Why clients aren’t buying your high-priced services + what to do about it (hint: it’s not lowering your prices!)

how to get more freelance clients

Do you remember the days when clients paid top-dollar for branding and design services?

I do!

Wasn’t it great? We all knew the rules of engagement and it was simply a matter of connecting the right client with the qualified creative professional or team and boom. Problem solved.

But things have changed, right? With new technologies developing at a dizzying rate and clients having options that are faster and cheaper than ever before, the new landscape can feel confounding, challenging, even downright terrifying to the established creative professional. If you’d like to read more about this shift and how the industry leaders have navigated it, check out my last post here.

So, what’s a creative business owner to do? Try and compete on price (I bet you already tried that, right? Unsustainable). Stick to the same script and hope for a different outcome? (Like banging your head against a wall). Throw in the towel and try get a real job (yep, that old chestnut).

None of the above.

Having worked with independent creatives and business owners for the last 20 years (including two recessions and the meteoric rise of the web) the mistake I most often see creatives make is this:

Trying to adapt their business to a perceived industry condition instead of adapting it to their clients’ needs.

If you’re ready to follow the lead of some of the most successful creative industry minds and let go of your assumptions and start doing things differently, I’m going to share 3 ways to get inside your clients’ heads, so you can start creating the message, services, and results they want and need.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

This is fun, interactive activity that requires a couple of art supplies (yay!) that I adapted from the Strategyzer Value Proposition Design method. The outcome will be a visual representation of the jobs your client needs to get done, what their pain points are, and what they aspire to achieve. You’ll also have a good sense of which ones are critical to them and which ones are nice to haves.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 large piece of paper
  • Small post-it notes in 3 different colors
  • An hour of your time

Are you ready? I know you are! OK, let’s jump in.

On a large piece of paper draw a big circle and then using a pencil divide it into thirds. In one third write “tasks”, in the second write “aspirations”, an in the third write “pain points.”

Step 1: List the tasks or jobs your client is trying to achieve

No matter what our role and goals, our days are made up of jobs and tasks that need to be done in order to move us toward those goals and desired outcomes. Jobs might include:

  • Problems they’re trying to solve e.g. make a stale brand feel relevant again, make a brick and mortar store more compelling to millennials
  • Goals they’re trying to achieve e.g. attract new customers without alienating their existing ones, launch a new product line or private label brand, or position their brand as a leader in its category
  • Social goals e.g. they want to be made to look good or want to be credited with turning a brand around

Building upon what you know as well as what you think, write down all the jobs you can think of on a different post-it (use all the same color). Stick them into the “Jobs” third of your circle.

Step two: Identify your clients’ pain points

Pain points play a huge part in our willingness to find and invest in a solution. When you understand what pain your clients have and you present an authentic and heartfelt solution, you foster a sense of relief and gratitude in your clients. It’s a far cry from feeling salesy and makes delivering your service and working with clients more fulfilling.

Here’s the thing about pain. We’re willing to put up with a pretty high level of it rather than make a change. It’s just how we are. So, you want to identify the TOP pain points your clients experience and focus on them. But first, we’ll start with listing every single one you can think of. Go back to your client interviews and conversations you’ve had with clients over the years for inspiration.

Just as you did in step one, you’ll write each pain point on a post-it (use a different color) and, when you’re done, stick them in the “pain points” third of your circle.

Step 3: Identify your clients’ aspirations

Your clients’ aspirations describe the benefits and positive results they wish to see. Aspirations are the other key factor in why a client chooses to make a decision to invest in changing something. Understanding a prospects deepest desires will help you craft services, messaging, and content that resonates with them.

Just as you did in the previous steps, write every aspiration you can think of on a post-it (use a different color) and, when you’re done, stick them in the “aspirations” third of your circle.

For those over-achievers out there, start with each section and arrange your stickies in terms of priority, meaning, what the TOP pain points etc. your clients are dealing with? These are the ones you need to gear your messaging, marketing, and services to.

Easy right?

OK, I know it’s not really easy but it is do-able, and this clarity will make SUCH a difference in how you engage clients and make money in your business.

I know you’re a can-do bunch, so please do take the time to do this exercise. Need some support? I’d love to work with you if you’re ready to challenge your assumptions and position your business to meet your clients’ wants and needs. If you’d like to learn more about how coaching might help you make monumental changes in your business, I’d love to chat. Click here to get the ball rolling. I can’t wait to learn more!


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