If you have spent any real time working with clients, you have experienced the bottom of the barrel clients. You know who I am talking about, that low budget, inexperienced client that nobody really wants to deal with. It’s not that these clients are bad really, they just require a certain….finesse to work with and stay sane. They tend to be needy, have little to no understanding of how the internet or web design work, and often think they know what they need better than you do.
These customers can admittedly be difficult to deal with. Especially when they start telling you how to do your job, or they refuse to take your advice. They can bring a lot of stress to any project. And by the time you are done with the project, you may be ready to find a new career. On top of this, the time it takes to hold their hand and calmly explain why things work the way they do, or why that list of animations they want is a bad idea, can be costly in terms of time and resources.
But these clients can also be a great opportunity. Becuase so many do not want to work them, you can turn this client into a very profitable niche. I firmly believe that the majority of these types of clients have the makings of a great client. They just need to be educated. They are usually new to the world of web design or online business. They do not know how various things impact the performance, security, and conversion rate of a website. If you are willing to take a little extra time to teach, these customers can become your best, most loyal customers, and will often stick with you no matter how big their business grows.
I want to share with you a few tips on working with these types of clients with a minimum of stress and unnecessary expense. By following these tips, you can make these clients your bread and butter. You will be filling a niche market that is vastly underserved.
Keep It Simple
One of the quickest ways to guarantee you get bombarded with questions is to start over-explaining or using “geek-speak” with a client that is not really technically skilled. Most clients do not need to know what CSS is or what a “div: is. They simply need to know that their site looks good and does what they expect it to do. So communicate with your clients in way that is easy for non-developers to understand.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about the Bottom Of The Barrel client is that they do not respect boundaries or they question everything you do. First, understand that this is usually a sign that they are confused and do not know what they do not know. So be patient, but set a firm and clear expectation. Make sure your business hours are known and that they are followed unless there is a real emergency. Make certain your client understands fully what is or is not included in their agreement or contract with you.
Clearly Define What Constitutes An Emergency.
Have you ever had one of those clients that insist every little glitch is an emergency? You know, the one that expects you to respond and react to their every whim at the drop of a hat? There is only one way to deal with these types of clients, and that is to clearly define what constitutes an emergency. The definition should be set in the contract, as well as discussed before the contract is signed. Failing to do so will likely result in clients like the one I just described.
It is important to set clear and firm expectations for your clients. It is equally important to meet those expectations. If you tell your client that you are available daily from 9-5, make sure you are actually available. If you tell a customer you respond to ticket requests within 10 minutes, you better respond within 10 minutes. When you meet and follow the expectation you set for your clients, they will, in turn, be more likely to respect your boundaries and expectations.
Provide Proper Training & Education
Even the best clients may need some extra training and education on how to manage their site. But when you deal with the clients we are talking about here, that needed education tends to be a bit more in-depth. So be prepared to provide this to your clients. Include it in the price of your project, or use something like WP101 or WPMUDevs Video Tutorials plugin to embed training right into the clients wp-admin. Just make sure that when the time comes to hand the project over to the client, they know how to use it.
Price Accordingly and Be Flexible
When you choose to work with the type of client we are discussing here, you must be willing to charge less than what you would charge a larger client. While there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of these clients cannot afford $5,000 or more for a website. Or they may need more time, or ways to pay their fees. So it is important to make sure you price according to the clients you will be working with.
Having flexible payment options is also important to these clients. At WP Top Hat, we offer payment plans, a barter option, and coming soon, a Website As A Service option. Remember, most of these clients will be startups, non-profits, and very small businesses.
Avoid Under Pricing
Of course, you should also remember that you are running a business, not a charity. It is important, to be honest with what you can afford to charge. Make sure you can provide your services at a profit and do not price so low, or be so flexible that you lose money. This can be a challenge at times. One of the best ways to avoid that pitfall is to set a clear pricing structure and stick to it.
I do not want to insult these customers. We all were these customers when we first started, at least to some extent. Like these customers, we had to learn and gain experience before we became the customer that everyone wants. WP Top Hat loves working with these customers. They are indeed our target market. To us, there is nothing more rewarding than watching a hopeful entrepreneur achieve their dreams, and knowing we have a part in that makes it even better. The best part of working with these clients is the personal connections we can make. As a bonus, we get to make money serving one of the most underserved markets in the industry.