5 reasons clients don't want to work with you (and how to fix it)

Jun 6, 2016

Few things are more frustrating for freelancers than making an introduction with a potential client, feeling like things are going well, and then never hearing from the prospect again.

Pitching news clients is tedious and time-consuming. It costs energy and money. Every minute you spend trying to get a new client is a minute away from working for clients and producing billable work and income.

So, if you are getting close to securing clients and then losing the deal, let’s see if you are making any of these big mistakes.

1. You’re a ghost online

The first thing a potential client does before making the decision to work with you is search for you online. They want to see who you are and what type of mark you have left online.

Potential clients want to rate your trustworthiness and legitimacy based on your online reputation. So if they search for your name and find nothing, you are out of luck. The client is probably going to look the other way when you follow up about working together.
When you are missing an online appearance, you seem less trustworthy and professional to new clients, and often that will be their deciding factor for passing on you.

How to fix this: If you want to be a professional, you need to act like one. That means setting up a branded domain and website for your business. When you have a professional website, potential clients will see that you mean business, and they will be far more likely to work with you.

2. You don’t have samples of your work

When a potential client is deciding who to hire, they want to know what type of final product they are going to get. They want to gauge the quality of the freelancer before putting down money to hire them.

So, if you want to secure new clients, you need to have work that shows off your abilities.

A portfolio of your work gives potential clients a chance to view and rate the quality of your work. It helps them set their expectations and decide if you are right for the job. When a freelancer can’t provide this proof, the client is likely going to choose to work with someone who can.

How to fix this: Curate a portfolio of all of your work and make it easy to access. Organize your samples so they are easy for you to pull specific samples if your client requests it. If you are new to freelancing and don’t have any work to put in your portfolio, go out and create some. Either create samples just to fill your portfolio or find a non-profit and donate your work to them.

3. You Don’t Have Reviews

As explained in the last two points, the reason a client may choose not to work with you has a lot to do with trust and proof.

Potential clients want to know what it will be like to work with you, and the best way for them to find this out is by reading past customer reviews. Hearing the experiences of former or current clients allows a potential client to get an idea about the satisfaction rate of your work.

If you don’t have reviews or recommendation, you have no one to vouch for you, and potential clients will take notice. They’ll wonder why no one has recommended you and probably decide to work with someone who has a list of glowing reviews.

How to fix this: Like your portfolio, if you don’t have reviews, go out and get some. Reach out to past clients and ask for a few kind words. Make it part of your process to follow up and request a recommendation after a project is complete. And, if you don’t have any past clients to ask, do some free work in exchange for a recommendation. Consider it a marketing cost and it will pay off in the end.

4. You are too pushy or not pushy enough

If you are like many freelancers, once you make the introduction with a potential client and send over a proposal, you do one of two things. You either send multiple emails pushing the client to reply or you sit back and wait until the client contacts you. Neither of these are good strategies.

People don’t like being in high-pressure situations, so don’t force the sale on your potential clients by being pushy and repeatedly calling or emailing them. Plus, pressuring your clients into working with you when they aren’t sure you are the best option will create problems down the road. They will be more likely to be unhappy with the final product.

You also don’t want to let your potential clients fall through the cracks by failing to follow up with them at all.

How to fix this: Follow up two to three days after sending the proposal. Don’t push for the sale just yet. Instead tell the client you wanted to be sure they received your proposal and ask if they have any questions or concerns that you can help them with.

If you don’t hear from them after that, follow up in another 2-3 days and ask them when they would like to start the project. Give them an action item to get the ball rolling. And, if you don’t hear from them after that, you may want to move on. As mentioned above, clients who are unsure are not the ideal clients you want to work with.

5. You sell your services, not your value

In closing, the reason why clients aren’t deciding to work with you is simply because they don’t want to. They do not see the value in doing business with you.
This could be because your services don’t match their needs. But more than likely, it’s because you haven’t shown them the value you can provide.

You showed them what you can do. You outlined your services. But you didn’t show them the true value of those services. You didn’t clearly define the benefits they would receive by moving forward with the project.
How to Fix This: Make the value you provide clear by showing the client what they will get in return for working with you. Show them how you will make their life easier, make their business stronger, save them time, etc. Lay out the benefits by using “so that” statements. Explain how you will [provide a service] so that [this benefit will happen].

The business of freelancing involves both securing work and doing work. But, the income is tied to doing work. So make sure you aren’t making these mistakes and pushing away potential clients and revenue.

Establish a professional online appearance, create an impressive portfolio, curate a list of reviews, gently but persuasively nudge your clients forward, and highlight your true value to stop missing out on potential jobs and start reeling in the clients.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Raubi Marie Perilli

Raubi Marie Perilli is writer, freelancer, marketer, freedom junkie, and founder of Simply Stated Media. She writes about freelancing, online marketing, and finding your way out of "the funk."