How to Talk to Clients if You Want to Get Hired


The days when blogging was just a hobby of teenagers are gone; now, even entrepreneurs want to have their own blogs, but do you know how to talk to clients? What does this mean to freelance web designers?

It means that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to spend money on a custom design for their blogs. How can you impress these potential clients and get lucrative jobs?

Talk to your potential clients  about what is important to THEM!

What Every Freelancer Needs to Understand: Features vs. Benefits

In copy-writing, there is a very important concept called features and benefits. What is the difference?

  • Features are qualities of a product or a service (e.g. these shoes are made of waterproof material)
  • Benefits are the benefits that a person will get because of using a product or a service (e.g. your feet won’t get wet if you wear these shoes).

People make buying decisions based on benefits and then rationalize those decisions to themselves using features. Consequently, if you want to sell something to someone, you should always emphasize benefits, not features. Now, how can you use this principle in order to get more web design clients?

Here’s how Ramit Sethi, a New York Times best-selling author and an A-list blogger who has  helped thousands of people earn more money as freelancers, answered this question:

Most people focus on features.

They say: “Here’s what you get with my web design service: you get a hosting account, you get ten pages design, you get this, you get that”.

Well…the client doesn’t care!

What do the clients want fundamentally? They want to make more money, they want to get more clients, they want to spend less time, they just want it handled. You can find this out by talking to them and doing research.

This is where you start doing your homework. You figure out what it is that they want and use it to present your services as a benefit. So, instead of saying “You get ten web pages”, you say: “Look, my goal is to help you increase the number of subscribers by 25%” or, better yet, “My goal is to help you increase your revenue by 15%”. That is a benefit. Nobody cares about how many pages it is, or how much time you’re going to spend on it or what software you’ll use. They don’t care about all that. They want more money, more clients, in less time. Focus on what THEY want, not what you want.

Look, I’ll be honest here: many web designers have absolutely no clue what their clients want. In fact, they are so bad, that they talk to their clients in a language that their clients don’t even understand (newsflash: most people who hire web designers are not web designers themselves and therefore they don’t necessarily care about HTML 5, Joomla, jQuery, CSS, etc.). No wonder web designers all over the world struggle with getting clients!

Good news is that it’s very easy to differentiate yourself from everyone else and impress your potential client if you know at least a little bit about online marketing.

What do bloggers want?

Well, unlike many other questions, such as what women want or, equally difficult, what men want, the question what bloggers want is relatively easy to answer.

Here are three things that almost all entrepreneurs who have blogs want:

  1. More traffic.
  2. More e-mail subscribers.
  3. More sales/revenue.

You, as a web designer, can help them get more subscribers and more sales, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on getting your client more e-mail subscribers (you would need some more advanced online marketing knowledge in order to increase sales by tweaking the design).

What’s up with the obsession with collecting e-mail addresses?

Look, in order to impress your client with your online marketing knowledge, you need to know at least a little bit of theory, so here it goes..

An E-mail list is one of the most valuable assets you can have as a blogger. That’s because it’s much easier to sell to your e-mail list than to random visitors to your blog. Also, the larger an e-mail list you have, the less you need to rely on external sources of traffic, such as Google. That’s why everyone is focusing on building their e-mail lists at the moment (I agree with Derek Halpern on this: if you’re not building an e-mail list, you’re an idiot).

Conversion rate is the percentage rate that shows how many people out of every 100 who were exposed to a call for action do what you asked them to do. In this article, I’ll use the term conversion rate to describe the number of people who subscribe to an e-mail list out of every 100 who visit that website, like, 5% conversion rate means that 5 people out of 100 subscribed to an e-mail list. This is the number that you will try to increase for your client. Why?

Most blogs are losing out on potential subscribers every day simply because they are not optimized for conversions. An increase from 5% conversion rate to 7% conversion rate might not sound like a lot, but it means that you go from 50 subscribers  to 70 subscribers for 1,000 visitors, and from 500 to 700 subscribers for  10,000 visitors. This really adds up over time, therefore increasing the conversion rate of a blog will help the blogger to build their most important asset faster, and therefore earn more money in the long run.

It’s not enough to talk to clients – you have to deliver what you have promised!

Here’s the thing: bloggers know how important their conversion rate is, and tend to obsess over that number, therefore the words “conversion rate” will immediately get the attention of your potential client. Your chances of getting the job will increase dramatically if you offer them a design that will  increase their conversion rate.  However, if you make promises like, you have to be able to deliver what you promised. How can you do that?

1. Add a feature box

Here’s what a feature box looks like:

Talk to Clients and Get Hired Each Time You Say These Two Magic Words

This particular feature box increased the conversion rate of DIY themes blog by 51.7%.

Adding a feature box is an incredibly effective way to increase the conversion rate of a website.

2. Add opt-in forms to the “About” page

The “About” page is one of the most visited pages on most blogs.

Online marketing expert Derek Halpern recommends adding three opt-in forms to one’s “About” page following this layout:

  • Section 1: A persuasive, benefit driven headline.
  • Section 2: A short, reassuring benefit driven introduction.
  • An opt-in form.
  • Section 3: Social proof, testimonials, and other reassurance.
  • An opt-in form.
  • Section 4: Personal story.
  • Section 5: The closer.
  • An opt-in form.

Most people don’t even have one opt-in form on their “About” pages, so adding three of them there will definitely increase their conversion rate, and bring them more subscribers.

3. Add an opt-in form below each post

On the Internet, when people don’t like what they see, they leave immediately, therefore if someone gets to the end of a blog post, there’s a pretty good chance that they liked what they just read and are interested in reading more of your content. What could be a better time to offer them to subscribe to your blog’s e-mail list?

4. Add an opt-in form to the top of the sidebar

Now, most bloggers have an opt-in form on the top of the sidebar, so you won’t really need to add it there for them, BUT…

Many people make a mistake of cluttering their sidebar: they add their social media badges, Twitter feed, advertisements, and everything else that they can think of. The problem with this is that all that random stuff distracts people from the opt-in form and prevents them from subscribing to the e-mail list. Consequently, it’s easy to increase the conversion rate of a blog by simply stripping away all that unnecessary clutter: leave only the opt-in form and maybe an “About” paragraph or links to resources pages on the sidebar.

5. Add a pop-up window asking to opt-in

Okay, we all are thinking it, so I will just say it: pop-up windows that ask you to opt-in are incredibly annoying.

However, it seems that no matter how obnoxious these pop-ups are, they tend to drastically increase the conversion rate of a website (sometimes by 100% or even 200%). It might seem hard to believe, but adding a pop-up with an opt-in form is pretty much a guaranteed way to increase the conversion rate of any website.

Don’t make this mistake when pitching your client!

Talk to Clients and Get Hired Each Time You Say These Two Magic Words

Now, all these things are not exactly the forbidden knowledge of a secret society, and you probably already knew that bloggers want to increase the conversion rate of their websites and maybe you even knew how you can help them do that. Are you sure that you convey this when you are pitching to potential clients, though?

Let me share one story from my personal experience. I’m not a web designer myself, therefore when I needed a landing page, I posted a job on one of the freelance job boards. I got a lot of responses straightaway. The problem was that most pitches I received were so terrible that they made me want to go and get a prescription for anti-depressant pills. Why?

Almost all of them looked like this (that’s an excerpt from a real pitch I got):

I am a freelance web designer with having more than five year experience in Website designs, HTML, XHTML, Web2.0, J-Query, HTML5, Layout, W3c Standard, CSS, iPhone and Android UI Design, environment with projects involving Requirement gathering, High level design, low level design, e-commerce, Maganto, Joomla Home page Design and theme integration.

You can probably guess by now that the most important thing to a person who wants a landing page is a conversion rate. However, NO ONE even mentioned the words “conversion rate”, everyone just kept throwing acronyms at me that I don’t even understand (what’s a W3c Standard?). That’s not the way to approach a client if you want to get the job. Remember, most clients don’t care whether you know HTML5 or not, they care whether your design will help them get more e-mail subscribers and sell more of their products or services.

Look, the easiest way to stand out from a bunch of people who are talking in sequences of acronyms is to talk to a client in a language they understand. Don’t talk about HTML5 and Joomla, talk about increasing their conversion rates, getting them more e-mail subscribers, getting them more sales. THAT is what’s going to get you clients (and possibly  keep them coming back for years to come if you do a good job). You will be surprised how much easier it is to get clients when you focus on benefits instead of features.

It’s not enough to be a good web designer anymore!

Many people don’t realize that times have changed. Today, in this global economy, you are not competing for jobs against web designers from your hometown, you are competing for jobs against web designers from all over the world. There will always be people who are more skilled than you or who are able to charge lower prices than you (or both).  You have to be able to bring something more than web design skills or low prices to the table if you want to get the job. What can you do to stand out from the crowd?

One of the best competitive advantages that you can have as a web designer is an in-depth knowledge of online marketing. It’s safe to say that most people who hire web designers are running some sort of a business and believe me, they are tired of dealing with web designers who don’t understand the basic concepts of online marketing, because it just makes everything  so much harder. Sure, entrepreneurs want websites that look good, but, more importantly, they want websites that convert, and if you can build websites  that are both beautiful and convert well,  entrepreneurs  will be more than happy to hire you. That’s why becoming savvy in online marketing might be one of the best moves that you can make in your web design career

Remember, if you want to be a successful freelance web designer, you have to understand that it’s not about you, it’s about the client. Talk to clients and understand the problems they have, come up with the solutions for them and learn to explain the benefits that they will get in a language they understand. This is what will allow you to get more clients, get better clients, and charge higher rates. The sooner you shift your mindset from “I, I, I,” to “client, client, client”, the better.

P.S. Guys, in case you want to learn more about online marketing, but aren’t sure where to start, read this article, it’s a list of trustworthy websites that will help you learn online marketing from scratch (compiled by yours truly).



  1. Gowthami

    Nice Article, it will be helpful to freshers and give somemore details about this and how to interact with clients and please put some Conversions between two persons 10 to 15 conversion I think its needed

  2. Great post
    Totally agree”It’s not enough to talk to clients – you have to deliver what you have promised!”
    I must admit as soon as I saw the box come up I did hit the X without even reading it.
    Thanks, Dean

  3. Really great article. I try to avoid using jargon with clients, but then sometimes I see flashy websites or sales people who have great success wowing clients with jargon (quite of nonsense at that) and wonder whether I should demosntrate that I do know all the fancy words (like what w3c standarda are ; ))

    I have real conflict with your comments about the popups. I close them immediately, on principle, and try to design websites based on a principle of not doing anything I wouldn’t like as a user. But then you go and give us all those stats to say it actually has a huge effect… I’m really torn.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      I think people who impress their clients with using a lot of technical jargon might be going after a specific type of clients who care about those details.

      It all depends on what is your ideal customer. Experiment with different pitches and track the result. This way, you should be able to figure out what works in your particular situation :)

      Hm, with pop-ups, you can always suggest the client to run A/B test to see whether having a pop-up increases their conversion rates. This way, they get to see the results themselves, and decide whether to keep the pop-up or not. No need to feel torn about it :)

  4. Thank you very much. This is one of the sales articles who helped me the most since I started to investigate the field. I am a programmer and just have one question: What did the person you finally hired for the design write in his offer?

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      I’m glad to hear that you found the article helpful! :)

      Rean, the editor of 1WD, recommended me Michael, who’s a writer at 1WD, so I hired Michael for that sales page.

      He didn’t need to pitch me since I approached him not vice versa.

      I think that from the client’s perspective, it’s better to go with recommendations from people you trust on the matter, or to find web designers whose work you like and contact them personally on the matter, plus it’s always best to look for people with who you can establish a long-term business relationship.

      Meanwhile, from web designers perspective, it’s also better to approach clients directly, and then do an excellent job and aim to build a long-term business relationship, plus try to get referrals out of that.

      Freelance job boards are not good for anyone really ;)

      P.S. You might like this interview with Ramit Sethi about how to earn more as a freelance web designer:

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Interesting, never heard this, do you have some data to back it up? :)

  5. Thank you for the helpful article! I completely agree that clients want to get understandable and professional support without searching the meaning of technical jargon.

  6. maybe it’s just me but I’d say about 30% of my clients ask a lot of technical questions, some of them actually want to know about specific technical features on their website etc

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Conrad!

      I guess that depends on the type of clients that you work with.

      The point is to talk to your clients in their language about what is important to them: if they care about technical issues, talk about technical issues, if they don’t care about technical issues, don’t talk about technical issues.

  7. Nice article, totally agree that clients mostly want help getting from Point A to Point B successfully. They usually don’t care about the technical jargon, they just want help reaching their goals.

  8. Great read! While I don’t necessarily agree with that many opt-ins, I can see how they do help with conversion rates. Nevertheless, I’ll definitely put some of your advice to good use. Thanks!

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Alfonse!

      That many opt-in forms might sound bad, but they don’t look bad, when done right.

      You can check out, there are loads of opt-in forms there, but the design still looks good.

  9. RustyH

    I feel many of my clients just want pretty and functional. ROI, opt-ins… that is what they find a marketing guy to do. I’m not saying designers should stay away from this aspect, my clients just don’t connect this to the web design process.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, RustyH!

      Pretty much everyone who runs some sort of business want more sales. You can connect web design and sales in your pitch if they don’t see the connection themselves. This will make your pitch they more appealing than “pretty and functional” talk.

  10. Great article as per usual on your site. What I have picked from this is that yes opt-ins are good, I am also in habit of pressing the big “X” as soon as I see one, and rarely read the first word on it. Sure they might work….but.

    On to what you are telling clients when selling your services… I will increase your sales by…. Hmmm, I am certain if I had this in my sales pitch, they will expect this to happen, they will be on your tail should they not have more sales. Placing some opt-ins might be a good idea, but telling a customer that you will increase sales etc is fraught with danger in my opinion. However, I am a developer/designer. Am Sh!thouse at sales and marketing… But I am scared to say to a client I will increase your sales…

    What is your opinion on this?

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Ciaran!

      You see, it’s impossible to predict the exact increase in conversion rate/sales/revenue/etc, but there are things that you can do that are very likely to increase those things.

      You don’t need to promise things that you can’t deliver because that will get you in trouble. However, if you are pitching a blogger, he or she probably cares a lot about building their e-mail list. You can say “Hey! Here’s an interesting study that Derek Halpern did that increased their conversion rates by this percentage simply by adding a feature box to their blog I think that you can build your list much faster by doing the exact same thing. I can create a feature box and set everything up for you!” This way, you are not promising anything, you are suggesting an idea, backing up with a case study, and offering to take care of everything.

      The point here is to talk with your client in their language. Don’t talk to them about things like HTML, jQuery and 10-page websites. They don’t care about it. Look for the ways to offer a solution to the problems that they have and then explain it to them in THEIR language.

      • Ahh yes ok. Thank you very much for your reply and making it clear on what you advise on displaying a case study. I have just signed up to Social Triggers from Derek to see what he has got for me.

  11. Awais Raza

    A very good article, I loved it. Keep writing good articles for us. I would like to read some more articles related to freelance web designing.

  12. Couldn’t have put it better myself. So many people are, “Joomla this, WordPress that” when in reality all the client wants is a website that works and will make them money.

    There are however benefits to different platforms, to sites that load fast and pages that conform to the spec, but that needs explaining in a language that a client can understand.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Gareth!

      Yes, there are differences between the platforms, but as you say, you need to explain them in a language that clients understand.

      Plus, many people don’t care much about loading speed, but if you will show them the stats that poor loading speed lowers conversion rates, they will be interested in what you have to say.

  13. That’s a lot of opt-ins.. Most of them seem reasonable, but I’m going to have to say that I clicked the ‘x’ on the pop-up the second it came up, without reading a word of it.

    With pop-up boxes, your site is asking me to subscribe to what you say before I even know your opinions. Keep the opt-ins to content areas and sidebars.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Marcus!

      Yes, I hate pop-ups as well, and I can’t remember when was the last time I signed up through one of those.

      However, for some reason that I don’t really understand, having a pop-up tends to drastically increase conversion rates of a website

      I would say that they are probably not the best fit for personal websites, but when it comes to multi-author blogs or online stores, it might be a good solution.

      • Did you ever tried to think about what that conversion rate is?

        I mean, why that user subscribed to that newsletter? Did she/he actually reads the e-mails? Did she/he ever go back to the site and buy something?

        Now, can you answer that questions for users that subscribed by every different way? I don’t have the answers, but I have a clue that users from pop-up boxes are poison to mail lists.

  14. Thanks Agota, I really enjoyed reading this article. I am just starting out in the freelance world and I am sure I will be on to a good start with your advice here (and on your founderstips blog/site). Your article has given me a better viewpoint on how to approach and discuss things with my future clients!!

  15. Tahmid

    Thanks. I enjoyed the post very much. You got some good points. As a web designer I never mention about the site “conversion rate” to my clients! Buy I should do it. I will try next time :-)

  16. Btw, I don’t agree with using popup signups or the like. I really get annoyed when, I’m browsing a website, reading something interesting, when suddenly this thing pops up from nowhere at point blank range. If it were a signup/login form, I’d rather leave it somewhere on the side or on the header area somewhere if it’s not a blog. And if it’s a blog, a subscription form then, I’d probably show it somewhere on the reading space like an advertisement, but better designed to look part of the page. This way, the subscription form gets seen clearly as the reader of the blog page is reading content around the form and is also not being annoying and driving the reader crazy!

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte

      Hey, Bravo.I!

      I get what you are saying. However, tests show that adding a pop-up increases conversion rates dramatically, so it’s a choice between annoying some people and getting more e-mail subscribers (which equals making more money in the long run). It’s always better to make business decisions based on data, not on your own personal feelings and opinions.

  17. ‘anti-depressant pills’ huh? I know that feeling :). The feeling’s just short of making me get any sort of pill though!