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December 27, 2013

What would you do … if a prospect had no clue?

I've been identifying red flags lately and collecting advice on what to do. Here's one I'd love to hear from you on, if this has happened to you, especially:


A prospect calls and says, “I just need a logo and a brochure. It’s a small project and won’t take long. Can I have a quick price?”

"No clue" doesn't mean they're bad people or would even be a bad client. It just means they need to be educated, without being patronizing, of course, which is going to cost more.

Has something like this happened to you? What else do they say that raises this red flag and betrays their ignorance? What did you do?



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For me, this situation is more the norm than not. I specialize in web design using Wordpress, and I would say 95% of the people who come to me for web services think it's all quick and easy, mostly because they have become so accustomed to immediacy in their daily lives.

I have learned that a detailed estimate/proposal, carefully written so it's not filled with "geek speak" is the answer for me. It lays out exactly what goes into the design and development of a site, and if the prospect is not willing to read through the proposal, then I have no doubt they will not be willing to do what it takes to finish their own project.

The negative to this is that it can take quite a bit of time to prepare the proposal (even with a template), so many times I charge an up-front fee for that time which is then applied to the project if the prospect signs on.

I honestly try to avoid clients like that. Sometimes it's an honest mistake, they really just needed to be educated, but oftentimes I find it's rooted in a low view/value of design.

I encounter this from time to time, and more often than not, it really is a matter of educating them. They do a quick search on google and find a ton of discount logo websites and assume that's what you expect to pay. They also don't know what goes into putting together an estimate for them so they're not providing you the info they need. That's why I have a detailed list of question on my website that they fill out as a "proposal request form". This gives me a better idea of what they need. Even if they send me an email directly, without using my form, I will direct them back to my form before I setup time to chat with them on the phone. I find that this has cut back on education time when I get these types of requests.

When I get this kind of inquiry, it immediately raises a red flag and I begin asking questions - the answers to which will be the basis of a design brief and project estimate. I figure that by asking the questions it'll put the idea in the prospect's mind that this is serious, my time and creative effort is valuable, and the outcome - the design solution(s) - is also valuable and worth their investment. Once they've answered the questions (this is either over the phone or via email) the red flag has either disappeared because the prospect is somewhat educated, or has become bigger, in which case I thank them for inquiring and let them know I can't help them. Asking the questions up front seems to deter undesirable prospects.

It's interesting to note that this kind of inquiry comes from business listings (yelp, yp, etc) most of the time and doesn't happen when a prospect is referred to me by a client.

I am not a web designer but I do have client concerns like this. I tend to turn down clients who come from the perspective that "this should be cheap." It seems like setting expectations and creating a small barrier like a pre-engagement questionnaire are the quickest ways to prevent the loss of time and energy involved in educating a client like this. Even in the case of a direct referral, the referring client has practices and a story about working with you that set expectations.

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