Most freelance web designers tend to look at client services as though they're working <em>for</em> someone, this couldn't be more wrong...
Most freelance web designers tend to look at client services as though they're working for someone, this couldn't be more wrong. What you should be doing is acting more like a consultant and providing a solution to a problem. By simply designing and building every project the same you're essentially putting a dress on a donkey. It might look nicer, but underneath it's still a donkey and not the stallion your client is looking for.
It's a hard cycle to break, especially since most clients get in the habit of hiring someone to work for them, not with them. My best piece of advice? Stop calling yourself a freelancer and start calling yourself a consultant. Trust me, people will respect you more for it.
Make sure that in every interaction you have with the client you're, of course professional, but above all else look like someone who is adding value to their business.
You don't want to be looked at as an expense, you want to be looked at as an investment. There's a huge difference, especially in the eyes of your client.
This comes back to the point that you should be providing a solution to a problem, not masking it with a pretty makeover.
Most of the time clients don't know what they want, but that's not their fault, let me explain why: They're business people. They haven't had the years of training you and I have had. So it's no wonder they don't know how to increase their business online.
Do you even know where to start on improving the ROI in a six-figure company? Probably not. So why should you expect them to know how or why they need a well structured, deeply researched investment, not just a website.
It's up to you to explain that and help them get there.
A lot of freelancers moan about their clients. Sometimes it's justified because, at the end of the day, some people just annoy you. However the majority of the time it's the freelancer's fault, not the client's. One thing you need to learn is that clients only react to how you act in the first place.
They aren't stupid. They're running a business and that's not an easy thing to do. You should know, you're running one right now. I've said it before and I'll reiterate it here, running a brick and mortar business is 10x harder than running an online business. It usually costs more as well.
Don't treat your client like an idiot. If you educate them properly to see the benefits of this new website then they'll be more than happy to accept what you're telling them and pay you accordingly.
Gone are the days of a client hiring a freelancer, the freelancer makes a website like they have a million times before, hands it off and that's job done. If you want to stand out from the see of crappy freelancers charging $10 an hour you need to become someone else. Someone that provides value and an investment, not just a fancy design.
Like I said above, you should be working with clients, not for them. The biggest hurdle in doing so is helping the client to understand that you're not just a pixel pusher and that you have a valid opinion...and since you're the expert, it's likely the right opinion.
Too many times in my early freelancing career I was hired by clients to work for them. In nearly every one of those jobs, I regretted taking it on because I was doing nothing more than sitting in Photoshop, nudging pixels from one part of the screen to another.
Is that who you want to be? A pixel pusher? Do you want to spend the rest of your career getting pushed around Photoshop and eventually burning out? I didn't think so. Today is the day you make a change and become a full-time web design consultant, not merely a freelancer who works from home.