If you’re starting your own freelance business in graphic design or aspire to become a designer, there is a world of opportunity that awaits you. If you’re talented, have some experience (the more, the better, of course), and have the tools of the trade, you’re all set, right? Well, let’s just say it’s a start.
No matter what sort of business you’re in, there’s always a sales and marketing component to consider. Bummer, huh? Well, no, it’s actually not such a bad thing. There are a few things that you can learn and some skills to hone before you start trying to drum up business. These, along with your natural talent and training, will likely take you a long way.
1) Try to see things from your client’s perspective.
Remember that it’s all about them, after all. They hire you, they’re willing to pay for the work, and they allow you to work in your field, so it’s a good idea to listen carefully to what they want. Sure, offer an informed opinion to help them, but, ultimately, they’re the boss and what they want is what you need to provide. If you feel really strongly negative about their product, service, attitude, or direction, then you need to consider whether you should proceed at all, rather than become antagonistic in the course of your business relationship. At the beginning of your career, it’s usually a case of simply being grateful for the work and just toughing it out, but use your discretion and best judgement. If it doesn’t feel good to do this job, think it through before you pass it up.
2) Be responsive.
If a client phones or emails you with questions or requests, make sure you reply as quickly as you can. This leaves them with a very favourable impression and makes you stand out as being reliable. Referring back to point #1, you need to see yourself through your client’s eyes. Wouldn’’t you want someone to be paying attention to you, especially when it’s someone you’ve hired? I’m always amazed to hear stories from my clients about how they’re still waiting for a call back or an email from a service provider, even after a week or two!
3) Don’t be afraid to offer advice or suggestions.
You are the expert, right? Be careful, however, not to seem pedantic and use your best diplomatic approach to address potentially difficult topics. Again, your client is depending on you to help them arrive at the design solution they need, and often, they only think they know what they want (some admittedly have no clue), so they need you to guide them.
4) Make all your requirements clear and make them up front.
It’s common practice for people in our industry to request a deposit before beginning a project, so make that known. Also, what will you need from them, and when? Informing your client makes you look more credible and authoritative, and it helps remove some of the apprehension associated in dealing with someone they may not know very well.
5) Be proactive.
The world, being a far from perfect place, often wreaks havoc on schedules and the best laid plans. That being known, take the initiative to contact your client, sooner rather than later, and let them know the status of their project. Ideally, you are making every human effort to meet the deadline, but if something has gone awry in your work queue, typically something over which you have no control, let them know as early as possible that there may be a delay. Then, offer at least a rough estimate of how much longer the work or project milestone may require.
6) Be punctual in your delivery.
I’m tempted to suggest the old “under promise and over deliver,” but, in a sense, you should be doing that to a great extent anyway. Remember, people love pleasant surprises, and you’ll be hailed as a hero, worshipped, and your deeds will live on in the songs of troubadours. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the drift.
7) Always, always, always charge what a job will cost.
You need to live, after all, and you won’t be doing anyone a favour (least of all yourself) if you undercharge. Charging too little also has a negative effect on other professionals in the field who are trying to earn a living, so be considerate to others as well as yourself.
From my own humble experience, I hope this helps you. If you have some other suggestions for newbie design freelancers, please share. Thanks for reading!