What questions should you ask yourself when a prospective client approaches you? This is hard when you need clients – and who doesn’t – and you may feel flattered with the possibility of new business.
But not all clients are the same. Nor do they all have the same intentions. Some may have a genuine challenge in their business that they need external help for. Others may just be contacting you to get an idea of what it’s like to work with you and your fees. A smaller but ever-present group is the freebie seekers – these are the leeches who want to take everything they can get from you for free.
Last year someone in the latter category contacted me to help her with her online marketing. But right from the outset I could tell this person was a freebie seeker. All she was after was to get something for nothing. Her cunning approach was to ask questions to try and take bite-sized pieces of information. Fortunately in the very early stages I quickly declined to work with her.
Yet there is another category of “client” that is more subtle and more trecherous. This type of client will lure you in with gain, pay your 50% upfront deposit, but once they have much more than their fair share of work from you, they will refuse to pay. The gambit will most likely be that your work doesn’t meet their standard.
This category of crooked “client” usually won’t be someone who is a struggling small business owner. Rather they will be the well-heeled owner of a successful business. They have learned how to take suppliers and freelancers for a ride.
At the start of the process of taking on a new client your antenna a should be ultrasensitive. If things don’t look good at the outset, they will only become worse.
These are some of the questions to ask:
1 Is there anything that makes you uneasy about this prospective client (never ignore your gut feelings)?
2 Does this business person have the money to pay for the work?
3 Has the prospective client specified in reasonable detail what exactly is the business problem (remember that the surface or presenting problem is hardly ever the real deeper level problem)?
4 Does the prospective client show commitment to solving the problem (with time and resources)?
5 Will the prospective client be able to implement your solution or recommendations?
It’s tempting to take on new clients. But asking yourself the right questions upfront can prevent tears when the “client” turns out to be a dud who can potentially harm your business.