The process of putting your business online can be very un-nerving. We have been conditioned to hide who we really are and what we really think; and even if we are quite outspoken in real life, there is something about putting yourself or your company out there in black and white for everyone to see, that we are hesitant about.
Judi Knight – Finding your right clients in Just a Digital Minute newsletter, 7 August 2013
I worked for almost a decade for a firm headed by the most professional, polished and controlled woman I have ever met. She was continually mindful of how we appeared to clients, and frowned on any too-casual behavior or appearances around the office. She was probably right about a lot of things given that we dealt with Fortune-500-type clients, many of whom had their own even-worse brand of uptight. But it was not me, and it was often a very stifling environment. Things lightened up a lot when this woman was away, which became most of the time and then all of the time during my last years with the company. We continued to produce a very high caliber of work even after she was gone. If anything, it was more creative.
When I began freelancing in 2009, it was liberating to be able to do as I thought best. But still there was some hesitation. Should I put a certain site in my portfolio? Will prospective clients care that my husband is a gunsmith? Should I list my work for the local and state Libertarian parties? Will my fussing about local issues negatively impact my business? I’ve never hidden any of this, because I think honesty is the best policy, but also because I don’t want to work with anyone who isn’t at least tolerant of individual freedom. I figure honesty will scare off intolerant statists.
It’s OK to say no, even to friends
Once, early in my freelancing career, I said yes to a request from a designer acquaintance without fully comprehending that the end-client was a sort of quasi-governmental agency that took in and doled out funds based on victimhood. It was a project I was visually and technically proud of. But I didn’t put it in my portfolio because it was otherwise a big load of hooey. I realize it’s often difficult to avoid compromising and still put money in the bank account, but I won’t get into that kind of project again.
The criteria for inclusion in my portfolio is whether or not it represents the type of work I typically do, and want to do going forward. This includes Libertarian party and candidate sites, and the website for my husband’s gunsmith shop. When I finally finish the pages dedicated to the new WordPress.com-based sites I’ll offer, this blog will be one example, as will the site I did for our local Libertarian Party affiliate.
If I build it, will they come?
Judi Knight is a fellow WordPress developer and is wise about a lot of things beyond websites. In her weekly newsletter she shares her observations about experiences with clients and other areas both business and personal (you should be able to subscribe from the bottom of the edition linked above). She was a psychologist in a previous life, but I would say that part of her morphed rather than disappeared. With an analyst’s mind, she picks apart problems she experiences or sees, then relates them in a way that teaches or encourages. In today’s newsletter, she talked about finding the clients that are right for you by being who you are and making sure everyone knows it:
We can certainly find our right clients by referrals, but even then if you put yourself out there online to reflect who you are and what you do, you will attract more of your right kind of client and you will convert visitors into clients. Even people who are referred to you will check you out online so it is important to be very clear about your messaging. You will not attract everyone, but that is ok because those you will attract will be right for you and for them.
I can build big web sites and work with Fortune 500 companies, but I have known for some time, if only deep down, that they are not my right clients. I’ve recently decided to seek business from mom & pop shops and other little guys because they are my people. It’s taken a lot of work to transition my site, and I’m not done yet. It’s a helluva lot more reflective of who I am than anything I’ve ever done. The new packages I’m working on are more in line with who I’d like as a client rather than what I am capable of. They’re small, extremely cost-effective but professional sites that will give little guys a decent web presence and not some P.O.S. thing built by their cousin, or with much trepidation and frustration while using their web host’s site builder app. They’ll be inexpensive, but they won’t be free. If little guys don’t see the worth in what I provide, and I’ve tried my best to show them the difference, then I just need to go away. But…I’m hoping they’ll come and it’ll be good for everyone.