How Web Developers and Freelancers can Forge Profitable Business and Client Relationships

| July 23rd, 2012 | , , , , ,

Web Development and Freelance Business and Client Relationships

Running your own business as a web developer — whether you’ve got a team of developers or are freelancing — you will be faced with the challenge of bringing in a steady stream of revenue. You may be wondering how to build business relationships that are profitable and have consistent cash flow. This takes work, regardless of how talented at web development you or your agency may be. Smoothing out the ebbs and flows of an erratic revenue stream requires building relationships within your own web development circles and beyond. It requires interacting with a greater network of web designers, print designers, marketing firms and creative agencies — anyone who might be able to refer work your way. In the twelve years we’ve been doing web development at Pelago we’ve learned a thing or two about forging profitable business relationships.

Connect with print and web design agencies

Not everyone can code. There are plenty of more traditional print-oriented designers and agencies who offer web design services, but don’t have the in-house expertise to develop web sites. And there are web design agencies who may need help developing web sites when business picks up. You want to connect with them. Do a few jobs together so they can experience firsthand how well you work with a team. Do good work and they will hire you again and again. Fielding web development jobs from a print or web design agency is a great way to maintain a steady cash flow. And the more you work with the same group of people at these web and creative agencies, the more rapport you will develop, which just makes working together a no-brainer in the log run.

Develop long-term relationships

Think of your web development code — server side, Javascript, HTML, CSS —  like a one-off resume left at each company, a snapshot in time, on each server where you have worked. Other developers will be maintaining your code once you’ve left. They’ll either be updating it quickly and easily or cursing your name. The client may not be able to understand your code, but once someone explains it to them it can make or break your relationship. It’s up to you what kind of impression you are going to make. Are you going to write solid code that is easily maintainable? Or are you going to do just enough hit-and-run coding to get paid?

Mingle, network, be a part of the conversation

Don’t take out an ad in the yellow pages or your local paper. The same goes for posting your services on freelance job sites where work usually goes to the lowest bidder. If you do good work it will speak louder then any advertisement, and will inspire other people to speak for you, too. Referrals are the best way to bring in new business because the lead is pre-qualified by someone you and the client both know. Start building client relationships by going to meetups. Join the local chapter of a web-related professional organization and attend its meetings. Mingle with professionals and keep in touch with them. Take friends, colleagues and associates to lunch and talk shop. Give some business cards to your family and friends. Just start putting the word out there, then keep putting it out there. Meanwhile, start referring work out to your network. Be a giver and a taker. People are going to talk, so you might as well be part of the conversation.

Photo credit: Tangueros by Roberto Trm

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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