Losing Business to Bad Developers? Here’s How to Stop That – and Sell Yourself

Losing Business to Bad Developers? Here’s How to Stop That – and Sell Yourself

As cloud-based software, mobile apps, and online chat platforms make it easier to work outside the traditional office, we’re seeing the amount of freelance talent grow. According to a study done by Freelancers Union in 2014, 34% of the American workforce is freelancing.

That spells both good and bad news for web developers, and in particular anyone who works with WordPress. The good news is that it’s quickly becoming the norm to work as a freelancer, giving you the freedom to work when you want, where you want and with whom you want. The bad news is that, as freelancing becomes more of an attractive and acceptable employment option, the market is going to be filled with less-than-competent web developers to compete with.

Sadly, being a good web developer isn’t enough to guarantee you’ll beat out those who are less qualified or talented in the competition for high-quality and high-paying clients.

If you’re tired of watching “bad” developers who deliver mediocre work get all the best jobs, it’s time to take a good, hard look at what you may be doing wrong. Chances are it’s not your design and development skills that need polishing, but it’s your marketing and business savvy that needs some attention.

Making Your Web Development Services Undeniably Attractive

You probably think that it’s enough to have a high-quality portfolio and well-written LinkedIn profile to sell your services. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Your clients don’t understand web design. That’s the whole reason you do what you do: to help them accomplish what they cannot. But here’s the thing: non-developers (and even some bad developers) don’t understand what good design looks like. Many don’t understand the actual work involved to achieve it either. And then there’s the issue of language.

There are a number of disparities in perception you’ll need to overcome in order to take attention away from the louder and seemingly prouder developers who don’t really know what they’re talking about. In all honesty, this may be a problem for some of you. To you, this is about responsive design, white space utilization, UX strategy, and wireframing. To your clients, it’s just dollars and cents.

Can you get my website done and do it for a reasonable price?

So, where does this leave you, the good developer? Well, if you’re currently struggling to land high-quality jobs, it’s most likely because you’re not marketing your business or yourself in a way prospective clients will understand. Rather than let those bad developers continue to snag up jobs that should be yours, use the following tips to help get you out of this rut.

Join the Design Community

For business-minded individuals – like the small business owners and entrepreneurs you’re likely targeting – much of their focus is on reputation. So, it’s more likely they’ll be receptive to working with a good developer with strong contacts and clout within his or her own community than someone who can attest to building 25 high-quality websites in the last two years.

If your name doesn’t currently register within your own community, then now is the time to get involved. The greater a presence you can establish and the more recognizable your name becomes, the easier it’ll be to convince clients that you’re an expert. Join local web developer communities, write content for a major WordPress blog, or stay active with other professionals on Twitter. Just get your name out there in a big way however you can.

Take a Class

Specifically, take business, marketing, and communications classes. The reason why many bad developers can do a better job selling their services than a good developer is because they view themselves as a business owner, first and foremost. If you want to connect with clients on a level they understand and that will help you more effectively sell yourself, you’ll need to learn to take the same approach.

Use the Right Job Resources

While you may find the occasional web development gig on Craigslist or an outsourcing platform like Upwork, those typically aren’t the most reliable places to find high-quality clients. Start turning to the right places and you’ll find that you’re able to reach and attract a higher-end clientele. In-person networking with local business owners is a good place to start. As far as online, try niche and industry-specific job boards.

Research Prospects

Any new work relationship is a two-way street, so don’t make the mistake of assuming that it’s up to your prospective client to do all the research and determine if you’ll be a good fit. You need to do your due diligence as well. Research your contact as well as the company you’re considering signing. Working with companies with bad reputations could hurt you as you try to gain the attention of high-quality clients who are less-than-impressed with your roster of former clients.

Be Confident

Unless your less-than-qualified counterparts are giving their work away for peanuts, the reason they’re beating you to these jobs is a matter of confidence. I know it can be frustrating having to hunt down new clients and doing all this work to ensure that they’re a good fit, but don’t let desperation or frustration show through. Be confident and speak honestly about your high-caliber work as a web developer and, more importantly, as their new business partner.

Don’t Be Shy

If there is a company you’re a fan of and you discover that they’re looking for a web developer, don’t be shy. Throw your hat into the ring. There’s no need to wait for an invitation or to quietly submit an application. If you’ve got extra enthusiasm to spare and it’s genuine, that may make the difference between convincing a client to take on a good developer instead of a bad one.

Get Testimonials

Social proof is incredibly important to businesses and consumers alike. Without it, you’re going to struggle in getting prospective clients to really “know” why you’re a worthwhile candidate (despite your awesome portfolio, web development know-how, etc.) Remember: this is about speaking to them in terms they understand, and sometimes it’s best to let previous clients do that for you. So, gather up those testimonials and show them off proudly.

Carve out a Niche

Bad developers are the ones more likely to raise their hands and say, “Yes, I can do that, that, this, that, and the other thing, too!” But is that really reasonable? No, of course not.

Web development is not easy work. Add to that the wide variety of audience types (which is a big deal when you’re trying to develop a high-converting website), and anyone who says they can develop for anyone, anywhere, anytime is not being honest. So, carve out a niche for yourself—in a space that you inherently understand—and use your portfolio to support that claim.

Focus on the Client

When meeting with prospective clients, speak to them on a level they’ll understand and always remember to keep the focus on the client. You can show them your portfolio and discuss your skill set as it pertains to the job, but always translate it into something they understand: how your work as a web developer results in major successes for your clients.

Learn Their Language

You’re most likely used to talking in developer “speak”. While that’s fine for the web development community, it’s won’t mean much to your clients. You’ll literally need to talk to them in a language they understand. This means terms like “conversions,” “pipelines,” and “engagement” need to become part of your vocabulary.

Create a Freebie

Some clients will simply be impossible to land no matter what you try. That’s why it’s always great to have a high-value freebie to entice them with. It doesn’t mean you need to go developing your own WordPress plugin (though that would be pretty impressive). Instead, focus on creating something that’ll address a very specific pain point, but won’t require you to give everything away for free. Something like a short video tutorial or e-book would work.

Don’t Undersell Yourself

So long as your rates are in line with the industry standard—as well as your level of experience—you should never be afraid to turn down a client who won’t pay what you’re asking for. If they’re trying to undercut your wage, then you can be sure they’ll continue to ask for more and more as they pay you less later on. By establishing what you’re worth and working with clients who respect that, you’ll find that you attract a better breed of client in general.

Drop Bad Clients

There are always going to be cases where it doesn’t matter how much time you spend researching clients or how much time you actually spend working for clients. Sometimes you end up with bad apples.

Never be afraid to drop bad clients. By that I mean the ones who take up too much of your time with unnecessary texting and calls, who ask for free work, who have big demands but provide little direction, or the ones who are negative about everything. You can’t afford to let anyone be a drain on you and compromise the work you do for others.

Take Onboarding Seriously

The more you can adjust your own process to align with the way your clients handle their own business matters, the better. That’s why taking a serious approach to the onboarding process will only help to reaffirm that credibility you want to instill in clients.

For instance, you should have an official client contract ready to go, with payment terms defined, project phases outlined, deadlines set, deliverables broken out, and copyright terms clearly stated. Here are some more tips on how to write proposals you should follow.

Business-minded individuals will respect that. Those that don’t aren’t worth working with.

Stay on Top of Marketing

Marketing isn’t just for the businesses you create websites for. You’re a business owner now, too, so you should do the same. This means:

  • Keep your site (and portfolio) up-to-date and reflective of your work.
  • Be active on social and talk about matters that are relevant to your target audience.
  • Blog regularly.
  • Create an ongoing newsletter that you can send out to contacts, current clients, and prospects.

The more ways you can demonstrate your professionalism and web development know-how, the better. And if you want more tips, check out our article 17 Simple Marketing Tips and Tools to Boost Your WordPress Business.

Wrapping Up

Bad developers may be able to talk a good game, but their true work ethic or lack of skills will show through eventually. Rather than wait for this to happen so you can swoop in and nab their good clients, be proactive. Gain the marketing skills, business savvy, and confidence now so you can actively land those great jobs you deserve.

Brenda Barron
Over to you: What's something you could do today to spruce up your business and make it standout from the competition?