When you’re brand new to working online, it’s sometimes the case that you’ll stumble upon clients that are as new to online business as you are to freelance online services. Clients (or potential clients) that perhaps have a new business idea, and a general understanding that they can monetize it through digital marketing, but don’t yet have the runs on the board to appreciate the depth of what’s really involved to go from concept to profit.

The incredible growth of online work, virtual assistance and freelancing has been propelled in part, by established successful entrepreneurs singing the praises of outsourcing through their books and blog posts, and encouraging new business owners to delegate as much as they possibly can.

It’s a good thing for us!

It’s created these amazing opportunities to provide services online, working from home, on our own terms. When it comes to brand ‘new’ entrepreneurs however, I’ve seen that it can sometimes cause confusion.

I want to make sure you’re prepared when that confusion arises, so you can handle it smoothly, as you start seeking out your first clients and even beyond. So here’s an example of a potential scenario you might encounter with a new client:

“I’ve created this product, I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into it over the last 12 months. I don’t have an email list as yet but I know I should be blogging. How much will it cost to build a list and do a product launch in 2 months time?”

Or even…

“I’m going to start a blog about topic X. I’d like to hire you to do all the promotion on social media. How much traffic do you think we can get if I contract you for 10 hours per month.”

And all kinds of weird and wonderful variations on these “results-based” type online marketing support requests.

Now here’s the thing, very often, as digital marketing service professionals, we do in fact want to work on projects where we’re estimating and delivering on results, as opposed to working on a task-driven basis. There’s definitely a higher income potential working in that way. But… there are two specific scenarios where you’ll likely want to steer clear of promising results, and should feel completely justified in doing so:

1. When the client is new to online business, and especially if they’re new to business as a whole, as in those seemingly exaggerated scenarios (only they’re not!) I shared above.

2. When you are new to freelancing and online services, say for example under two or three years into it.

In the first instance, a new entrepreneur potentially doesn’t know what’s reasonable to expect for the time frame and budget they have in mind. In the second instance, you haven’t as yet seen the inside of enough online businesses to potentially know what amount of time, money, systems and effort can yield what type of results.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed right about now, thinking to yourself, “Oh my goodness, do I have to be a pro at this before I get started?”, the answer is… absolutely not.

In fact, the way I see it, the demand for task-driven services, where you’re learning a skill or system that you use to perform a delegated task, is far greater than the demand for results-driven consulting services.

That’s because smart, experienced business owners know that one or two people will come up with the plan, and the volume of activity that plan will generate needs multiple team members to implement and maintain it. Profitable business owners (the ones you want to be working with) know how to divvy up the thinking and the doing and they know they’ll be investing at a much higher rate for the thinking component.

The doing requires skill and care, the thinking requires one additional element: experience.

So until you get that experience under your belt, here are the options to consider for the first time (or the next time) you encounter a newbie business owner expecting online marketing miracles:

1. The first option, if you’re still at the potential client stage, is to politely decline the work. Do this if your initial correspondence has you concerned that the client may be expecting you to build the next Google for $20 per hour. However, in my experience and observation, you’re usually so thrilled as a new freelancer to land your first client, that you’ll probably just ignore that little warning voice in your head anyway. So moving right along to option two…

2. The second option, if you’ve begun working with a ‘new to business’ client, is to suggest that you can research an answer for them. For example, if you’ve been pinning their blog post images to Pinterest each week, and they ask “How do we get more leads from Pinterest?,” you can respond with “There’s a few different approaches to take as I understand it, would you like me to spend an hour researching plans that other people have used successfully and send you a summary?“.

3. The third option, is to refer them on to a specific expert, consultant or consulting platform like Clarity. It pays to start building online ‘colleague’ style relationships around you with people that are specialists in their field, whether that be in marketing, coding, copywriting or design. And even before you’ve started building relationships, just gradually becoming aware of where different experts can be accessed online.

If your client, that you’ve been formatting weekly newsletters for, asks “How do we need to set up a marketing funnel to get the most sales?,” you can respond with “I know a couple of really good people that specialize in planning lead nurture funnels and getting the copy written, here are their details. I can definitely support you with all the proofreading, layout and formatting to get the campaign polished once you have a plan.

4. The fourth option, when you’re ready for it, is to suggest a course of action that sounds likely to achieve results, and ask for the client’s final decision before implementing it. So for example, if your client asks you, “How can we get more visitors subscribing to the newsletter?,” you can respond with “I don’t have the experience to guarantee this will be the best strategy, but I think if we add a call-to-action on the bottom every blog post and a popup sign up form on the site, that should convert more of our visitors to subscribers. Would you like me to go ahead with that, and you can take a look at the numbers next month?”

5. The fifth option, in extreme situations where it’s called for, is to be direct and put the responsibility back on them, in the nicest possible way. Tough love! So here’s all there is to it… let’s say as in the example above your client asks “How can we get more visitors subscribing to the newsletter?“. You log into their Google Analytics account and you see that they had a grand total of 57 website visitors land on their blog last month. You might suggest, “I can help you research ideas to test for increasing conversions, but I noticed that there were only 57 visitors to the site last month. Should I research ideas for increasing site visitors instead? You can let me know which one you’d like to go ahead with.

There you have it, five strategies to have up your sleeve the next time you have a client asking how to get results rather than delegating with directions. It will happen, and it’s often just a sign that you’re communicating so well that they think you know everything. So take it as a complement!

You can deflect it in the early stages and reinforce the impression that you are a skilled implementer. Then down the track if you decide to, set up an online appointment calendar and ask them to book in with you for a consultation – at the higher rate you’ve set for people to borrow your brain!