How to Hook Clients

“Three Ways to Raise Your Rate” is part of “How to Hustle,” a free, 8-part guide on how to freelance as an independent pro. Get the whole thing here.

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Congrats! A client is interested in you because you’re dope… or because you followed our advice last week. But prob because you’re dope.

Now, the next step. Getting down to work, right? Not quite.

It’s time to hook the client with an initial phone call or consultation to show them what you’re about.

Remember, they’re probably shopping around. You need to make yourself stand out. Below, I’ve outlined five simple steps to hooking a client– and the myths that you should avoid about how to present yourself.

Step 1: Ask questions

Myth: The point of a consultation is to talk about what you do

Reality: You need to presume you’re good for clients to believe you’re good. Plus, the client already knows about you. They think you’re good. So don’t waste time touting your credentials. And don’t talk about yourself. Unless they ask a specific question about your background, only talk about them.

As always in life, you’ll impress somebody by responding to their needs. So ask questions. Essential topics include:

  • Known issues: What problem is the client looking to address?
  • History: Has the client used your type of service before?
  • Time Management: How often is the client looking to work?
  • Motivation: Will the client need emotional coaching?
  • Personality fit: What sort of personality does the client respond well to?
  • Work habits: How hard is the client willing to work?
  • Expectations: Does the client have goals in place? Do they need modification?

And remember, you should always ask more questions than a client asks you.

Step 2: Offer a diagnosis

Myth: You shouldn’t criticize a potential client

Reality: Clients will like you because you’re honest in a way their friends aren’t. They’ll like you because you push them. And they’ll like you because you care.

If you’re providing a service, part of your value is assessing its need in the first place. You’re like a doctor. It’s your job to tell the client what the hell is wrong with them, how they can get better, and then help them get there.

So offer a clear diagnosis of what issues you think your client is having — physically or psychologically.

Step 3: Offer a cure

Myth: Your client tells you what to do

Reality: 90% of the time, you set the expectations.

The truth is, clients prefer a pro who tells them what to expect.

Now that you’ve given a diagnosis, give a cure. Clarify what your client should expect, from timelines to benchmarks and goals. If the client has heard these recommendations before, they will appreciate your familiarity with the issues. If they haven’t, they’ll be impressed. It’s a win either way.

Remember that clients are usually paying for you to manage them — not the other way around. If your client had the self-management skills to achieve their goals on their own, they probably wouldn’t hire you in the first place.

Step 4: Reiterate challenges and obstacles

Myth: Clients will like you because you’re positive and complimentary

Reality: You can’t be unrealistically positive when you set expectations with your client. Too much optimism can make your client set unrealistic expectations. That can only lead to stress. No one wants to fail at achieving their goal.

Plus, you don’t want their slight missteps along the way to look like irredeemable failures.

Stay upbeat and confident, but make sure you’ve defined the challenges ahead clearly. It means you’re a veteran who understands the terrain

Step 5: Follow Up With Clients

Myth: Clients don’t want to be bothered

Reality: Checking in with clients outside of your time in-person is the best way to control the terms of your relationship and make sure the work run smoothly.

That process should start before you even start working with them.

Check in with your client after your first interaction to say how nice it was to meet. Check in by the end of the week to reiterate that your schedule is full and you need to know if they’d like to work with you. Let them know you’re keeping open a slot.

Remember, your first milestone with a client is starting the work at all.