to schedule a phone call, have a video conference call via Zoom/Skype/Hangouts, or meet in person is up to you, but we always go under the assumption that any in-person meeting will take up half of our workday. I honestly don't like having in-person meetings because of this. But regardless, it's always a good idea to have some sort of discussion with them off of email to see if their personality and communication style are a good fit for how you prefer to work.

Establishing your rates:
My favorite topic! Everyone undervalues themselves. It takes just one potential client who says you're too expensive to make you second guess your rates. I've been in this business for many, many years and it's still something I struggle with.

Shopify put out an article about two years ago that does a really good job of covering you should set your rates without giving explicit numbers. It's difficult to say "You should charge X" without knowing where you're located, what type of work you're doing, what your skill level is, and the many other factors that go into pricing a project. It's definitely important to take your market into consideration, as rates are going to differ from place to place. (My rates [I'm American] are often higher compared to what a lot of Europeans charge.) And another word of advice - always continue to increase your rates with each project. Another agency owner once told me that if a client is willing to pay $6,000, they're probably willing to pay $7,000. If they're willing to pay $12,000, they're probably willing to pay $14,000, and so on. Lastly, never reduce your rates for a client without removing something from the scope.

I hope this helps!

tijanmdr profile image
Tijan Manandhar • Edited

Thanks for the response. Surely we need to work under a contract. I'm also starting to work as a freelancer where in my current project I told them to pay 30% as down-payment. I did 20-30% of the work but still I haven't getting good response from the client.

Surely, the communication between client must be very good, but can you or someone give me any idea how to deal with them?

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Wonderful response Kelly!

ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael

It helps a lot. Your experience speaks for itself. Thank you very much.

joshcheek profile image
Josh Cheek

never reduce your rates for a client without removing something from the scope

Oh, that's a really really good insight!

whoisryosuke profile image

Find Clients

  • Friends, family - or community through meetups, LinkedIn, Slack, etc
  • Job boards
  • Blog posts, tweets, etc letting people know you have expertise in their needs
  • Contribute to open source projects for companies you're interested in -- sometimes they hire you, especially if it's a funded project (e.g. Github, Apollo, Prisma, etc)

It's all about putting yourself out there and connecting with people through whatever platform you can. Make videos, blogs, social media posts, anything you can to signal boost your existence and your expertise.


What to do

  • A good job you'd reflect on and be happy to have associated with your name and portfolio
  • Be professional and courteous
  • Remember you have a lot of overhead (your cost of living, expensive tech, constantly learning new tech, etc). Make a list of all your hard costs, and if your total monthly projects don't profit more than that -- reconsider your pricing model.

What not to do

  • Talk poorly about previous clients. Bringing any kind of negativity can create a sense of camaraderie, or can quickly backfire and reflect poorly on your character.
  • Give out work for free, unless you feel absolutely sure it'll have a return down the line
  • Let people walk all over you. Make sure to have a spine, and learn to say no. Just don't be aggressive or rude about it, speak from a platform of professional experience and the wisdom of previous outcomes.
  • Under price yourself. People have money. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking they don't have money for something, because if they want something -- they often know there's a price to pay (or if they don't know, now's the time for them to learn). Their goal is to get the best price, and your goal is to get the fairest price for yourself (sometimes it can be cheaper than competition if your profit margins allow).
  • Forget about your clients emails for a week and get back to them. Be timely in your responses.

Better to meet the client?

Depends. You can work completely remotely, through only email, it just depends on how responsive you and the client are. Many clients like having coffee with you, speaking over the phone, or some form of more intimate communication. There's often miscommunication through text, since things like tone aren't conveyed easily. If you weren't raised on the internet and forums, you might not be comfortable with text.


Find your competitors who post prices publicly. It can be hard, since most people like to get contacted for prices, but you'll find a few people who prefer to just put pricing out there. See what they offer for the price point (full theme, development, installation, etc etc). Make an excel sheet with all their price points, and examples of their work. If you think your work is as good, or better than theirs, you should be charging at least that -- or more.

It helps to find salaries and hourly wages on job listing sites for the position you're looking for. It also helps make it seem more real, since these are real people willing to pay that price for that skill. If 30+ companies are hiring React devs and paying $50+/hr, you probably should make that much too.

Once you have your first project, you'll get a feel for how your pricing is. You'll definitely feel it if you undercharged and you feel like your work was under-appreciated, and/or you were overworked. You'll find you'll constantly tweak your prices and terms based on client experience.

darryldexter profile image
Darryl D.

Before I write a small guide here again, did you get a chance to look at this guide?

ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael

I just read and it's really interesting. Thank you.

But if you have any more tips, write them down. It'll always be more information

starbist profile image
Silvestar Bistrović

The first rule is to have savings for at least a couple of months. The first client is the hardest to land. Also, being a kind person will get you a long way.

ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael