Freelance web designers are often asked to provide clients with a wide array of services. Design, custom development, mobile applications, SEO and social media management all come to mind. And, while some designers do attempt to wear these many hats, it can be quite difficult to master them all. There’s enough depth within each one to support a more segmented industry.
You can even break things down further by looking within a specific segment. In development, for example, you may be able to write some code that satisfies a client’s needs. But there could also be a third-party service out there that does things even better and more efficiently.
So, when should we recommend that a client uses a third-party solution? Let’s take a look at a few situations where it makes sense to do so.
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It’s a Service You Don’t Typically Provide
Perhaps the most obvious time to nudge a client towards an outside service is when they’ve asked you to do something that you don’t offer. Often times, clients will see something as naturally related to what you do – such as SEO. But if you’ve made a conscious decision not to take on that type of work, it’s fine to recommend someone else for that part of the gig.
This is not always as easy as it seems, though. It can be difficult to say “no” to a good client. Plus, it’s tempting to tell ourselves that it’s okay to make an exception – just this once. But there are a few reasons why you should still pass the buck on these sorts of requests.
First, making an exception for one client opens the door for doing the same thing for others. This is especially so when that first client recommends you to their friends. That sets a level of expectation with the new client that you’re going to do x, y and z – because you’re already doing so for someone else.
Second, there’s probably a good reason why you’re not offering a specific service: You don’t want to get stuck dealing with it over the long term. When you make an exception for a particular client, know that you’re now officially saddled with it. Making a graceful exit from that responsibility isn’t going to be so easy.
The best thing to do is to avoid making exceptions altogether unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences.
The Service Requires High Level Functionality
There are instances when a client may require a higher level of functionality than you can provide. Or, you might find that a niche service out there simply offers a more complete solution – including support.
A classic example of this is a mailing list. While many web hosts include basic services and there are WordPress plugins that let you run a list directly from a website – they’re not necessarily a great fit for every use case.
There are plenty of dedicated services that can do the job better. And, as an added benefit, they’ll also provide support for their product. That means that you aren’t directly on the hook if something breaks. There’s a level of convenience that is too much to pass up.
And it’s not just mailing lists. This same logic can apply to other functionality, like online booking, collection of sensitive user data and server-intensive tasks like streaming media. These services have (hopefully) invested in the level of infrastructure needed to keep everything running smoothly and maintain security. Again, this is a plus for everyone involved.
Clients may initially question the need to use a niche service provider. But once you explain the benefits and any potential long-term cost savings, they’ll hopefully come around to your way of thinking.
The Task Requires More Time Than You Can Spare
Earlier, we mentioned that some subjects (like SEO) are quite vast. They also require a consistent level of strategy and maintenance. That’s why there are experts who specialize in them.
Unless you work as part of a team, it’s unlikely that you have the time required to fully immerse yourself in the finer points of these types of services. While there is certainly money to be made by handling them, you run the risks of stretching yourself too thin and not providing your clients with the best results possible.
Overall, it can end up watering down your strengths as you spend too much time on unrelated tasks. The best strategy here is to stick with what you do best and leave the other stuff to those who are well-versed in that particular subject. They’re the experts in their field, just as you are in your own.
You Don’t Need to Do It All
Back in the earlier days of web design, it was accepted that freelancers would provide just about every service a client could ask for. But as things have become more complex, the industry has splintered into a variety of niches.
There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with all the latest developments across each and every subject. And that’s actually a good thing. It widens the industry and provides more room for specialization. This also gives us space to innovate in our respective fields.
Designers don’t need to know everything about email marketing. Email marketers don’t need to know everything about SEO, and so on. Sure, knowing some of the basics can be quite useful. But we don’t have to fret over not being an expert at everything.
So, when a client comes to you with a request for something outside of your expertise, make an honest assessment of what’s best for everyone involved. If it is something you can and want to handle – go for it. Otherwise, there’s no shame in pointing them towards someone who can provide exactly what they need.