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This article was published on February 24, 2013

How prequalifying your potential clients could save you time

How prequalifying your potential clients could save you time
Amber Leigh Turner
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Amber Leigh Turner

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over ei Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over eight years, starting early in her collegiate career. Amber has a unique passion for not only all things design, but all things business as well. Freelancing as a student gave Amber an opportunity to write a student freelancing book, appropriately named Students Freelancing 101: A Start to Finish Course to Becoming a Student Freelancing, to help other students who want to start freelancing. Follow her on Twitter. Email her at

More than likely when you bought your house, you went through a process commonly known as pre-qualifying. The lender looked at all of your financials and made a determination on if and how much they can lend you. Ever wondered why they wanted all of this information while you were just shopping around for the best mortgage provider? You had it in your head that you were providing them business, so why were they going through the process of determining if you were a good fit for them?

There are several other times when pre-qualification just makes sense. Ever been on a job interview and they asked you to come back for a second interview? You just went through the employer’s pre-qualifying stage. More than likely, your prospective clients are “interviewing” you to see if you are the best fit for their project. They are secretly running you through their very own pre-qualifying process. They want to know if you can deliver what they want, within their budget, and provide great results.

But why should they be the only one in the conversation using a pre-qualifying process?  I have come to the realization in my business that I not only need to bring my A-game when prospects approach me, but I should also pre-qualify them as well.

While my process isn’t as sophisticated as a loan officer about to offer someone a six figure (or more) mortgage, I do have a few set “rules” that I try to stick to when prospects contact me. I do this because I stay fairly busy and do whatever I can to save some time.

Thus, I run my prospects through the pre-qualifying process to find out if they are a good fit for me. Not every email or phone call from a prospect is a good fit for me or my business. Instead of spending time on these prospects that won’t pan out otherwise, I quickly pre-qualify them to determine if they are a good match for the services I provide. The operative word being “quickly.”

With all of this said, establishing a quick pre-qualifying process for your prospective clients can not only save you time but also allow you to focus on the prospects that are a match made in heaven. Below are a few guidelines to help you create your own pre-qualifying process for clients. Just keep in mind that this process is meant to be a quick one, so you can achieve this by keeping your process simple.

Are they requesting services you offer?

Are they looking for services that are not in your repertoire? Or are you 1000% sure you can help them given your current service offerings? For example, are they requesting changes to their current website when you only offer this service to existing sites that you manage? Chances are they are requesting something outside of the scope of services you offer (they may not even know it either).

Determining if the client is requesting services you offer shouldn’t be the final factor for if you take on the project or not. You can take what you learned here about the client’s project and use the following questions to help make your determination. For instance, if you develop websites for a living, but don’t really like making changes to existing sites, your current schedule may be what makes you say “yes” to the project if your cash flow isn’t up where it should be.

Are they serious?

How serious do they seem to be? This one for me is one of the hardest to judge. I normally evaluate how serious they are on a few different levels, such as their overall excitement about the project, how much detail they are willing to give, if they only focused on my price, their deadline, and their willingness to work with me.

However, even after going through these things, sometimes it isn’t enough to determine how serious they are. One key thing that seems to work is stating that I require a deposit and a signed agreement before I start work. The serious clients will often not be shaken by this request while those who aren’t so serious will run for the hills.

What is their budget?

Asking the prospect for their budget shouldn’t be a bad thing. If a client doesn’t have the adequate budget for their project, you can do either one of two things: ask questions on why and how that budget was set and work to see if the budget can be changed; or politely explain that the budget will not work for the type of work they are requesting.

Depending on how you conduct business, the budget question can be the major factor, or even the only factor, in determining if a prospect is a good fit for you. If the client’s budget won’t work, it’s up to you based on your other pre-qualifications for if you would like to continue discussing the project with them.

What does your schedule look like?

Why should your schedule play a role in the pre-qualifying process? Well, it has everything to do with how your business is performing. Is your schedule full of projects? Then you are blessed enough to be a bit more selective in the projects you can take on and in turn allow you to take on your dream projects.

However, if you don’t have that many projects on deck, you may need to be less picky on the projects you take on, even if it means sacrificing a bit on the other pre-qualifications. Keep in mind, you have bills to pay, so you may have to take on a project from time to time that is less than ideal just to put food on the table.

Gut feeling: is it a good match?

Then of course is the “gut feeling” rule. How do you feel about the project? Are you excited and secretly hoping you land the project? Or are there several red flags are making you think twice about it? Your gut feeling is a good indicator on if you should take on the project.

Of course if you are excited about it and everything checks out, then go for the project. However, if you are sick to your stomach over the possibility of working with the client or on their project, do you really want to put yourself through that misery?

Conclusion – you are your best judge.

There have been clients of mine that didn’t meet hardly any of my pre-qualifications, but I still took the job anyways. The reason is often because there are other things that come up that make the project more desirable to work on than what you had in your pre-qualification checklist. For instance, are you needing to build your portfolio and this project will help you do just that? In the end, you are your best judge in determining if a client is a good fit for you.

However you decide to set up your pre-qualification process, make sure it is something you can execute quickly (within the same phone conversation or in a couple of emails), so you can save your precious time and use that time on prospects that make you excited to go to work everyday.

Image: Thinkstock

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