The most fragile part of freelancing graphic design has to be maintaining your business relationships. When work comes along you can’t waste opportunities to impress.
After moving to downtown Indianapolis, I sent out a few LinkedIn recommendation requests to current/past clients. Recommendations are always great resume builders, and LinkedIn asks the endorser to choose three top qualities.
Out of ten results, the most used words were: Great Results, Personable, Expert, On Time, Creative, Good Value, High Integrity. Three of them are highly notable, according to writer Neil Gaiman’s Speech at the University of the Arts.
Treat clients like people. Also, convey that you are also a hard-working person just like them with a life. A phone call will usually one-up an email. Let the client know that you appreciate the work they are giving you by thanking them.
Eventually, you will learn to joke with each other and share stories. That’s when you are building trust.
We all want to be paid on time, right? Well, return the favor by delivering projects on time.
If I’m ever going to be late, I always provide reasons that will benefit the project. A good example would be when I’m testing my front-end designs in multiple browsers. Being late is going to provide higher quality assurance for the client, which is usually OK if they aren’t pressed for time.
Tip: Overshoot your delivery date when possible. It’s better to over-deliver than be late.
Fantastic designs will always help your situation. The client came for good results, and there is nothing better than giving it to them better than they expected.
Your first project is the most important with a client, but don’t forget about the second one. If you knock out two projects in a row, you are sure to have built a solid business relationship.
As Neil states in his speech, you only need two factors out of three to please a client.
Holding a high standard of business is something I always strive for, but I personally agree this theory holds ground in the freelance design world in cases where I’ve slipped.
What do you think?
We’re just going to go with something my daughter found on Google.
ClientsFromHell drops a promotional video which is quite amusing. You may have taken interested in a couple older posts I put out in the past if you like this video.
Are you struggling to fill your design schedule and make ends meet? Don’t sit in your own filth and get down. You have many proactive ways to get graphic design work out of nowhere, if you just keep busy.
Inquiring about possible work is not annoying if done properly. The key is to only ask when you absolutely need it. I don’t know how many times I’ve been running low and sent a friendly email to my past clients. Something as simple as:
“Hi XXX, Hope you are doing well (or long time no talk). I really enjoyed working together on your last project. I was wondering if you might need assistance with any projects coming up? I’m free this week and next. Thanks!”
Don’t pester your client list on the weekly. You know their personalities, so know the threshold. No mass emails. Make it personal.
Tell your clients how they could improve their business, but don’t be forceful. Respect a “NO,” and thank them for replying. Friendliness will get you the job later down the road.
“I noticed your website isn’t functioning properly. Would you be interested in opening a project to fix that problem?”
Get out and talk. Let people know what you’ve been up to at social gatherings. Check your local AIGA chapter or get together with friends from college. Perhaps you can have a conversation with a developer or entrepreneur. That conversation may end up getting you a recommendation.
Ask past clients or colleagues about learning resources. Recently, I asked a client to recommend an SEO book or resources to me. He replied kindly with a helping hand, but also asked me how my business was doing. He then offered new freelance work.
Blogging is my major outlet. It gives me a reason to learn, prove/share knowledge, and inspire others. I think of my design blog as a resume that mails itself. Keep a contact form button in plain view so curious business owners can send you project inquiries.
Don’t have one? Check out my hosting service.
Make good art. Create things that are truly satisfactory whether you get paid or not. I built my new FreelanceFolio WordPress theme while I was in a drought. There was no official plan to sell it, but I’ve received inquiries from businesses wanting custom WP themes.
Keep yourself busy with self-projects and passive design work. Check out Neil Gaiman’s speech to pump yourself up.
“How much should a designer charge for an identity design?” It’s a question that both designers and business owners ask at some point. You may find yourself struggling to find a concrete price upfront, and there’s good reason. Read more →
Image credit goes to Yanc
Recently, I had a chance to listen to Seth Johnson (@sethrrr) speak at AIGA Indianapolis. Seth’s talk was very informational and thought inspiring nonetheless, but one phrase stuck out to me greatly during his Q & A portion. He said something like, “Never use We when it’s only Me.”
Let me lay down some credibility primer first. Seth is the president of the Minnesota chapter of AIGA | the professional association for design, an advisory board member of Art Buddies, and a founding member of FEAST MPLS. He has worked with clients like Weight Watchers and General Mills. Be sure to go see him speak if you get the chance.
Never use “We” when it’s only “Me.”
Don’t do this! Don’t pretend to be a group of people when you are not. A big mistake the new freelancers make is acting like a big shot company. At some point you are going to disappoint your clients. A few scenarios generated in my head quickly…
What happens when you show up to a meeting alone?
Potential Client: Where’s everyone else?
Designer: Ummm… my partner is busy?
Potential Client: We are looking for a team on this project that is fully in-tune. It doesn’t look like you have that.
This scenario is fairly obvious. Large budget clients in your local area will likely expect to meet up to discuss their project.
The client expects more from a team. (This may be an exaggeration but you get my drift.)
Client: We need to see something at this point. It’s been several days.
Designer: I’m sorry for the delay. You will get an update today.
Client (7pm): It’s getting late. We need to see something.
Designer (9pm): Here you go. Files attached.
Client: These aren’t what we are looking for. You didn’t spend any time on these. How can 2-3 people only have so little low quality work? I think we would like to pursue someone local for this project. I’m sorry.
I laughed to myself at first, but then I started thinking into it. This was a similar mistake that I was making with my current project, TheDesignerHost. Originally, my goal had been to launch my hosting business by myself, and expand down the road. Knowing it would also be hard to compete with large competition, I was adding fluff to my copywriting to try and fit in among the other hosting monster companies.
TheDesignerHost was pretending to be something that it is not. It’s impossible to provide 24/7 customer service with a one person staff. The same goes for a design business. Why would I want to advertise such a bogus promise? If you advertise it, they will expect it. The majority of my hosting customers are referred directly from my freelance design business. They signed up with their web designer for a reason. My clients love personal communication and trust when it comes to their web service.
I’ve removed all of my references to a group staff and my business relationships have flourished. My clients take my emails more personally. They’ve been understanding when there are issues, and respect the fact that I am merely an individual trying to provide quality, personal service as quickly as humanly possible.
Thank you Seth Johnson for keeping my business in check! You can follow him on Twitter.
Have you had a similar experience with this problem? Please share!
Your graphic design resume is a sensitive way to convey yourself to a potential employer. You may not even get a read, if your resume is overboard. The most important question is… where are you applying?
Some will vent that when you are applying for a highly creative position, such as an advertising agency or design firm, you can splurge. I can understand that point of view. However, many managers of more conservative hiring positions will admit to tossing out anything that’s even remotely challenging to read.
In my opinion, a resume is a document not a poster. It can be quite difficult to find balance between legible type and intriguing design.
Below are a few samples I picked from the web which display graphic talent, but go overboard.
I want to make it clear that I am not here to bash any of these resume designs. I’ve selected these designs as examples, because they do show graphic design talent. Each design has also been credited with a link back.
Are you an employer with some feedback on this subject? Please share your experience!