Number 1 – Don’t pretend that you are a hot-shot design studio
If your potential client is looking for a large, hip, long-running, corporate-style design studio, they will go find one. And, as such, they won’t be looking for you. If by chance they do find you, sooner or later (and hopefully sooner for your sake and for theirs) they will uncover your big secret; which, sadly, was that you were a freelance designer to begin with.
Believe it or not, a lot of people that may find their way to you are doing so because they’ve given up on the corporate design option. It’s too expensive, or maybe there’s too much legal red tape, or maybe they just want something more personal… whatever the reason, many people who will find you, the freelance designer, are doing so because they want just that: a freelance designer.
You will always have a much easier time selling yourself for what you are than you will for what you clearly are not. And, when you are honest about all of this up front, you are less likely to upset your client (and more likely to serve them to the best of your ability) as the process unfolds.
Number 2 – If you are just starting out, don’t fickle with price tags
Look, you’ve just started freelancing. You hardly have a portfolio (and don’t fake a portfolio either!). If your first potential client thinks that they should only have to pay $400 for a job that you know is worth $2,000 dollars, take them at $400!
This entire business is going to be built off of a) yes, your eventual portfolio, — but believe it or not, — b) the references you get from customers you have served — is going to bring you more success than you ever imagined.
You don’t need to get big-bucks for your bang on your first few (or even your first few dozen jobs). What you need is to build a reputation.
Number 3 – Use your two new favorite styles of communication: face-to-face and the the old telephone!
I know, it’s the 21st century. And I know you, you are a little techie, and you just want to sit behind your screen in bed with some coffee, shoot some emails, send some texts, fill out some PHP forms, and your business will be up and running.
This will be the literal difference between total failure and surprising success — call your potential customers (again, CALL them, do not email them) — and (uh oh he’s going to say it!): when you get them on the phone, find a time and a place to meet with them in person.
Trust me, they aren’t interested in a 42-string long email thread. And trust me again, they want to know and meet the person that will oversee the product of their great investment.