Starting A Business
9 questions to determine your ideal client
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You already know you need to identify your ideal client. The process starts with visualizing the person most likely to buy your service or product, and then describing them in full detail from demographics to their emotional state.
You’ve described their personality, traits, values, buying behavior, interests, and pain points.
You’ve considered aspects such as market segment and business size. All are crucial in finding and engaging with folks most likely to want — and be willing to pay for — what you’re offering. It’s a crucial step you can’t afford to skip.
But just because someone fits your ideal client demographics description, it doesn’t mean they’re an ideal client for you. I visualize the ideal fit discussion in two sections: Demographic fit, and Circumstantial fit.
Demographic fit is just what it sounds like. By all indications, clients matching all of your demographic criteria should be a good fit. But what is Circumstantial fit? The client could check every box in your Demographic fit list, but circumstances still indicate it would be unwise to engage.
Related: Tips for creating an ideal client profile and putting it to work
Why include Circumstantial fit as part of the overall client evaluation?
There’s no shortage of guidance around Demographic fit. Coming up with your own list of Circumstantial fit questions is equally important.
There’s plenty of work out there.
Why be unhappy or resentful when you could just as easily find work and clients you love?
Here are 9 questions not for potential clients, but for you. Formulating answers will help you evaluate responses during initial conversations, and do a better job of pre-qualifying potential clients.
1. How flexible are you willing to be regarding timeline?
Even if they are the perfect Demographic fit, if the client needs a new site in two weeks, and you’re booked for the next two months, that’s a potential deal-breaker.
If the client really wants you, they might wait, but that’s not always an option.
- Are you willing to take rush projects? Would you charge extra?
- Are you willing to re-prioritize your workload in order to take on a highly coveted client?
- Are you willing to extend your working hours to finish this project on time?
2. How flexible are you willing to be regarding price?
If client expectations about the price range are far below yours, where do you draw the line?
- Are you willing to offer a discounted price to get the job, even if it means reducing profit?
- Are you prepared to suggest a phased, scaled-back approach, with hopes that more work can be done in a few months?
- Are you willing to trade services to offset a budget difference?
Related: Pricing for web pros — how to stop sabotaging your pricing strategy
3. Are you willing to engage in a lowest-bid competition to land a project?
If I learn the client is running a bidding war, I gracefully bow out. I already know mine won’t be the lowest proposal. My approach: “You can’t be the best and the cheapest at the same time.”
Are you willing to:
- Low-ball your estimate to win a bidding war?
- Disclose up-front that you don’t engage in low-bid competitions?
- take a lower-paying project that steals time which could be applied to a more profitable project?
4. Are you a purist working in only one platform?
If you’re a WordPress expert, you may think you’d never even talk to someone requesting a Joomla site. But if they fit all of your other criteria, a discussion is worthwhile in case one of you is willing to consider alternatives.
- Will you only work on a single platform?
- Are you willing to learn another platform to land an otherwise-perfect fit client?
5. Is client location a concern?
I prefer taking clients in my major metropolitan area. I like being close enough that we could conceivably meet other than on Zoom, and love helping my clients network with each other.
It’s my policy, so I can allow a rare exception when it makes sense.
One long-term local client suggested his brother contact me about redesigning his website. While the brother lives in another state, I was willing to talk with him given the existing relationship. We hit it off and now both brothers are long-term clients.
- Do you limit clients by geographic constraints?
- In which cases would you consider making an exception?
- How far apart can timezones be, where you still find a comfortable overlap for meetings?
6. Do you evaluate clients for strategic positioning within your portfolio?
If you specialize in a niche market, at some point you could be approached by an existing client’s competitor. If they’re not in the same geographic area, it may not matter, but with so many online businesses, it very well could. If they’re in the same area, it could be a conflict of interest if you’re simultaneously trying to optimize SEO on both sites for the city name or other local factors.
Since so much of my work is local, I avoid taking direct competitors as clients. In addition, I actively volunteer on local political issues and campaigns. It would be unethical to accept website projects for opposing candidates, and I’ve turned down work on this basis.
- Do you have a policy about not accepting clients when there is a conflict of interest?
- If you would consider potentially competing clients, would you notify both clients? If so, what would you say?
7. Are you focused on short-term or long-term work?
Most web pros prefer long-term engagements. Short-term projects without opportunity for ongoing maintenance or additional projects mean more marketing and sales to replace them in your pipeline.
In addition to Care Plan commitment, my ideal-fit clients have additional billable work for me, such as content creation, social media, newsletter, or print collateral. A short-term project doesn’t rule out a client, but I’d rather invest the time in a client with long-term potential.
- What is your definition of “long-term?”
- Would you consider short-term projects, even if there is no long-term work with this client on the horizon?
8. Would you turn down a client based on your perception of their business skills?
There are also red flags you may not discover during the Demographics fit discussion, especially if that first screening is in the form of an online questionnaire. There are no easy questions to ask clients to get answers on these topics, until you’re having a discussion.
Would you turn down a client if they…
- Have an unethical or unstable business model?
- Can’t clearly articulate their business or site goals?
- Don’t seem to be on board with your expectations around payment, communication, and day-to-day engagement?
9. Would you turn down a client based on interpersonal skills?
In addition to the definable characteristics, I listen closely to how the client speaks about their project. Seemingly casual statements can foreshadow potential issues down the road.
Would you turn down a client if they…
- Vocally expressed opinions indicating you’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum?
- Appear to have poor communication skills?
- Have what you consider an offensive sense of humor?
- Say they “want the best” but also say they have a very limited budget?
- Perceive cost to be a burden (as opposed to an investment) and ask “how much will this set me back?”
- Start the conversation with a barter offer?
- Promise visibility in lieu of payment?
- Say “I don’t know how to describe what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it?”
Related: The 17 types of clients that every web designer deals with
What if you discover a Circumstantial bad-fit situation?
If it’s not the right fit, I recommend orchestrating a graceful exit as soon as possible. There’s no point in wasting either party’s time.
- If I can confirm a solid reason for rejection, I’ll do my best to explain it so the client knows why. If it’s an item related to interpersonal skills, I may avoid direct confrontation or embarrassment, and just say “Sorry, I don’t think this is going to work out.”
- If there’s a logical opportunity to make an exception, I’ll consider it — but I never feel obligated. I might tell the client I have a concern, need to consider the options, and will get back to them.
- If the client is someone I’d like to work with but can’t due to Circumstantial fit, and I can suggest another web pro I trust, I’ll offer to make a referral. I’ll say “I can’t take the project, but let me check with some trusted peers, to see if they’re available.” I never want to send referrals without first checking the person has the bandwidth to take on new clients.
Before speaking with potential clients, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of the topics on which you’re willing to compromise. Starting with a self-questionnaire clarifies your boundaries, leading to better preparation before Discovery Sessions or other preliminary “is this a good fit” conversations.
Starting A Business
Want to Start a Business in France? Four Key Tips for American Entrepreneurs
For many Americans, the prospect of France is a romantic one, with hugely popular films and TV series like Amelie, Chocolat and Emily in Paris cementing France’s reputation for glamour, charm and indulgence. But while the appeal of France’s lifestyle and culture is undeniable, the country also offers something that’s less well known – a swath of business opportunities ready to be seized by internationally-minded American entrepreneurs.
With an estimated 4,500 American companies already operating in France, it’s clear that the country is an attractive prospect to American business people, and there is the potential for great success in La République française. However, if you want to start a business in France (or expand there) as a US citizen, it always pays to know as much as possible beforehand in order to plan thoroughly, avoid common pitfalls and give your business the best chance of thriving.
As the third-largest economy in Europe (and seventh in the world), there is a long list of reasons why France is so appealing to business people, some of which include:
- France is a vibrant and diverse nation that boasts a skilled workforce, a large consumer population and access to the world’s largest trading bloc through its membership of the European Union.
- It is also welcoming and business-friendly, with the French government offering financial incentives to both new and established businesses and investing heavily in research and development.
- France has a strategically useful location buttressed by a highly developed transport infrastructure, greatly contributing to ease of travel and transit both within and outside of the country. London, for example, can be reached in under 2 and a half hours by Eurostar from Paris.
- France isn’t only large in terms of its economy – by surface area, France is the largest country in Europe and is made up of thirteen regions that all represent unique opportunities for entrepreneurs. It also borders eight countries and has a Channel, Atlantic and Mediterranean coast.
- An international centre of business, the Paris region enjoys global status as a major business hub, and is the number one region in Europe for hosting the world’s top 500 corporate headquarters.
Five Tips For Starting Your Business in France
One: Be prepared to navigate bureaucracy
For foreign company founders from outside the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, there are predictably some i’s to dot and t’s to cross when setting up a company in France, and the process can take some time. That being said, however, France is welcoming enough to entrepreneurs that you may find there are fewer hoops to jump through than you first expect, and there are many resources you can access to ease the process.
Anyone can establish a business in France by taking steps such as registering a business address and opening a bank account in the country, but if you would like to move to France to embark on your new venture you should apply for a long-stay visa known as the “Entrepreneur/Self-Employed” (VLS-TS) temporary residence permit.
Eligibility is determined via factors such as your ability to provide evidence that you will be engaging in an economically viable activity during your stay, and when it has been approved, the visa authorises residence for 12 months. During this time, you are allowed to live in France and engage in the commercial activity that you have outlined in your application.
This will involve a trip to the French consulate, of which there are ten across major cities in the USA. Once established, you will have to register your French business according to the correct category of your enterprise. It is also important to bear in mind that France has particular regulations across various business sectors and employment practices, and that corporate banks in France require minimum capital investments.
Two: Start learning the language
With a population that has originated in every corner of the globe, multilingualism is not unusual in the USA – one in five US adults speak a language other than English at home, (of which Spanish is the most common). But while the USA has no official language, it’s fair to say that English is the de-facto, and most particularly in the business world.
It is also the case that English is the most widely understood language in the EU, and a significant proportion of Europeans speak English as their second language (with an impressive 25% able to hold a conversation in two additional languages to their mother tongue). What’s more, 39% of French people report they are able to speak English, and many ex-pats move to the country without being able to speak French.
Despite this, it would be wrong to assume that you can easily default to English and thrive while running a business in France. The population of France primarily speaks French in both personal and professional contexts, and the French people have considerable language pride.
English might be widely spoken in business circles, but demonstrating your willingness to learn and use French phrases of greeting will be greatly appreciated, and you should bear in mind that proficiency in English is not a given. Over time, many ex-pats discover that shaping up their French language skills is key to taking advantage of everything the country has to offer.
You should also account for the fact that French is the only accepted language for official documents and contracts, and as 61% of French people don’t speak English, you will need a plan for smoothing over language incompatibilities in your business operations.
Three: Consider your new audience
In many important ways, France is not vastly different from the US, but it is still important not to underestimate cultural differences when setting up or expanding a business here. While certainly smaller than the US, it’s also important to remember that France is far from small by European standards, and like the differences between US states, there is significant regional variability across the country.
Whether it’s something simple such as the greater prevalence of smoking amongst French adults (around 33% versus 12% in the US) and the lack of a widespread tipping culture, or more complex subtleties in language, politics and history, there are many things that may be surprising about France as an American. This is why we would suggest seeking the advice of those who know the country well in many points of your business to understand how it may land with a French customer base.
There are also differences in laws and regulations which may affect your business, so it’s always worth doing thorough research as you draw up your French business plan to identify and account for factors which may not apply in the USA.
Four: Understand France’s working culture
American working culture is rather set apart from its European friends, with US citizens generally working longer hours, having less vacation time, and eating lunch (if they don’t skip it) at their desks. It also isn’t unusual for people to take calls and answer emails outside of work hours, and employers tend to have more flexibility when it comes to hiring and firing.
The French, on the other hand, tend to have a more leisurely pace of life which is facilitated by both government-mandated workers’ protections and the expectations of their working population at every point of the pay scale. This may take some adjustment when running a business and is something you’ll need to plan around – but the upside is, if you have chosen to live in France, you’ll get to enjoy this slower pace of life too!
Some things to take into account regarding French working culture are:
- The French will take their lunch break away from their desk, so unless you organise a specific lunch trip, this is a bad time for calls, meetings and emails (if you need an immediate response).
- They don’t only have significantly more holiday entitlement than Americans usually enjoy, they actually take it (whereas the average US employee who receives paid vacation only actually takes 54% of the allotted time each year.) This is usually most evident in July and August, when business slows down considerably, and as many employees will book more time off around public holidays, it pays to plan around these times of year.
- Since 2017, managers and employees of companies with more than 50 staff have not been required to answer emails outside working hours, and employees in smaller companies are likely to follow suit.
- French corporate operations are, for the most part, very hierarchical. When doing business with another company, take the time to understand the chain of command to ensure you are talking to the right people in order to get results.
- Hiring in France is an expensive proposition. Employers must account for high individual taxes when determining employee wages and the slate of employment benefits they are expected to provide. While these costs are high, however, people doing business in France tend to be repaid with a skilled and secure workforce.
- Networking is often key to success in the French business world, with personal recommendations often meaning more than accolades and titles. Forging business relationships in France can be more difficult than in America (although the collaborative nature of American business may give you a ready-made advantage), but they tend to last for a long time, making them well worth the effort.
There is a world of opportunity to be discovered by American entrepreneurs who take the plunge and start a business in France, and with proper research, a comprehensive business plan, and that famous American work ethic, success à la française can be well within your grasp.
This post was written by Katya Puyraud, a company formation expert at EuroStart Entreprises, who help entrepreneurs start a business in France and take the headache out of opening a company abroad.
Starting A Business
11 Tips You Won’t Want to Forget When Setting Up Your Online Store
Whether they’re using a streamlined platform like Shopify or are building their site from scratch, what’s one tip new entrepreneurs won’t want to forget when setting up their online store? Why?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.
1. Prioritize Your Site’s Performance
When setting up an online store from scratch or by using platforms like Shopify, always prioritize your website’s performance. This means getting the basics right for your site and looking into matters like your load time, navigation, broken links, unoptimized images, code density, content delivery network (CDN) concerns and caching issues. A website with a clunky user experience won’t get you anywhere.
2. Consider Sales Tax Implications
One thing that new entrepreneurs overlook when setting up their first online store is the sales tax implications of selling online. Depending on your products and your customers’ locations, you may be required to collect and remit sales tax. Meet with your CPA to make sure you understand the sales tax laws and nexus rules before starting your online store. It will save you a world of headache.
– Shaun Conrad, Number2 CPA Exam Resources
3. Think About the User Experience
Prioritize the user experience to ensure success. A well-designed UX fosters customer satisfaction and boosts sales by making it easy for shoppers to navigate, find products and complete transactions. Focus on a clean layout, intuitive navigation, responsive design for mobile and fast load times. This can help convert visitors into loyal customers and they can grow their businesses more effectively.
4. Ensure You’re Up to Date on Security and Browser Trends
Be up to date on security and browser trends. If a customer is getting a warning by just accessing your website, you’ve already lost a customer. To make sure your online store is secure, you can take several steps, such as updating your site and plugins on a regular schedule, choosing a reliable hosting provider and implementing an SSL certificate. Once you have a secure site, the sky’s the limit!
5. Include Detailed Product Landing Pages
If you’re in the process of starting your first online store, don’t forget to create detailed product landing pages. On each landing page, include a list of features and benefits. Users need to know how your product or service will improve their lives before they make a purchase, and product pages are by far the easiest way to relay this information.
6. Build an Email List as Soon as Possible
One thing to remember when setting up your online store is that it’s never too early to start building your email list. Create a “coming soon” page as a placeholder on your site until it’s finished. Promote your new brand on social media and ask people to subscribe for the latest updates. You’re far more likely to see sales on day one if you have an email list packed with prospects.
– Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
7. Focus on Search Engine Optimization
One tip new entrepreneurs should remember when setting up their online store is prioritizing search engine optimization (SEO) from the beginning. This includes conducting thorough keyword research, optimizing on-page elements such as title tags and meta descriptions and building quality backlinks to the site. Properly optimizing the site for SEO can help increase brand awareness and sales.
– Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com
8. Implement Practices to Guarantee User Privacy
– Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
9. Keep It Simple
Keep things simple, and don’t get carried away with all the bells and whistles at your disposal. Early on, it’s best to focus on getting a functional site live that makes it easy for visitors to find and purchase whatever you’re selling. A simple approach helps eliminate distractions from your site and helps ensure a frictionless shopping experience.
10. Pay Attention to Your ‘Checkout Flow’
When setting up your online store, pay attention to your checkout flow. Most people will leave a website with items in their cart if the checkout process is clunky or missing key features. I suggest including an “always on” shopping cart, a minimal payment form, a progress bar and multiple ways to pay to maximize your conversion rate.
11. Optimize for Mobile
Optimizing for mobile is crucial when setting up an online store. With more and more customers using their mobile devices to browse and shop, it’s important to ensure your website is mobile-friendly and offers a seamless user experience. Failing to do so could lead to a significant loss in potential sales and customers due to frustrations during shopping.
Finance & Accounting
4 tips to find the funding that fits your business
The facts are clear: Startups are finding funding increasingly difficult to secure, and even unicorns appear cornered, with many lacking both capital and a clear exit.
But equity rounds aren’t the only way for a company to raise money — alternative and other non-dilutive financing options are often overlooked. Taking on debt might be the right solution when you’re focused on growth and can see clear ROI from the capital you deploy.
Not all capital providers are equal, so seeking financing isn’t just about securing capital. It’s a matter of finding the right source of funding that matches both your business and your roadmap.
Here are four things you should consider:
Does this match my needs?
It’s easy to take for granted, but securing financing begins with a business plan. Don’t seek funding until you have a clear plan for how you’ll use it. For example, do you need capital to fund growth or for your day-to-day operations? The answer should influence not only the amount of capital you seek, but the type of funding partner you look for as well.
Start with a concrete plan and make sure it aligns with the structure of your financing:
- Match repayment terms to your expected use of the debt.
- Balance working capital needs with growth capital needs.
It’s understandable to hope for a one-and-done financing process that sets the next round far down the line, but that may be costlier than you realize in the long run.
Your term of repayment must be long enough so you can deploy the capital and see the returns. If it’s not, you may end up making loan payments with the principal.
Say, for example, you secure funding to enter a new market. You plan to expand your sales team to support the move and develop the cash flow necessary to pay back the loan. The problem here is, the new hire will take months to ramp up.
If there’s not enough delta between when you start ramping up and when you begin repayments, you’ll be paying back the loan before your new salesperson can bring in revenue to allow you to see ROI on the amount you borrowed.
Another issue to keep in mind: If you’re financing operations instead of growth, working capital requirements may reduce the amount you can deploy.
Let’s say you finance your ad spending and plan to deploy $200,000 over the next four months. But payments on the MCA loan you secured to fund that spending will eat into your revenue, and the loan will be further limited by a minimum cash covenant of $100,000. The result? You secured $200,000 in financing but can only deploy half of it.
With $100,000 of your financing kept in a cash account, only half the loan will be used to drive operations, which means you’re not likely to meet your growth target. What’s worse, as you’re only able to deploy half of the loan, your cost of capital is effectively double what you’d planned for.
Is this the right amount for me at this time?
The second consideration is balancing how much capital you need to act on your near-term goals against what you can reasonably expect to secure. If the funding amount you can get is not enough to move the needle, it might not be worth the effort required.
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