Can you remember when you first started out? It feels like just yesterday you were scraping around for work. Today, you strut with some coin in your pocket and a few satisfied clients to boot. Things are looking up and fixing to get a lot better.
It’s safe to call yourself a pro now. That’s right! You are now entering the ranks of a professional freelance designer. Don’t get too excited, there is still refining to be done. Take a look at the top ten HUGE mistakes that professional freelance designers make and how you can avoid them.
Don’t mistake arrogance for confidence. Your clients certainly won’t. Sure, the tables have turned and you can now pick and choose your clients. The work is piling up. However, some designers take it too far. I have run into quite a few fellow designers that not only bad mouth their clients’ lack of knowledge but they act like they are doing their clients a favor by drawing up their designs. Appreciate your clients and they will return the favor.
You made it, so can you slack off now? No. More than ever, it is vital to keep things moving fluidly. We all know what happens when we slack, the work piles up and we miss deadlines. Any professional designer can tell you that slacking is one of the easiest ways to sabotage yourself. How many excuses can your clients digest before the ugly truth comes out that they didn’t meet their new product launch date because you caught some re-runs of Jerry Springer?
3. Maximum Overload
I know that one reason you became a freelancer was to try and make some good coin but also remember that you did it for the freedom. Taking on too much work will only stress you out and, like slacking, you will start to miss and push back deadlines. Creativity does not blend well with stress and frustration. Your design quality will suffer.
4. Where is my designer?!
I am not talking about smearing your contact information all over the place. That’s something you should have done already. I am talking about hiding out on your clients, not answering their emails or phone calls promptly. Switching your MSN or Skype to busy when they come around or staring blankly at their messages for days. I know it can be scary telling them that you lost their files or that you can’t meet their deadlines, but you got to do it. What about those crazy spamming clients? You can refund them or grit your teeth and get through the job then raise the rates. But DO NOT leave them in the dark. Believe me, things will only get worse and so will your headache.
5. Referral Policy
Many established designers can tell you that the majority of their work comes from referrals. Newly established designers may feel that it is unprofessional because it seems a little bit like begging. Maybe they are so high on cloud number 9 that they forget to ask for referrals. This is a crucial step to building up continual work. We don’t want to be looking for our next contract when one finishes, now do we? We can’t use freelancer.com forever and we don’t really want to. If you forget about referrals, you can forget about good paying projects.
6. Lacking Multiple Income Streams
Freelance designing (especially web design) opens up a huge avenue of income streams. You could suggest that your client uses Host Gator or you could send them over with an affiliate link to rake in some dough. You could even setup your own reseller account or server and offer the service yourself. Why not pocket some of those monthly payments? There is an affiliate program for just about anything. They need prints, hook them up and grab some change! Do not overlook the many methods to diversify your income.
7. Missing Opportunities
In the world of design, everyone is a potential client and I do mean everyone. Every existing design potentially turns into a redesign project. Occasionally, when you see a website with an awful layout or an awful logo, drop them a quick line and offer to update their design for them. Go ahead; make them a deal they cannot refuse. Even if they don’t accept it at least you are on their radar. I have also used my designs in exchange for advertising, services and even products. Not only do I save cash, but I earned myself a potential long-term client. Try to pay with your skills before using your cash. Be proactive and think about how you can use those highly sought after skills outside the box.
8. You’re Being Watched
As previously mentioned, everyone you converse with is a potential client. So think twice before you decide to bash that other designer who stole your designs openly on the forums. What you say may be true, but a client may see it as a lack of professionalism and give you a miss. You would be surprised how many designers rush into head-on debates with someone because they think everyone will side and sympathize with them. Try to handle these matters privately or with an anonymous alias. We are professionals now and we should act like it if we want new clients.
9. Get Help
This issue ties in with a few previous issues. When the work is pouring in and you are biting off more than you can chew, then it’s time to expand. I know, I know. Taking the plunge into full-time freelancing was a big move and you’re not sure you are ready yet. Now I am going to tell you to expand?! I am going to take a wild guess here. One of the big reasons you became a freelancer is your entrepreneurial spirit, right? Big business is growth and expansion. Outsource the work or hire employees and turn it into a company. Supply and demand baby. You can’t do it all alone. Why try?
10. Where’s the Party?
This is one of those tips you probably won’t find many places yet it’s so simple and so very important. When you got that big first contract, did you celebrate? I don’t mean doing a little dance, I mean doing something really memorable. Well, why not? You made it happen and most likely made it happen virtually solo. Freelancers are among the most passionate and self-motivated people in the world. It’s so very important to reward yourself and keep your motivation high. You did it, you are a success! So go out and celebrate!