Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Prequalifying Prospects

Not everyone is the right fit for your business. It's important to make sure the people you're talking to--whether you're cold calling or networking or sending a postcard campaign--are the right people. Here are the questions I ask when trying to prequalify someone as a prospect.

Do they have the budget? None of us--if we've been in business for more than five minutes--wants to be the cheap option. Of course, not every business will be able to hire you--but you only want to work with the ones who have the budget to pay your fee without trying to nickel-and-dime you, complain about deposits, or slow-ball your final invoice. (Of course, even companies who have the budget do this anyway. But still.)

When vetting a possible partner or customer, check out their business. You may or may not be able to find out directly what their budget for freelancers is, but there are some good signs that they aren't a broke start-up. How long have they been in business? Does their website look professionally designed or like the owner threw it together himself? What kinds of business do they go after--and how much is each contract likely to be worth? Do they have an address in a swank part of town?

Are they the decision-maker? Maybe the person you're talking to loves your work--but they have no ability to get you hired. It's happened to me before. Generally, these enthusiastic people get your hopes up--and then let them down when their boss nixes it. If you can, figure out who's nixing their projects and see if you can talk to them directly.

Do they hire freelancers? If the company has never hired freelancers before, it's not necessarily a bad sign--but you may have more hitches in your process than usual. You may have to educate the client about how freelance arrangements work, the fact that your fees aren't higher than usual, and that an up front deposit is the norm. Be prepared for some hand-holding.

Do they regularly need work like yours? Really, not a lot of companies don't need some sort of written marketing materials. But does this company use the type of marketing you specialize in?

How do YOU prequalify your prospects?

1 comment:

Jenn Mattern said...

Great post! Sometimes it's easy to get excited about a potential gig, and we sink in energy just to have it fall through. The issue of "who's in charge?" is particularly important, not only on the hiring front but also when it comes to working conditions -- how many people are going to be asking you for edits for example? We don't hear enough about prequalifying writing clients, so thanks for covering it.