Smashing e8ook Series.

#2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
8eing a greaL web designer or developer is one Lhing – running a
successíul íreelance business anoLher. WheLher you already have work
experience in companies or you've jusL graduaLed írom design school.
8eing selí-employed enLails a number oí Lasks you mosL likely didn'L
have Lo deal wiLh so íar. As a íreelance web designer you also have Lo
be a projecL manager, oííice adminisLraLor, accounLanL, conLroller and
l1 experL.
Juggling all oí Lhese, among mosL designers noL exacLly popular, Lasks
while conceiving creaLive ideas and producing splendid websiLes, can
be very arduous. 1o help you wiLh Lhis íeaL we have compiled 2í
selecLed (-2 new) arLicles abouL successíull íreelancing LhaL have
been published on Smashing Magazine and Noupe in 2009 and 20í0
oííering you invaluable Lips and guidelines írom proíessionals in web
design. 1he íocus lies on communicaLing wiLh clienLs and co-workers,
including markeLing sLraLegies and piLching, as Lhis Lends Lo be mosL
problemaLic íor íreelance web designers.
We hope Lhis careíully ediLed and especially illusLraLed ebook will
make you even more successíul and helps you masLer "juggling".
Sven LennarLz, viLaly Friedman, Manuela Müller
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Published in June/20í0
Smashing Media CmbH, Freiburg, Cermany
8ook Cover Design. Andrea AusLoni
lllusLraLions. Ricardo Cimenes
Prooíreading. Manuela Müller
ConcepL & FdiLing. Sven LennarLz, viLaly Friedman
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Table of Content
Preface........................................................................................ 2
Imprint........................................................................................ 3
Basic Skills of Freelance Web Designers..................................6
FssenLial HabiLs oí An FííecLive Proíessional Freelancer............7
Common QuesLions oí Web Designers..........................................2í
1he Designer Who Delivers.................................................................33
CriLical MisLakes Freelancers Make...................................................40
1he lmporLance oí CusLomer Service..............................................49
CreaLively Handling Lhe Admin Side oí Freelancing..................58
PiLching Like a Pro...................................................................................70
1he Finances oí Freelancing................................................................95
Communication it! Clients " Partners.............................#$6
How Lo ldenLiíy and Deal WiLh DiííerenL 1ypes Oí ClienLs...í07
How Lo lmprove Designer-ClienL RelaLionships........................íí9
How Lo CommunicaLe wiLh Developers FííecLively.................í27
How Lo FducaLe ¥our ClienLs on Web DevelopmenL..............í36
How Lo Fxplain Lo ClienLs LhaL 1hey Are Wrong.......................í43
How Lo Respond FííecLively Lo Design CriLicism......................í57
How Lo Persuade ¥our Users, 8oss or ClienLs............................í69
How Lo CreaLe Lhe PeríecL ClienL QuesLionnaire......................í77
%arketing & Con'incing Strategies For Freelancers...........#(6
CeLLing ClienLs. Approaching Lhe Company..............................í87
ConverLing ProspecLs inLo ClienLs..................................................í98
MarkeLing Rules and Principles íor Freelancers........................208
How Many ldeas Do ¥ou Show ¥our ClienLs¹............................220
Contracts " Pricing ..............................................................22(
Freelance ConLracLs. Do's And Don'L's..........................................229
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WhaL's ln A Price. Cuidelines For Pricing Web Designs.........236
QualiLy-Price-RaLio in Web Design................................................250
T!e )ut!ors........................................................................... 2*+
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Basic Skills of Freelance Web
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
,ssential -abits of )n ,ffecti'e Professional
by Rcb Smith
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1here's very liLLle Lo sLop anyone becoming a íreelancer. ln a highly
compeLiLive and, in mosL places, saLuraLed markeL, you need Lo make
sure your repuLaLion as a íreelancer is well-managed and conLinues Lo
grow. lL's very possible Lo geL a good repuLaLion wiLhouL being Lhe
besL in Lhe world, and iL's even easier Lo lose LhaL repuLaLion. ln Lhis
arLicle, we'll explore í5 habiLs LhaL are essenLial in helping íreelancers
eííecLively saíeguard and grow Lheir repuLaLion, and we'll also discuss
how Lo make íreelancing work íor you.
%arketing an. /elations!ips
#. T!e Presentation -abit
¥our websiLe should be aL Lhe cenLre oí your markeLing sLraLegy. lL's
where people go Lo see who you are, whaL you're abouL, wheLher you
know whaL you're Lalking abouL and whaL work you have done. lL's
your silenL 24/7 salesman, and iL needs Lo be righL. ForLunaLely, whaL
your websiLe needs is sLraighLíorward.
• Well-presenLed work wiLh a good descripLion oí Lhe roles you
• A brieí hisLory oí who you are and why you're where you are
• ConLacL deLails LhaL are easily accessible
• ConLenL LhaL is conLinually Lweaked, added Lo, and updaLed
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
OLher Lhan LhaL, you can go wherever you wanL wiLh your own
websiLe - and so you should. PersonaliLy is key. Icscn Scntc Mcric
çces the whcle hcç with c new Jesiçn jcr ecch µcst — c lct cj wcrl
but he stcnJs cut jrcm the crcwJ cs c result
2. T!e 0etorking -abit
1hey say LhaL wiLhin 6 degrees oí separaLion, everyone knows
everyone. So you need Lo make sure LhaL everyone wiLhin your ísL
degree (i.e. people you know), know exacLly whaL you do. lL needs Lo
be exacL as well. lí you're a developer you don'L wanL people saying
you're a websiLe designer, and so on. ¥our currenL neLwork oí íriends,
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
íamily, and associaLes are your íree word-oí-mouLh markeLing – so
geL Lhem Lalking abouL you righL now.
Once Lhis is done, your neLwork needs Lo be exLended and enhanced.
RegisLer wiLh any social neLworking plaLíorms LhaL can work íor you
- Linkedln, Facebook, and 1wiLLer. WiLhin Lhose places, sLarL geLLing
inLo Lhe righL circles. On Linkedln you may join some appropriaLe
discussion groups LhaL are eiLher local or skill based. On 1wiLLer you
may sLarL LweeLing and including appropriaLe hashLags so more
people can see your LweeL on LhaL subjecL.
1here are many ways Lo neLwork and connecL wiLh people, so iL's
crucial LhaL a íreelancer noL be aíraid Lo Lalk Lo people and share
iníormaLion and conLacLs. Learn Lhe neLworking habiL and geL yourselí
3. T!e 0ic!ing -abit
Freelancers can geL inLo Lhe habiL oí noL only íinding Lheir niche, buL
creaLing niches. A niche in Lhis case is an area in your overall íield oí
work in which you parLicularly specialise. lí you've become very good
aL creaLing websiLes íor golí courses, íor example, Lhen LhaL's a greaL
1he reasons having a niche is valuable are simple. lL's easier Lo
become an experL in a niche. lL's easier Lo sell Lo oLher prospecLs
wiLhin LhaL niche as Lhey can see whaL you have done beíore. As an
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
experL in LhaL niche you can charge a premium íor your depLh oí
knowledge. 1he key Lo Lhis habiL is Lo proacLively build your own
niches. Seek ouL proíiLable areas in which you can work and
concenLraLe on building niches.
1. T!e Pricing -abit
How you price your projecLs can easily be Lhe diííerence beLween
winning and noL winning some work. ¥our pricing needs Lo be
LransparenL aL all Limes and should be agreed upon up íronL. 1hings
go wrong when hidden cosLs appear laLer on. ClienLs like Lo know
how much Lhey're paying, when Lhey're going Lo pay iL, and whaL
Lhey're paying íor. So make iL clear írom Lhe sLarL.
Second parL oí Lhe pricing habiL - proLecL yourselí. lL's easy Lo geL so
wrapped up in winning a projecL LhaL you íorgoL some simple rules. lí
you have never worked wiLh a clienL beíore, ask íor a small
percenLage oí Lhe íee beíore you do any work. AL Lhis early sLage, you
won'L know wheLher Lhey will pay! Reduce your bad debL by eiLher
only working íor clienLs you LrusL or having some remuneraLion íirsL.
1hird parL oí Lhe pricing habiL - be ílexible. Make sure you íind a way
Lo make Lhe commercial deal a win-win íor boLh parLies. 1his could
• MonLhly paymenLs (regular cash ílow over Lhe course oí Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• PaymenL when you hiL cerLain projecL milesLones (e.g. projecL
• DeposiL and balance on compleLion (besL avoided íor cash
ílow reasons)
• Possible exchange oí services
*. T!e 2rot! -abit
lL's been claimed LhaL iL cosLs seven Limes as much in resources Lo
acquire a new clienL Lhan iL does Lo grow an exisLing one. So Lhe
growLh habiL is abouL proacLively looking aL your clienLs in deLail so
you can discover new ways Lo help Lhem.
One pracLical way Lo do Lhis is Lo cross reíerence. WriLe all your
services across Lhe Lop oí an excel sheeL, Lhen puL your clienLs down
Lhe leíL hand column. Now place an X in Lhe box where a service you
have done maLches a clienL. 1he boxes wiLhouL X's are poLenLial
growLh opporLuniLies and should all be explored beíore spending Loo
much energy Lrying Lo acquire new clienLs.
Business an. Time
6. T!e Time %anagement -abit
Lacking good habiLs in Lime managemenL could cause you Lo over-
commiLLing yourselí aL cerLain Limes, which could lead Lo.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• Missing a deadline and disappoinLing a clienL
• Producing sloppy or inaccuraLe work
• Causing yourselí sLress because oí Lhe pressure Lo geL
everyLhing done
1he soluLion Lo Lhis is an eííecLive planning mechanism. FsLimaLe how
long Lhe work will Lake you, Lhen add a buííer Lo your esLimaLion. 1his
will ensure LhaL, ií iL does Lake longer, iL won'L eaL inLo oLher projecLs.
A 50% buííer works well. 1haL may sound like a loL, buL ií you go over
by 25% and Lhen Lhere are addiLional clienL emendaLions, you'll need
iL. Once you have Lhe LoLal Lime allocaLion, add iL Lo your diary. Now,
here's Lhe crucial parL. Do noL move iL, shrink iL, or change iL in any
way. lí you have Lo do someLhing urgenL LhaL will inLeríere wiLh LhaL
scheduled work, make sure Lhe Lime is reallocaLed elsewhere.
A simple calendar applicaLion like Coogle calendar or OuLlook can
help you plan your Lime as a íreelancer. lí you sLruggle wiLh where all
LhaL Lime goes and wanL Lo geL serious abouL making improvemenLs
in Lime managemenL, someLhing like Rescue 1ime can really help.
3. T!e Fle4ibilit5 -abit
8eing ílexible, responsive, and eííecLive aL whaL you do will allow you
Lo handle unexpecLed siLuaLions, such as when a clienL conLacLs you
wiLh urgenL needs and expecLs you Lo help. Having seL aside Lime in
advance íor such urgenL siLuaLions will ensure LhaL you earn a
repuLaLion as a ílexible worker.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WhaL happens ií noLhing comes up Lo íill LhaL pre-allocaLed Lime¹
Well you mighL íinish LhaL oLher projecL early and can add someLhing
special. WhaL happens ií Lhe whole day is Laken up by urgenL projecL¹
No problem, you had already planned Lhis mighL happen, so you
won'L leL anyone down.
Oí course you're noL going Lo be able Lo íoresee everythinç, buL a
cerLain level oí ílexibiliLy will allow you Lo please your clienLs and be
relaLively íree oí sLress because oí Lime consLrainLs.
(. T!e -onest5 -abit
Agencies will noL use you again ií you leL a clienL down, and your
chance oí repeaL work is slim Lo none. ln Lhe same way, you should
noL over commiL your Lime, buL sLay wiLhin your capabiliLies. We all
need Lo sLreLch ourselves on new projecLs and learn new Lechniques
and pracLices - LhaL's noL whaL Lhis is abouL. 1his is abouL promising
Lo do a Lask in a speciíied Lime when, in acLualiLy, you don'L have any
idea wheLher iL's íeasible or noL. Above all else, people appreciaLe
honesLy. ¥ou're beLLer oíí being honesL abouL wheLher you can handle
a projecL raLher Lhan Laking Lhe risk oí leLLing Lhem down.
So how can you grow your skills and help your clienLs¹ 8y being
honesL and asking some good quesLions.
• "l don'L Lhink Lhis projecL is righL íor me. l don'L have much
experience in [inserL Lechnology here]"
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• "l can really help you wiLh Lhe [inserL service here] parL oí Lhis
projecL, buL l know anoLher íreelancer who can help wiLh iL.
Would you be happy ií l managed Lhe projecL íor you buL
ouLsourced Lhis oLher work¹"
• "l'll need more iníormaLion beíore l know how long Lhis
projecL will Lake. Would you mind ií l spenL a couple oí hours
doing some research so l can give you an accuraLe Limescale¹"
+. T!e 6'er7Deli'er5 -abit
Do noL deliver your projecLs early. Sound sLrange¹ lL's noL. lí you
deliver early, Lhere's a possibiliLy Lhe clienL will Lhink you overcharged,
and may expecL parL oí his paymenL Lo be reLurned. 1hey mighL also
expecL íuLure work Lo be compleLed ahead oí schedule, which may seL
a bad precedenL.
lnsLead, use Lhe exLra Lime Lo íocus on whizz-bang elemenLs - Lhose
exLra biLs oí polish and creaLiviLy LhaL will gain you Lhe repuLaLion you
deserve and leL you grow. For a designer Lhis mighL mean spending
Lime adding nice Louches Lo your graphics, íor a developer, iL could
mean more Lime Lo implemenL a cool piece oí JavaScripL Lo replace
Lhe plain íuncLionaliLy you originally seLLled íor. 1he "over-deliver" will
earn you a solid repuLaLion, whereas íinishing early could geL you inLo
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
#$. T!e Business ).'ice -abit
AlLhough as a íreelancer you're skilled aL whaL you do, don'L assume
you'll be able Lo do your accounLs and bookkeeping, íill in Lax reLurns,
produce an invoice or wriLe a proposal all by yourselí.
Seek regular advice írom respecLed proíessionals Lo help you wiLh
Lhese aspecLs oí running your business. 1his mighL include speaking
wiLh people who run Lheir own operaLions and undersLand Lhe ins and
ouLs beLLer Lhan you do. Learn as much as possible írom Lheir
experiences and misLakes.
Specific Business )reas
WhaL's ouL Lhere Lo help you run your business and whaL areas do you
need Lo íocus on¹ ln Lhis secLion, we'll discuss some applicaLions LhaL
have earned repuLaLions íor helping íreelancers do Lheir jobs and be
more proíessional.
##. T!e ,mail -abit
Fmail is Loxic. As a íreelancer you can easily become whaL's commonly
known as a busy íool. ¥ou mighL spend a signiíicanL parL oí your day
jusL sending and receiving email wiLhouL ever geLLing any work done.
lnsLead, be in Lhe habiL oí conLrolling email, and noL leLLing iL conLrol
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1o do Lhis you need Lo.
• 1urn oíí all Lhe liLLle reminders, message counLs, and oLher
indicaLors LhaL may caLch your eye
• Coníigure your email clienL Lo run a "send and receive" aL
longer inLervals, maybe as liLLle as once per hour
• SeL aside blocks oí Lime in Lhe day Lo deal wiLh all email, Lhen
swiLch iL oíí, ií someLhing is urgenL, people will use Lhe phone
• Use Lhe 'Louch iL once' philosophy, íully read and deal wiLh
every email you open, insLead oí halí-reading some and
coming back Lo Lhem laLer
#2. T!e Pro8ect %anagement -abit
Some clienLs will wanL you Lo íiL in wiLh Lheir processes, while oLhers
will noL eníorce Lhis. ¥ou need Lo have very clear processes íor how
you sLarL working wiLh a clienL and sLarL a new projecL. WhaL
quesLions do you ask a new clienL¹ Where do you sLore Lhe
iníormaLion Lhey Lell you¹ How do you keep Lrack oí how close Lhe
deadline is¹ Where do you sLore all Lhe íiles Lhey send you¹
Fmail is noL suííicienL íor Lhis! 1hings will geL losL, íorgoLLen or
overlooked. ¥ou mighL preíer cardboard íolders or ring binders or
whaLever works íor you - buL use someLhing and sLick Lo your own
sysLem. 1here are applicaLions like 8asecamp LhaL can help wiLh Lhis.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
#3. T!e /esearc! " De'elopment -abit
Sounds like a big company Lhing Lo do buL R&D is essenLial Lo a good
íreelance operaLion. ¥ou need Lo be ahead oí Lhe curve or aL Lhe very
leasL on iL Lo be servicing your clienLs mosL eííecLively. 8e in Lhe habiL
oí invesLing Lime íor research and developmenL. Fxpand your currenL
skills and learn new ones. Never designed a billboard beíore¹ 1haL's
SeL aside Lime every week Lo do R&D. 8uild up a lisL oí blogs LhaL íeed
you new Lhinking and new ideas. LisLen Lo iníormaLive podcasLs.
#1. T!e Sales an. C/% -abit
How can you allocaLe your Lime and resources and íigure ouL wheLher
or noL you need Lo be hunLing íor new work or concenLraLing on
servicing currenL clienLs¹ ¥ou should know aL any given Lime whaL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
your work pipeline looks like, how likely is iL all Lo maLerialize, and aL
roughly whaL value.
Hiçhrise is useJ by mcny tc mcncçe their scles cnJ lecJs ct lcw ccst
#*. T!e )ccounts -abit
Making sure you have any easy way Lo produce, send, and Lrack
invoices is essenLial, as is geLLing inLo Lhe habiL oí running your
accounLs proíessionally, because such habiLs will ensure regular cash
ílow. ApplicaLions like 8linksale, Freshbooks or Simply lnvoices can
help íormalize Lhe accounLs side oí your business and give a good
proíessional íeel Lo how you operaLe. ClienLs will need invoices íor
Lheir accounLs – make sure Lhey're noL hand wriLLen or unbranded.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3linlscle ccn helµ ycu crecte, senJ, cnJ trccl µrcjessicncl invcices
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Common 9uestions of Web Designers
by AnJy RutleJçe
1he design proíession is íull oí happy íolks, and undersLanding why so
many designers enjoy Lheir work is noL hard. 8uL noL all are so happy.
lí you're noL careíul, Lhe joy oí geLLing paid Lo pursue your passion
can be LainLed by Lhe less joyous realiLies oí Lhe proíessional world.
¥ou see, no maLLer how skilled you are as a designer, unless you are
equally prepared in proíessional maLLers, your prospecLs will be
limiLed and your circumsLances compromised. 1his is Lrue wheLher
you work íreelance, íor an agency or in-house wiLh a company.
Fvery week l hear írom designers who are sLruggling Lo come Lo
Lerms wiLh Lhese realiLies. Unhappy wiLh Lheir currenL circumsLances,
Lhey wriLe Lo ask íor advice on improving Lheir loL. Usually, Lhey eiLher
claim noL Lo undersLand how Lhings goL so bad, or Lhey lay Lhe blame
somewhere oLher Lhan aL Lheir own íeeL. ln every case, however, Lhe
sole cause is Lheir poor choices and lack oí proíessional acumen. lL
needn'L be so.
Professional Diagnosis an. Solutions
Here, l'll paraphrase a íew emails l've received írom designers seeking
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
advice. For each, l'll diagnose Lhe siLuaLion, explain in no uncerLain
Lerms whaL should have been done Lo avoid Lhe siLuaLion and suggesL
a sLraLegy Lhe designer can íollow Lo improve his or her
1hese circumsLances are noL uncommon. Many oí you reading Lhis are
likely experiencing similar problems. or may aL some poinL in Lhe
íuLure. l hope LhaL Lhe iníormaLion, advice and sLraLegies presenLed
here will help you avoid Lhese and oLher problems.
#. 2etting starte. as a freelance .esigner
Questicn. ´l recently çrcJucteJ jrcm Jesiçn schccl cnJ hcve stcrteJ
jreelcncinç, cnJ l´m wcnJerinç hcw ycu çet clients? Hcw Jc ycu çet
ycur ncme cut there?¨
1his person may jusL as well have jumped ouL oí an airplane and Lhen
asked, "Now, how do l go abouL íinding a parachuLe¹ Oh, and should l
land somewhere speciíic¹ How exacLly do l do LhaL¹" Fven so, Lhis lack
oí íoresighL is quiLe common. 1he immediaLe lesson is LhaL you
shouldn'L become an independenL proíessional wiLh liLLle Lo no
proíessional experience, wiLh no prospecLs and knowing liLLle Lo
noLhing abouL Lhe business.
Fresh ouL oí college or design school, you're noL a proíessional, you're
a Lechnician (by deíiniLion, Lhe opposiLe oí proíessional). For Lhe nexL
íew years you should be acquiring Lhe skills, knowledge and
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
undersLanding required oí a design proíessional. 1he place Lo do Lhis
is in Lhe company oí peers and under Lhe wings oí menLors. aL an
agency or in-house wiLh a company. 1he successive lessons and builL-
in supporL sysLem inherenL in Lhese environmenLs are essenLial Lo a
designer's proíessional developmenL.
1he way Lo "geL your name ouL Lhere" is Lo esLablish a paLLern oí
excellenL work and a repuLaLion íor inLegriLy over several years, while
you leL your agency or company carry Lhe burden oí acquiring clienLs
and running Lhe projecLs. lí you are any good, in Lime you will earn
Lhe respecL oí your peers and superiors, esLablish a good repuLaLion
(spread by word oí mouLh) and acquire proíessional acumen. lí in LhaL
Lime you make any eííorL aL all Lo share your work and LhoughLs wiLh
Lhe wider design or business communiLy, your name will become
known (Lhrough word oí mouLh and your porLíolio or blog), and your
repuLaLion will be builL on subsLance raLher Lhan on social markeLing's
smoke and mirrors. 1his would be Lhe appropriaLe Lime Lo embark on
a íreelance career.
As a íreelancer, you'll be running Lhe whole show. So, you've goL Lo be
an ace aL íinances and budgeLing, aL speaking wiLh and converLing
poLenLial clienLs, aL knowing whaL Lo discuss in order Lo weed ouL
unsuiLable poLenLial clienLs, aL preparing all manner oí legal and
projecL-speciíic documenLs, wriLing proposals, projecL managemenL,
inLra-projecL clienL communicaLions (and being Lhe coníidenL,
unílinching pro in Lhe íace oí every clienL requesL, quesLion and
disLasLeíul siLuaLion), aL dealing wiLh dozens oí Lypes oí uníoreseen
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
issues wiLhouL hesiLaLion, aL mainLaining Lax iníormaLion and
consLanLly preparing various Lax and business íorms, aL markeLing,
preparing and mainLaining your own branding and idenLiLy, wiLh iLs
various elemenLs, and aL knowing how Lo begin and conclude all kinds
oí projecLs coníidenLly. Oh, and you'll also need a consLanL ílow oí
inLeresLed poLenLial clienLs. lí you're noL coníidenL and accomplished
in all oí Lhese areas, Lhen you're noL ready Lo be a íreelance designer.
Freelancing is only suiLed Lo seasoned proíessionals. Pursuing a
íreelance career as your íirsL sLep in Lhe proíession is almosL always a
íoolish move. Proíessionalism is mainLained by habiL. lí your íirsL sLep
is a missLep, you've seL a poor Lone íor Lhe work ahead. Unless you
immediaLely correcL your misLakes, Lhe habiLs you'll develop will be
clumsy and unproíessional.
2. -o to e4plore !at t!e customer ants
Questicn. ´l´m nct very çccJ ct the Jisccvery meetinç with clients. l´m
never reclly sure whct tc csl cr hcw tc jiçure cut whct scrt cj Jesiçn
they´re lcclinç jcr. My µrcject mcncçer cr C.D. usuclly enJs uµ cslinç
mcst cj the Jesiçn questicns. Whct´s the best wcy tc hcnJle this
1his is a common issue íor designers aL agencies, especially Lhose
wiLh liLLle experience. Luckily, an agency is a good place Lo gain
experience and compeLence. 8uL Lhe quesLion signals a íew issues
LhaL require aLLenLion.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
FirsL oí all, design quesLions are noL really appropriaLe during Lhe
discovery process. CranLed, speciíic branding consLrainLs may need Lo
be deíined and undersLood, buL Lhe design you will craíL will come
noL írom Lhe clienL's judgmenL and undersLanding oí design buL írom
yours alone. 1he design will be your arLiculaLion oí whaL Lhey need,
based mosLly on Lheir business aims, Lhe websiLe's purpose, Lheir
cusLomers' needs and expecLaLions, Lhe end users' speciíics and so on.
ln íacL, ií you ask no design quesLions aL all, you're probably on Lhe
righL Lrack.
lmagine íor a momenL LhaL you're a physician Lrying Lo deLermine Lhe
besL course oí LreaLmenL íor your paLienL. ln LhaL siLuaLion, you would
noL ask Lhe paLienL whaL he Lhinks should be prescribed. lnsLead you
would inquire abouL his sympLoms, hisLory, environmenL, physical
needs (e.g. is he a pro aLhleLe, or does he simply need Lo be able Lo
geL around normally¹). 1he answers Lo Lhese quesLions will deíine Lhe
consLrainLs and indicaLe Lhe appropriaLe course oí acLion. ¥our
paLienL's opinion on whaL prescripLion would be appropriaLe is likely
irrelevanL, he came Lo you because he lacks Lhe abiliLy Lo help himselí.
Co inLo Lhe discovery meeLing prepared. 8eíore Lhe meeLing, learn as
much as you can abouL Lhe company, iLs hisLory and iLs pasL and
currenL acLiviLies. ScripL a lisL oí quesLions-some speciíic Lo Lhis clienL
and some appropriaLe íor any clienL-Lo geL Lhe ball rolling. 1hese
quesLions will serve as a springboard Lo more in-depLh discussion,
which in Lurn will ílesh ouL whaL you need Lo know.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
One more Lhing. you're Lhe design proíessional and iL's your
responsibiliLy Lo conducL Lhe projecL successíully. ¥ou (noL Lhe PM or
CD) should be driving Lhe discovery. Use your Lime aL Lhe agency Lo
improve your discovery skills, Laking on more responsibiliLy wiLh each
successive clienL. ReílecL on each projecL's discovery process, and look
íor ways Lo improve Lhe process and your quesLions. WiLh Lime and
eííorL, you should become compeLenL in Lhis essenLial parL oí Lhe
design process.
3. C!arging comps & !at is t!e usual number:
Questicn. ´Scme cj my clients exµect three cr jcur cr even mcre
ccmµrehensive lcycuts (ccmµs) jrcm me. 1hct's c lct cj wcrl, cnJ l
wculJ µrejer tc shcw just c ccuµle. ShculJ l just chcrçe mcre ij they
wcnt mcre ccmµs? Hcw Jc scme Jesiçners çet cwcy with just cne cr
twc jcr cll cj their clients?¨
1hese are inLeresLing quesLions, and Lhey beg a couple more.
í. Why is Lhis designer allowing his clienLs, who are noL
designers, Lo seL Lhe number oí design comps¹
2. Why is he leLLing quanLiLaLive preíerence raLher Lhan
qualiLaLive necessiLy írame his undersLanding oí Lhe issue¹
Cood design is noL íound by picking írom a pack oí arbiLrary opLions,
buL is raLher Lhe resulL oí deliberaLe, conLexLual choices. 1aking a
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
scaLLershoL approach Lo design is in no way eííecLive. ¥our clienLs may
noL appreciaLe Lhis, buL you cerLainly should! ¥our responsibiliLy is Lo
ensure LhaL your clienLs don'L shooL Lhemselves in Lhe íooL.
1he only person who knows how many design opLions are
appropriaLe is you. Lhe designer who is engaged in Lhe process. And
in almosL every case Lhere is one besL design soluLion. SomeLimes
anoLher compelling direcLion is worLh considering and presenLing Lo
Lhe clienL, buL Lhis cannoL be known unLil you have íully engaged in
Lhe process, conscious oí Lhe parameLers speciíic Lo LhaL projecL.
ln mosL cases, you'll explore a hosL oí opLions during Lhe design
process. A Lhorough exploraLion will cull a majoriLy oí Lhe Lrials,
leaving only Lhe mosL appropriaLe and compelling candidaLe(s) – one
or Lwo. 1hese and only Lhese design opLions should be shown Lo Lhe
clienL. lníerior designs should never be presenLed, even Lo íulíill a
requesL íor more opLions (opLions íor whaL. mediocriLy¹).
As a íreelance design proíessional, or even as an agency designer,
your responsibiliLy is Lo deíine how many design opLions Lo presenL in
a given siLuaLion. lí a poLenLial clienL insisLs on a less eííecLive and less
proíessional process, do noL agree Lo work wiLh LhaL clienL.
Compromise never brings excellence and has no place in design or
proíessionalism. lí you become comíorLable making Lhis sorL oí
compromise, oLher compromises will also become easy íor you. ¥our
clienLs deserve and are paying íor more Lhan a compromised design.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1. Dri'ing t!e .esign process in an agenc5
Questicn. ´l selJcm çet tc meet my clients bejcre l µresent Jesiçn
ccmµs tc them. 3y thct µcint, the µrcjects clmcst clwcys beccme c
tirescme series cj re-wcrlinçs cj my criçincl iJecs. Hcw ccn l chcnçe
One wonders whaL Lhese original ideas were based on ií Lhe designer
has never meL Lhe clienLs. lí so, eiLher í) Lhis person is aL Lhe wrong
agency, and/or 2) Lhis person lacks Lhe proíessional undersLanding or
Lhe backbone Lo insisL on being Lhe one Lo decide how Lhe agency
should sLrucLure design projecLs and clienL-designer inLeracLion.
RelaLionships are builL on LrusL, and LrusL is born oí experience and
undersLanding. ¥our clienL cannoL LrusL someone Lhey have never meL
and whom Lhey know noLhing abouL. So, when designs are presenLed
by someone Lhe clienL has never meL, no wonder Lhe clienL is a biL
reLicenL and inclined Lo second-guess Lhe designer's decisions. 1hese
and Lhe ensuing problems are all a resulL oí Lhe designer's íailings.
¥es, iL's on you. Always.
As Lhe designer and an aspiring proíessional, you musL insisL on
driving Lhe design process. 1his means LhaL you musL be Lhe one Lo
meeL wiLh Lhe clienL in Lhe beginning. lí a projecL brieí is required, you
musL be Lhe one Lo creaLe iL, based on your direcL conversaLions wiLh
Lhe clienL and his Leam.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí your agency has a process in place LhaL prevenLs you írom íulíilling
your responsibiliLies, your opLions are eiLher Lo change Lhe process or
Lo íind a beLLer agency. AnyLhing less relegaLes you Lo an
irresponsible pracLice in an unproíessional environmenL. Hopeíully,
Lhis is noL accepLable Lo you, because iL would erode Lhe habiLs you
are proíessionally obliged Lo culLivaLe.
*. ; one<s communicational skills
Questicn. ´l lcve tc Jesiçn, cnJ l thinl l´m µretty çccJ ct it. 3ut l´m nct
ccmjcrtcble tcllinç tc clients. Whenever l´m cn the µhcne cr in jrcnt cj
c client, l çet very nervcus. l thinl my nervcusness mcles me seem less
ccµcble, cnJ l´m µretty sure l lcse scme cj my client´s ccnjiJence. Whct
ccn l Jc tc ccrrect this? ShculJ scmecne else Jc the tcllinç?¨
FííecLive communicaLion is one oí a designer's mosL imporLanL jobs.
Fvery communicaLion, wheLher by email or phone or in person, is an
opporLuniLy Lo demonsLraLe value and win coníidence. And ií you
don'L demonsLraLe value, you'll seldom win coníidence. Like in one oí
Lhe examples above, you may simply noL be prepared Lo be a
íreelance proíessional.
lí you íail in communicaLing, no maLLer how skilled a designer you are,
you won'L geL Lhe chance Lo ply your skills very oíLen, and seldom íor
Lhe besL clienLs. 1he besL clienLs are Lhose who invesL compleLe LrusL
in Lheir designers. 1haL LrusL musL be earned beíore any acLual
designing happens (see iLem 4).
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
And no, someone else should noL do Lhe Lalking. 1he design
proíessional's job is Lo show coníidence when dealing wiLh clienLs. No
one else can communicaLe your value or win LrusL íor you. 1he reason
clienLs disLrusL Lhose who do noL communicaLe wiLh coníidence is
because Lhis LraiL signals oLher incompeLencies. 1his may sound harsh,
buL iL's a íacL. ií you're noL coníidenL, iL is because you lack capabiliLy
(wheLher proíessional compeLence, design skill or perhaps
vocabulary). and you know iL. Address Lhis void, and your coníidence
will shine Lhrough.
lí you lack coníidence in conversaLion, sLarL Lo address Lhis deíiciency
immediaLely or íind anoLher calling. OLherwise, you may have a brighL
íuLure as a producLion arLisL somewhere, buL noL much oí one as a
design proíessional. Design proíessionals are experLs aL every aspecL
oí inLeracLing wiLh people.
Coníidence aside, iL goes wiLhouL saying LhaL excellenL vocabulary is
an imporLanL componenL oí eííecLive communicaLion. People judge
you by your words, as well Lhey should. Knowing Lhis, your
proíessional responsibiliLy is Lo work on your vocabulary, jusL as you
work on your design abiliLy. daily.
Be5on. Design & )spects of Professionalism
Skill in design is only parL oí whaL deíines a compeLenL proíessional.
Proíessionalism is also measured by inLegriLy, preparedness in
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
handling and inLeracLing wiLh clienLs, and breadLh oí undersLanding in
Lhe myriad oí issues LhaL will coníronL you in Lhe course oí working
wiLh oLhers (wheLher clienLs, co-workers, employees or oLhers).
Proíessionalism is also measured by how well you uphold eLhical
sLandards in making Lhe diííiculL decisions in every area oí your work.
1alenL and skill can make you a Lechnician, and a Lechnician is, as we
noLed, noL a proíessional. For conLexL, Lhink oí LradiLional proíessions.
lawyers, docLors, archiLecLs. 1he enormous responsibiliLy Lhey are
enLrusLed wiLh, and Lheir abiliLy Lo carry ouL LhaL responsibiliLy across
Lhe scope oí Lheir work, makes Lhese people proíessionals. 1hus, an
able proíessional would noL be Lroubled by Lhe quesLions posed in
Lhis arLicle. RaLher, Lhey would know precisely how Lo proceed or how
Lo circumvenL Lhese issues. lí you have any oí Lhese quesLions, you
may noL be prepared Lo be a design proíessional.
All oí Lhese siLuaLions resulL írom designers believing LhaL being a
good designer is good enough. 1his proíession has liLLle room íor
Lhose who lack a proíessional's inLegriLy and broad undersLanding.
Designers who are willing Lo compromise and simply accepL Lhe íaulLy
decisions LhaL are handed Lo Lhem have had Lheir proíession sLolen
írom Lhem. 1hese designers have no business working wiLh clienLs
who pay good money íor proíessional service.
8e beLLer Lhan Lhis. ¥our íirsL sLep Lo success is Lo assume your righLíul
responsibiliLy íor everyLhing LhaL involves you. DissaLisíied wiLh Lhe
ílawed sLrucLure aL your agency¹ ¥ou chose Lo work Lhere, change
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
your circumsLances. FrusLraLed by your perpeLual lack oí prospecLs
and sLalled repuLaLion¹ Sounds like you've goL deíiciencies Lo address.
Overwhelmed by Lhe challenges and complexiLies inherenL in
íreelancing¹ ¥ou probably sLarLed íreelancing wiLhouL suííicienL
Fix iL. Ycu íix iL. lL's all on you.
Designers. you geL paid Lo do whaL you love. How greaL is LhaL!¹ 8uL
Lhis íorLunaLe and enviable siLuaLion leads Lo íulíillmenL only ií you
Lake íull ownership oí your proíession. OLherwise, you're carrying a
Lime bomb. When iL goes oíí, your career will eiLher íalLer or be blown
Lo smiLhereens. Don'L leL Lhis happen Lo you. FducaLe yourselí. Have
Lhe courage and inLegriLy Lo habiLually make good choices so LhaL
you enjoy a long and happy career as a design proíessional.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Designer W!o Deli'ers
by Aurimcs AJcmcvicius
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WheLher you design and code websiLes all by yourselí or run a small
business wiLh a pool oí LalenL, you will always íace Lhe challenge oí
how much Lo work on a design and Ul beíore passing Lhe mock-ups
on Lo Lhe developer¹ Moreover, how much visual work needs Lo be
done in order Lo eííecLively presenL a websiLe Lo a clienL¹ ln Lhis
arLicle, we'll Lalk abouL besL pracLices íor clear communicaLion, which
Lools Lo use and how Lo manage resources on boLh small and large
T!e )ppropiate 0umber of %ock7=ps to Deli'er
As Lhe owner oí a small business, l have waLched our company grow
írom a parL-Lime, basemenL-dwelling, under-Lhe-radar operaLion Lo a
small business wiLh an oííice, chairs, desks, and sLaplers (aren'L
sLaplers an indicaLion oí legiLimacy¹). During Lhis process oí breaking
ouL oí our egg shell, we have birLhed a company culLure and a seL oí
besL pracLices, and we have gained valuable experience in Lhe íield oí
Web design and developmenL. One oí Lhese nuggeLs oí experience is
acquiring Lhe abiliLy Lo save Lime and money by creaLing jusL Lhe righL
amounL oí visual maLerial Lo communicaLe clearly wiLh boLh Lhe clienL
and websiLe developer.
l won'L even boLher asking wheLher you've ever been assigned Lo
creaLe a cusLom Web applicaLion wiLh an inLricaLe Ul, only Lo see your
clienL preLLy well íreak ouL and Lell you LhaL iL's compleLely Lhe
opposiLe oí whaL Lhey had in mind. And leL's be honesL. Lhey íreaked
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
ouL noL because Lhey're Web iníanLs who drool every Lime a Flash
inLro pops up, buL because you íailed Lo communicaLe Lhe projecL and
iLs íuncLionaliLy.
Don'L geL me wrong. ¥our Ul was probably slick. lL ran íasL, Lhe scripLs
were miniíied, iL had spriLes íor all buLLon and Ul elemenLs. From a
Lechnical and design sLandpoinL, iL was as hoL as Lhe 8MW Mini
Cooper back in 2007. 1he only problem was LhaL your clienL was
looking íor a pickup Lruck.
Our approach Lo Web design and number oí mock-ups is usually
based on Lhe size oí Lhe projecL. For Lhe purpose oí Lhis arLicle, l'll
break projecLs inLo Lwo caLegories. Lhe brochure websiLe (i.e. a
conLenL-orienLed websiLe abouL a company or individual) and Lhe
applicaLion websiLe.
Broc!ure Website
For small websiLes, l recommend you siL down wiLh Lhe clienL and
spend a good hour jusL learning abouL Lheir business. 8eíore Lhis
meeLing, all you probably had Lo sLarL wiLh was an email írom your
cousin saying someLhing like, "LisLen, Mike over aL CadgeL lnc. wanLs
a cool siLe LhaL will be #í on Coogle." AíLer your meeLing, Lhough, you
will be amazed aL Lhe quanLiLy oí relevanL iníormaLion LhaL your clienL
shares wiLh you. Don'L be aíraid Lo ask quesLions. iníormaLion LhaL
would normally be diííiculL Lo exLracL is buL a quesLion away when
you're siLLing íace Lo íace. ¥our inquisiLive aLLiLude will also reassure
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lhe clienL because iL indicaLes LhaL you're genuinely inLeresLed in
solving his business problems.
Now LhaL you have a wealLh oí iníormaLion, you should be able Lo
deduce whaL Lhe clienL really wanLs (iL mighL noL be exacLly whaL you
originally LhoughL). Make sure you undersLand well whaL websiLes
Lhey like and Lhe reasons Lhey like Lhem, along wiLh Lhe colors, logo
and oLher visual cues LhaL mighL help you geL sLarLed on Lhe design. lí
your clienL has noL yeL commiLLed Lo you and is waiLing íor sa
proposal, you may wanL Lo provide a single mock-up wiLh your
proposal. A mock-up is oíLen a worLhwhile invesLmenL on a larger
projecL, because iL creaLes an emoLional aLLachmenL wiLh Lhe clienL
and speeds up Lhe bidding process.
1his more or less sums iL up íor small websiLes. clear communicaLion
wiLh Lhe clienL helps you esLablish a good base Lo work írom, and Lhe
number oí mock-ups should be kepL Lo a minimum ií you're good aL
lisLening. ln case you geL sLuck on a minuLe deLail LhaL Lhe clienL
doesn'L like, you could always posL your mock-up on
ConcepLFeedback and geL some íeedback írom oLher designers. MosL
oí Lhe Lime, peer opinion will sway Lhe clienL Lo your side ií you know
whaL you're doing.
)pplication Website
Larger projecLs and web applicaLions are a compleLely diííerenL beasL
and should be dealL wiLh accordingly. ¥our requiremenLs íor Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
projecL will arrive as a requesL íor proposal (RFP), sealed in a gold-
encrusLed money-scenLed envelope and puL LogeLher by a projecL
lead. A commiLLee oí people will be responsible íor Lhe conLenL,
íuncLionaliLy and goals oí Lhe websiLe, and Lheir opinions will be
slighLly diííerenL. 1he job oí Lhe designer and/or Leam leader will be
Lo inLerpreL Lhe clienL's requiremenLs and communicaLe Lhem visually
Lo Lhe developmenL Leam.
l have learned LhaL wriLLen Lechnical speciíicaLions are only as good as
Lhe people who read Lhem. ¥our developers will undersLand Lhem, buL
your clienL commiLLee will inLerpreL Lhem in as many ways as Lhere are
people on Lhe commiLLee. ¥our responsibiliLy, Lhen, is Lo illusLraLe Lhe
projecL íor boLh Leams. All oí Lhe iLems menLioned above íor Lhe small
websiLe sLill apply, buL you will also need Lo build an iníormaLion
archiLecLure map, íuncLional ílow, inLeracLion mock-ups and more. As
you're working Lhrough Lhese visual elemenLs, consider using some oí
Lhe Lools available on Lhe Web Lo geL íeedback írom a wider audience.
While mock-ups LhaL encompass deLailed íuncLionaliLy are a cosLly
venLure, Lhey are simply Lhe besL Lhing you can do beíore wriLing a
line oí code, because an illusLraLion will give your clienL Lhe righL
expecLaLions. As a Web developmenL company, you would also be
íorLunaLe Lo have Web designers who undersLand mark-up, AJAX
limiLaLions, accessibiliLy and readabiliLy implicaLions and more. We
have had some curious inLeracLions wiLh designers who made
íanLasLic brochures buL couldn'L mock-up a single screen oí a websiLe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1his approach, while Lime-consuming aL íirsL, will save hundreds oí
developmenL hours, because Lhe applicaLion will behave and look Lhe
way Lhe clienL expecLs. ¥our iníormaLion hierarchy and íuncLionaliLy
mock-ups will allow your developer Lo work compleLely
independenLly írom Lhe designer, wiLh minimal inLerrupLion and
/e. Flags
Fven ií you íollow Lhese guidelines and wield a creaLive sLylus, you will
have conversaLions or geL emails LhaL should seL oíí alarms in your
head. 1hese communicaLions usually sLarL wiLh, "1his is noL as hip as l
wanLed," or "l was expecLing someLhing unexpecLed," or "We really
wanL iL Lo look social." 1hese sLaLemenLs are problemaLic íor a couple
oí reasons, Lhe íirsL being LhaL you have a limiLed budgeL and Lime
írame íor Lhe projecL and have already used up some oí Lhem. 1he
second problem is LhaL Lhese sLaLemenLs are as ambiguous as Ricky
MarLin's sexualiLy (noL anymore, eh¹).
Well, jusL as wiLh Lhe requiremenL-gaLhering phase, your íocus here
should be Lo drill Lo Lhe hearL oí Lhese sLaLemenLs and íigure ouL whaL
exacLly is meanL by each. 1he work you have already done can usually
be salvaged, and Lhe clienL mighL wanL noLhing more Lhan a diííerenL
illusLraLion, color combinaLion or íonL sLack. l suggesL approaching
Lhis wiLh changes LhaL require liLLle eííorL. SLarL wiLh small Lweaks, and
Lhen send Lhe mock-ups. ConLinue wiLh moderaLely complex changes,
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
and Lhen send Lhe mock-ups. Rinse and repeaL. WhaL you will íind
Lhrough Lhese small adjusLmenLs and your communicaLions is LhaL Lhe
negaLiviLy in Lheir iniLial email was acLually an exaggeraLion oí a small
>essons >earne.
1he rouLe you Lake in a successíul projecL will depend on Lhe size and
composiLion oí your Leam and your abiliLy Lo communicaLe wiLh Lhe
clienL. 1he more projecLs our Leam compleLes, Lhe more sLrongly we
believe in visual communicaLion, which íalls sLricLly on Lhe designer's
shoulders. lL is also saíe Lo say LhaL a Web designer is a mixed and
inLricaLe breed oí proíessional. an individual who musL undersLand
business, be able Lo read cusLomers, sLay creaLive and íresh wiLh visual
soluLions, and be Lechnical enough Lo undersLand Web Lechnology
limiLaLions and besL pracLices.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Critical %istakes Freelancers %ake
by Rcbert 3cwen
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Seeing as we are all human (well, presumably whoever is reading Lhis
posL anyway), we should recognize LhaL misLakes happen. 1hey even
have LhaL saying, "1o err is human.," which goes Lo show LhaL iL is noL
only commonplace íor us Lo err once or Lwice. iL is exµecteJ. 8uL a
meLhod is behind Lhis madness, because making misLakes is one oí
Lhe major ways we learn. 1his is no diííerenL íor íreelancers.
Finding our way over Lhese bumps in Lhe road oíLen gives us valuable
insighL Lo Lake away. lL helps us develop Lechniques and meLhods LhaL
we can incorporaLe inLo our creaLive process. As íreelancers, we have
Lhe beneíiL oí access Lo an enLire online communiLy LhaL is willing Lo
share iLs experiences so LhaL we can learn wiLhouL having Lo make Lhe
same misLakes.
So in Lhis chapLer, we look aL some criLical misLakes íreelancers make.
Hopeíully, ií you haven'L already made one oí Lhese misLakes yourselí,
you can learn Lhe lesson behind iL.
T!e5 .on?t use a contract
One oí Lhe íirsL Lhings íreelancers learn when conLracLing ouL Lheir
services Lo oLhers is. Lo use a conLracL! UníorLunaLely, we oíLen learn
Lhis lesson Lhe hard way. For whaLever reason, we Lhink LhaL a
parLicular clienL oí ours is someone we can work íor wiLhouL Lhe aid
and proLecLion oí a conLracL. 1his Lends Lo end in one way. by biLing
us in Lhe back end.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WiLhouL Lhis saíeguard in place, you open yourselí up Lo so many
poLenLial problems, and you may inadverLenLly end up commiLLing Lo
more Lhan you had inLended or even imagined. Freelancers only make
Lhis misLake once, ií aL all. 1his lesson is noL a secreL in Lhe íreelance
communiLy. 1he advice comes up oíLen. always use a conLracL. And
many heed Lhe warning once Lhey hear iL.
T!e5 misuse social me.ia @or .on?t use it at allA
AnoLher common, buL criLical, piLíall LhaL íreelancers Lumble inLo is
misusing social media, ií Lhey even use iL aL all. Social media is a major
Lool LhaL oííers all íreelancers an invaluable resource aL Lheir
íingerLips. An enLire communiLy oí proíessionals connecLed via
modems, ready and willing Lo oííer each oLher whaLever assisLance
Lhey can. NeglecLing Lhis sLream oí indusLry insighL, or noL using iL
properly, can hinder Lhe growLh oí your business.
Social media is abouL inLeracLing wiLh people and íosLering
relaLionships, which, ií done wiLh consideraLion and aLLenLion, can
creaLe opporLuniLies you would have oLherwise missed ouL on (noL Lo
menLion íriendships LhaL can ouLlasL jobs). Fspecially aL Lhe beginning
oí your íreelancing career, ií you make Lhe misLake oí misusing Lhe
media, you could be seen as an anLi-social pariah in your corner oí
Lhe Web.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e5 put Buantit5 o'er Bualit5 in t!eir portfolio
When puLLing Lheir porLíolio LogeLher, some íreelancers misLakenly
believe LhaL Lhe more Lhey add Lo Lheir porLíolio, Lhe beLLer. 1hen iL
becomes abouL quanLiLy and noL qualiLy oí work. 1hey íorgeL Lhe
value oí Lhe porLíolio in opening doors and creaLing opporLuniLies.
1he phrase "PuL your besL íooL íorward" applies in Lhis siLuaLion. ¥our
porLíolio speaks volumes abouL your skills, íreeing you írom having Lo
say Loo much and risk coming oíí as more arroganL Lhan coníidenL.
LeL your porLíolio do Lhe Lalking, and don'L make Lhe misLake oí
prioriLizing quanLiLy and sending Lhe wrong message. QualiLy makes
Lhe besL íirsL impression, so make Lhe mosL oí iL.
T!e5 stop learning
1his one has Lo be said. lL can do so much harm Lo íreelancers, no
maLLer whaL Lheir íield. LhaL is, Lhey sLop learning. 8uL especially íor
íreelancers who work in a íield as dynamic and ever-expanding as
design and developmenL, sLaying ahead oí Lhe curve is absoluLely
crucial Lo meeLing your clienLs' needs.
1his íield is conLinually evolving wiLh new Lechniques and
applicaLions. 1hrowing in Lhe Lowel on educaLion is virLual suicide.
¥ou, your work and your career would sLagnaLe. 1hankíully, wiLh Lhis
online culLure we have Loday, culLivaLing an environmenL in which we
can susLain our educaLion is easy. NoL Laking advanLage oí Lhese
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
learning opporLuniLies is a misLake LhaL could poLenLially cosL you
your business.
T!e5 .on?t kno !o to .eal it! clients
AnoLher common misLake is LhaL íreelancers íorgeL Lheir people skills
when dealing wiLh clienLs. For whaLever reason, we leL slip in our
minds LhaL clienLs hire us because Lhey don'L know how Lo do Lhe
work Lhemselves. 1hey are in unknown LerriLory, and as íreelancers we
should always be sensiLive Lo LhaL and bridge as many gaps in
knowledge as we can. 1his will only improve your íuLure dealings wiLh
Lhe clienL and earn you more respecL and LrusL in Lhe business.
Obviously, wiLhouL clienLs, you are a íreelancer in LiLle alone, so make
sure you know noL only how Lo engage clienLs buL how Lo enLice Lhem
back. 8eing able Lo assess needs LhaL Lhey aren'L even able Lo
arLiculaLe and Lhen communicaLing iL all back Lo Lhem is an invaluable
skill. NeglecLing iL can be cosLly.
T!e5 fail to prepare for .r5 spells
1his misLake is deíiniLely beLLer learned second-hand, and LhaL is noL
preparing íor occasions when no work is coming in. DroughLs hiL even
Lhe besL oí Lhem, especially in Lhese Lough economic Limes.
Freelancers oíLen íorgeL Lo accounL íor LhaL in Lheir pricing sLrucLure
and Lo save up in good Limes íor when Lhings go souLh.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1here is a logic behind Lhe raLes we charge, and parL oí iL is Lo susLain
us aíLer we have compleLed work íor one clienL and eagerly awaiL Lhe
nexL. Oí course, we can always íind work Lo do, buL µcyinç work is
whaL susLains us as íreelancers. Calling Lhis misLake cosLly is Loo close
Lo punning íor comíorL, buL iLs impacL is deíiniLely íelL and could íorce
you Lo suspend íreelancing and seek ouL supplemenLal employmenL,
Lhus making iL even harder íor you Lo creaLe your own opporLuniLies.
T!e5 o'erloa. t!eir plate
1his nexL misLake someLimes resulLs írom a íear oí Lhe
aíoremenLioned dry spell. Oí course, greed mighL also play a role.
WhaLever Lhe reason, some íreelancers don'L know when enough is
enough, and Lhey conLinue Lo Lake on new projecLs as Lheir plaLe
overloads. OverexLending yourselí and your business like Lhis can
desLabilize your workílow.
Freelancers need a cerLain degree oí selí-awareness Lo know when
Lhey have reached Lheir limiL. RepuLaLion-LhaL is, a good one-is
imporLanL Lo your business' developmenL. Spreading yourselí Loo Lhin
is never good, and Lhe disLracLion could hamper your creaLiviLy. 1his is
anoLher oí Lhose misLakes LhaL are diííiculL Lo recover írom.
T!e5 miss a .ea.line @an. t!ink it?s no big .ealA
1his, Loo, is oíLen a consequence oí Lhe previous misLake in our lisL.
Falling behind when you are overloaded is all Loo easy, buL missing a
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
deadline can have a debiliLaLing eííecL on your business. And ií you
Lhink missing a deadline is no big deal, your career may be over
beíore iL begins. Deadlines keep you on Lrack and help you mulLiLask,
as well as keep your clienL on Lrack wiLh Lhe developmenL oí Lheir
Once again, repuLaLion is criLical Lo building your brand and making
your mark in Lhe íreelancing markeL. And a greaL way Lo ruin LhaL
repuLaLion is by proving yourselí unreliable. SLay producLive and
ahead oí your Lasks Lo avoid disrupLing your clienL's LimeLable. lí you
end up making Lhis misLake, own up Lo iL. Don'L oííer excuses, simply
propose a new LimeLable and conLinue working hard Lo meeL iL. 8uL
clearly acknowledge Lhe problem you have creaLed íor your clienL. lí
you make Lhis misLake once, you may noL have an opporLuniLy Lo
make iL again.
T!e5 lack confi.ence
Lacking coníidence in Lhemselves or in Lheir work is anoLher misLake
LhaL can plague íreelancers, even beyond Lheir business. 8eing your
own worsL criLic and holding your work Lo a higher sLandard Lhan LhaL
oí oLhers is naLural (righL¹). 8uL aL a cerLain poinL, you are no longer
criLiquing so much as Learing down your work. Dismissing Lhe LalenL
and abiliLies LhaL have carried you Lhis íar is misguided and will do
noLhing íor your producLiviLy.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WiLhouL coníidence, making iL as a íreelancer will be exLremely
diííiculL. ¥ou'll sLarL Laking useíul and well-inLended criLicism biLLerly,
missing Lhe person's poinL and spiraling íurLher inLo a pool oí doubL
and selí-piLy. Lack oí coníidence hinders your skills and Lhe growLh oí
your business. ClienLs will pick up on iL quickly, because Lhe íreelancer
is supposed Lo have a commanding role. Our responsibiliLy is Lo guide
Lhe clienL Lo make eííecLive decisions and win Lhem over Lo our poinL
oí view, wiLhouL coníidence, Lhis becomes unlikely. ¥ou'll undervalue
boLh yourselí and your work. So have íaiLh in your abiliLies, and know
LhaL your unique voice is needed in Lhe ranks oí Lhe íreelancing arena.
T!e5 go to ork for someone else
AnoLher blunder íreelancers make is Lo work Lirelessly Lo build Lheir
business, only Lo accepL Lhe íirsL oííer íor a cushy job LhaL comes
along. No longer being your own boss would seem easy Lo adjusL Lo,
buL iL can be like moving back under your parenLs' rooí aíLer you've
LasLed Lhe íreedom oí living on your own. lL simply doesn'L íiL as
comíorLably as iL once did. Simply readjusLing is noL so easy because
íreelancing is more Lhan a job. iL is a way oí liíe.
Some people Lell Lhemselves LhaL íreelancing was all along a sLopgap
Lo some greaLer dream, buL Lrue íreelancers íind LhaL pill hard Lo
swallow. For some, LhaL mighL be Lrue, buL Lhen Lhose people were
noL íreelancers so much as Lemporary independenL conLracLors.
Freelancers crave Lhe íreedom LhaL comes wiLh Lhe 'lancing. SLill
oLhers believe Lhey can work íor someone else and mainLain Lheir
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
íreelancing on Lhe side. ln Lheory, Lhis mighL appear viable. 1he realiLy
is harsher. íreelancing is íull-Lime. lL is a way oí liíe, and Lurning iL inLo
a parL-Lime job spells Lrouble.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Importance of Customer Ser'ice
3y Rcbert 3cwen
Once upon a Lime, when Lhe lnLerneL was dialed-up and 36,600 K8PS
was like lighLning, l was living in a small Lown working íor a compuLer
reLailer and lnLerneL service provider. My boss aL Lhe Lime was. well,
leL's jusL say LhaL cusLomer service was noL his prioriLy. NoL only would
he beraLe and verbally assaulL almosL every cusLomer who happened
Lo cross his paLh when he was írusLraLed by a compuLer repair, buL his
relenLless Lirades caused cusLomers Lo leave eiLher in Lears or on Lhe
verge oí Lhem.
l wondered during my íour-year sLinL, aLLempLing Lo clean up Lhe
cusLomer service messes he leíL in his wake, how he managed Lo sLay
in business in Lhe years beíore and since my employmenL. And Lhe
answer was simple. he was a big íish in a Liny pond.
ln a Lown oí í8,000 residenLs, Lhere were only Lhree compuLer reLailers
LhaL had qualiíied Lechnicians who could handle in-house repairs. He
was one oí Lhem. 8uL as web íreelancers, we are swimming in an
ocean LhaL is Leeming wiLh qualiíied íish, all waiLing íor a hook írom
clienLs. So, we have Lo pay special aLLenLion Lo Lhe cusLomer-relaLions
parL oí our business ií we wanL Lo build and mainLain our clienL lisL.
1he problem is LhaL many oí us have spenL mosL oí our Lime
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
LhroughouL Lhe years working íor someone else, possibly íar írom Lhe
reach oí our employer's cusLomers. So, our cusLomer service skills
may be rusLy, or even non-exisLenL.
Does it /eall5 %atter:
Meager people skills and miniscule paLience make some oí us a
business hazard when inLeracLing wiLh clienLs. Some people may noL
believe LhaL Lhis could be explosive Lo a íreelancer's repuLaLion, buL
according Lo a 2009 online survey by 1ealeaí, Lhere is cause íor
1he survey results clsc shcw thct cnline cJults cre
increcsinçly turninç tc sccicl meJic tc shcre their
cnline exµeriences with cthers, while simultcnecusly
beccminç less lilely tc clert c ccmµcny Jirectly - c
shijt in ccnsumer behcvicr which extenJs the business
imµcct cj custcmer exµerience issues beycnJ cny
sinçle trcnsccticn.
Civen Lhis Lrend among consumers, we can assume LhaL Lhe same
would hold Lrue íor our íreelance clienLs, and LhaL Lhe impacL oí Lhe
cusLomer's experience will be íelL long aíLer Lhe experience concludes.
1his makes iL evermore criLical íor us Lo mainLain as much conLrol as
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
possible over whaL LhaL impacL is, negaLive or posiLive.
1his is imporLanL íor íreelancers adriíL in Lhe design and developmenL
ocean, where even Lhe biggesL among us sLill look small compared Lo
Lhe agency sharks LhaL we compeLe wiLh íor work. lí a clienL leaves
wiLh a bad LasLe in Lheir mouLh and decides Lo porLray our business in
an unílaLLering lighL, we have íewer resources Lhan Lhose sharks Lo
seek ouL and address Lhese word-oí-mouLh reviews in social media.
8igger businesses have more Lime, Lools and employees Lo scour
social media ouLleLs íor menLions oí Lheir companies and Lo recLiíy
1his was demonsLraLed Lo me recenLly when we awoke Lo íind our
lnLerneL access down. AíLer Lhe sLandard panic and reseLLing oí
sysLem, rouLer and modem, we deLermined LhaL Lhe problem did noL
sLem írom our end buL raLher írom our provider's. Suddenly, we
realized LhaL, wiLhouL a phone book in Lhe building or access Lo Lhe
lnLerneL or Lo our invoices (which we receive by email, doing whaL we
can Lo be as paperless as possible), we did noL have Lhe phone
number oí our provider anywhere in Lhe house. AíLer a írusLraLing
hour, we were íinally back online and a biL sLeamed írom our Lime oíí
írom being connecLed. Did we Lhen conLacL Lhe provider Lo venL or
inquire abouL Lhe problem¹ No. We did whaL 1ealeaí's survey
predicLed we'd do. we Lurned Lo 1wiLLer.
Having menLioned Lhe company by name on 1wiLLer, we were easy Lo
íind. AlmosL immediaLely, our provider read whaL we had Lo say and
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
responded Lo us on Lhis social media ouLleL, making sure we were noL
experiencing any more problems wiLh connecLiviLy. Overall, iL made
íor an inLeresLing lesson in cusLomer service, and iL showed where we
as small íish mighL be missing opporLuniLies Lo nip bad word oí
mouLh in Lhe bud beíore iL spreads inLo viral gospel. As íreelancers
who wear every haL in Lhe business ourselves, our Lime is limiLed, so
we cannoL sLay on Lop oí every menLion oí our business ouL Lhere.
´1he number cj ccnsumers whc ccntcct c ccmµcny
Jirectly in resµcnse tc cnline trcnsccticn issues
26º cj cnline cJults whc exµerience µrcblems
ccnJuctinç cnline trcnsccticns then µcsteJ ccmµlcints
cn c ccmµcny´s Website in 2009, versus J2º in 2008.
J8º cj cll cnline cJults ccntccteJ c ccmµcny´s ccll
center cjter enccunterinç µrcblems usinç the Website
in 2009, versus 47º in 2008.¨
(lxcerµt jrcm 1eclecj survey)
1he survey also reporLs LhaL more Lhan halí oí adulLs who spend Lime
online have been iníluenced by social media in Lheir consumer
choices, which reiníorces Lhe imporLance oí cusLomer service Lo Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
healLh and growLh oí our íreelancing businesses. A íirsL impression no
longer carries as much weighL as iL once did, each inLeracLion wiLh our
clienLs bears as much on our business as anoLher. We may Lhink LhaL
as long as our business dealings end on a high noLe, LhaL Lhe rocky
road LhaL led Lhere will noL play a íacLor in Lhe success oí our
íreelancing career. A 2007 sLudy released by Harris lnLeracLive says
diííerenL, suggesLing LhaL each dealing wiLh our clienLs needs Lo be
handled wiLh care.
1he stuJy reµcrteJ thct 80º cj 2,049 US cJults
surveyeJ JeciJeJ never tc çc bccl tc c
business/crçcnizcticn cjter c bcJ custcmer service
exµerience. 1he stuJy clecrly inJicctes thct cn
crçcnizcticn´s custcmer service level is c Jejininç
jcctcr thct will mcle cr brecl c ccmµcny.
Ccnsumers hcve increcsinçly hiçher exµectcticns cj
businesses cnJ cre willinç tc wcll cwcy quiclly jrcm
c mcjcrity cj businesses ij thcse exµectcticns cre nct
1he daLa shows LhaL each and every inLeracLion we have wiLh a clienL
is an opporLuniLy Lo improve our business sLanding. because
consumers are quicker Lo go elsewhere aíLer a negaLive inLeracLion.
Fven ií our sLrengLhs do noL lie in cusLomer service, we need Lo
ensure LhaL each experience, whenever iL occurs during Lhe course oí
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
a projecL, is an agreeable one. Again, as íreelancers, we have Lo deal
wiLh our clienLs aL every sLage oí Lhe projecL, and so we have Lo
address noL only Lhe requiremenLs oí Lhe projecL, buL also any
cusLomer service issues LhaL may arise in Lhe process.
W!at Can We Do:
We can do several Lhings Lo improve our chances oí geLLing posiLive
resulLs írom all oí our cusLomer inLeracLions. Oí course, no one is
guaranLeed Lo saLisíy all oí Lheir clienLs' needs and expecLaLions í00%
oí Lhe Lime, buL we can Lake sLeps in Lhe righL direcLion. lL sLarLs wiLh
Laking as much responsibiliLy as we can íor Lhe impressions we leave
wiLh our cusLomers.
Be Frien.l5
1his one almosL goes wiLhouL saying, buL iL should be considered
írom anoLher perspecLive. Civen LhaL Lhe majoriLy oí our inLeracLions
wiLh our clienLs mighL be online, we need Lo remember LhaL Lone and
inLenL does noL always LranslaLe well Lo Lhis medium.
So, read Lhrough your communicaLions Lo caLch anyLhing LhaL may
come oíí negaLively. We always wanL Lo be aware oí Lhe impression
we're making in Lhese seemingly minor momenLs. As shown beíore,
Lhe weighL oí an experience is íelL long aíLer Lhe momenL has passed.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Be Patient
Remember LhaL your clienL probably does noL share your level oí
experLise in your íield. 1heir quesLions may noL be clear and Lheir
íeedback noL as consLrucLive as iL needs Lo be. PuL yourselí in Lheir
posiLion and be as paLienL as you would wanL someone else Lo be
wiLh you. Fven ií paLience is noL your sLrong suiL, your cusLomers wanL
Lo íeel LhaL you are lisLening Lo and considering Lheir opinions. lí you
swiLch oíí because Lhey cannoL communicaLe wiLh you in your mode
oí parlance or you dismiss Lheir íeedback because Lhey don'L know as
much as you do, you will be hurLing your business more Lhan your
Be )ccessible
AnoLher Lhing LhaL írusLraLes clienLs is lacking access Lo you when
Lhey need iL mosL. As íreelancers, we pride ourselves on our ílexibiliLy
and being able Lo seL our own hours. 8uL we have Lo respecL Lhe
hours during which our clienLs work, Loo, and make ourselves
available aL Lhose Limes, so LhaL Lhey are able Lo share ideas and
discuss progress in a back-and-íorLh conversaLion. One-sided
conversaLions can easily be misinLerpreLed wiLhouL íurLher
explanaLion and jusL delay Lhe clienL írom achieving Lheir goal.
Be Informati'e
One oí Lhe Lhings Aaron lrizarry said in a recenL videocasL sLuck ouL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
He advised us Lo mind Lhe skill gap beLween us and clienLs and Lo
bridge Lhese iníormaLional gaps whenever possible. Help Lhem
undersLand our processes and Lhe reasons íor Lhe decisions we make.
1his gives Lhem more íaiLh in íollowing our advice and increases Lhe
chances LhaL Lhey will reLurn as clienLs.
Ceep Track an. 2et Back
When l menLioned LhaL larger íirms have more resources Lo invesL in
Lhe cusLomer service ouLleLs LhaL are available Lo all oí us, l didn'L
mean LhaL we shouldn'L use Lhose ouLleLs aL all. 1ake advanLage oí
Lhem Lo Lrack whaL is said abouL your skills, or lack Lhereoí, and
respond accordingly. ¥ou may noL be able Lo respond immediaLely,
buL do iL when you can. lí you íind a criLicism, consider Lhe poinLs
Lhey raise and address Lhem LhoughLíully, noL dismissively. lí Lhey
praise you, be gracious and reLurn Lhe gesLure in kind.
Be Proacti'e Wit! %istakes
As l said in CriLical MisLakes Freelancers Make, we are all human, and
misLakes happen. Don'L shy away írom Lhem or, worse, neglecL Lo
acknowledge Lhem aL all. Own up Lo Lhem. 1his is a Lime Lo shine by
proacLively addressing misLakes beíore Lhey become an issue LhaL Lhe
clienL íeels compelled Lo bring Lo your (and oLher people's) aLLenLion.
¥ou'll show your commiLmenL Lo Lhe clienL and projecL, and iL will
speak volumes abouL your characLer. 8y owning up Lo our misLakes,
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
we show pride in our work, and more oíLen Lhan noL Lhe clienL will
undersLand and íorgive us.
2o )bo'e an. Be5on.
Doing all oí Lhe above usually puLs you in Lhe "above and beyond"
caLegory, buL you could always push your íreelancing business over
Lhe Lop by over-delivering. 8y giving your clienL more Lhan Lhey have
asked íor, you íurLher demonsLraLe your commiLmenL Lo making Lhem
happy and your pride in your períormance. 1his can be as simple as
addressing cusLomer service concerns posiLively and proacLively. lL
also encourages your clienLs Lo come back Lo you Lime and again.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Creati'el5 -an.ling t!e ).min Si.e of
3y Rcbert 3cwen
1here are very íew who would argue againsL Lhe noLion LhaL mosL
íreelance proíessionals, especially Lhose operaLing in Lhe
design/developmenL and wriLing arenas, Lend Lo operaLe írom a
creaLive base. 1hey are, by and large, a group LhaL has chosen Lo leL
Lhe righL side oí Lheir brain sLeer Lhem as íar as Lhe road sLreLches ouL
beíore Lhem. Having embraced Lheir creaLive and arLisLic naLure,
merging iL inLo Lheir career paLh and never looking back. And íor Lhe
mosL parL, a creaLive mind íiLs well in Lhis íreelance environmenL
because Lhey ulLimaLely call all Lhe shoLs and are bound by very íew
resLrainLs – íor Lhe mosL parL.
1his road, however, is noL wiLhouL iLs bumps, and íor a loL oí
íreelancers, Lhese bumps come when Lhe leíL brain musL be engaged
Lo navigaLe Lhe Lerrain.
MosL oí us are íamiliar wiLh Lhe concepL oí righL brain versus leíL
brain, wherein iL has been shown LhaL Lhe Lwo hemispheres oí Lhe
brain conLrol diííerenL modes oí Lhinking. 1he righL is Lhe creaLive and
arLisLic side, Lhe leíL being Lhe more logical and analyLical.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Civen LhaL mosL oí us are less apL Lo be íull-minded (meaning we
excel in boLh modes oí Lhinking), Lhere Lend Lo be some issues when iL
comes Lime íor you Lo menLally cross over íor a shorL Lime Lo Lhe
oLher side. 1his can be a problem in íreelancing, because Lhough we
mighL preíer Lo Lurn righL, we have Lo handle every aspecL oí our
business and LhaL means every so oíLen going leíL.
1he adminisLraLive side oí Lhe job Lends Lo be leíL-brain-heavy, and
can prove diííiculL íor some righL-brainers Lo Lackle. 8elow, l have
broken down Lhe oííending areas LhaL oíLen hang us up, and have
provided some Lips íor how Lo make iL Lhrough Lhese leíL-brained
business barriers.
1he íirsL adminisLraLive Lask we will look aL is scheduling. NoL only
because oí iLs imporLance Lo our íreelance business, buL because
eííecLive Lime managemenL can aid wiLh Lhe oLher elemenLs oí your
admin responsibiliLies. 1his Lends Lo be very diííiculL íor exLremely
creaLive individuals íor Lhe simple íacL LhaL righL-brainers Lend Lo be
more random and less sequenLial in LhoughL. And since scheduling
creaLiviLy is noL someLhing we can always eííecLively manage, we Lend
Lo overlook Lhe idea oí scheduling our work alLogeLher.
lronically, Lhis oíLen-avoided admin elemenL by creaLives can acLually
help sLimulaLe our creaLive workílow. Scheduling diííerenL leíL-brained
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
adminisLraLive Lasks Lo be handled LhroughouL Lhe day oííers your
creaLive mind a change oí gears. lL essenLially unplugs you írom Lhe
mindseL you're in when you creaLe and gives your oíLen overworked
righL brain a biL oí a break. So when you reLurn Lo Lhe righL side oí
Lhings, you do so reíreshed and recharged. Scheduling your day,
Lhereíore, can beneíiL boLh sides oí your íreelance business.
Tips for Tackling
• 1he more íun LhaL iL is íor you Lo use, Lhe more likely iL is LhaL
you're going Lo use iL. Find an easy-Lo-use Lime managemenL
app wiLh a íun Ul and you will íind LhaL iL is easier Lo moLivaLe
yourselí Lo open iL up and dive in.
• 8e sLricL wiLh yourselí abouL all Lhe selí-imposed schedules
you have come up wiLh. 8y eníorcing Lhe schedules and
Lhrough repeLiLion, Lhey will evenLually become second naLure
and will be easier Lo work inLo your rouLine.
• Do noL be Loo hard on yourselí, jusL leL your sysLem evolve
wiLh you. Chances are, you are going Lo have a period oí
adjusLmenL íor Lhis, so leL iL evolve and grow Lo suiL you beLLer
raLher Lhan geL írusLraLed and give up. 1he beLLer Lhe íiL, Lhe
beLLer iL will serve your business.
• Always seL yourselí up wiLh a redundancy sysLem! Civen LhaL
you may noL be used Lo scheduling yourselí, iL may behoove
you Lo have a backup plan. Having Lhe exLra coverage may
also provide some peace oí mind.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1he nexL adminisLraLive Lask we'll Lalk abouL is Lhe bookkeeping side
oí business. l have always had an aversion Lo numbers, maLh and
anyLhing accounLing relaLed, so Lhis was a big adjusLmenL íor me as l
imagine iL has been íor a loL oí oLher íreelancers. 1he easy answer íor
Lhese woes is Lo simply hire an accounLanL, buL íor some - especially
Lhose jusL sLarLing ouL in Lhe business - Lhis is noL necessarily an
aííordable plan oí aLLack. So we have Lo Lake Lhese Lasks upon
ourselves and be able Lo make sense oí iL all.
1he greaL Lhing abouL Lhis area oí your íreelance liíe is LhaL so many
applicaLion auLhors undersLand our pain and Lhey have developed
wonderíul programs LhaL Lake mosL oí Lhe guesswork ouL oí Lhe
equaLion íor you. ClienL, accounL, and projecL managemenL are
becoming easier-Lhan-ever íor Lhe righL-brained inhabiLanLs wiLh
applicaLions. ln Lhese cases Lhe soíLware essenLially handles mosL oí
Lhis íor you, while you simply inpuL a biL oí daLa.
Tips for Tackling
• Find a program LhaL is suiLed Lo your needs only. 1he bells and
whisLles LhaL go above and beyond are noL necessary, and may
only cause coníusion. Fspecially in Lhe beginning, keep iL
simple so you do noL geL overwhelmed.
• Make sure LhaL you sLay on Lop oí Lhese Lasks. 1he
bookkeeping is whaL keeps you going and sLable, so make
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
sure you do noL geL behind in your billing.LhaL's Lhe clienL's
job. SeL billing reminders and collecLion reminders so LhaL you
do noL leL anyLhing íall Lhrough Lhe cracks.
• 1he less Lime iL Lakes Lo geL done, Lhe less apL we are Lo puL iL
oíí. CreaLing LemplaLes íor your accounLing paperwork can
help cuL down Lhe Lime and LhoughL LhaL has Lo go inLo iL. And
LhaL will naLurally make us more prone Lo Lackling.
• Help avoid penalLies íor your accounLing pracLices. Fach
counLry and province has diííerenL laws and regulaLions LhaL
are governing your business and Lhe Laxes LhaL accompany iL.
8e sure LhaL you íind ouL whaL Lhey are and keep up wiLh
changes Lo avoid accumulaLing penalLies and íines.
AnoLher aspecL oí Lhe adminisLraLive side Lo your íreelance business
LhaL will oíLen draw periods oí procrasLinaLion is your business
correspondence. 1his is noL reíerring Lo replying Lo a pen pal or any
kind oí creaLive wriLing, Lhis generally is deLailed and conLracLual
which immediaLely presenLs iLselí as a barrier Lo Lhe righL-brained
Lhinkers. So iL is a naLural reacLion íor Lhe creaLively minded Lo avoid
dealing wiLh Lhe inbox or reLurning messages LhaL we cannoL deny are
imporLanL. Fven Lhough Lhis is noL occurring íace-Lo-íace, we sLill íeel
ouL oí our elemenL, so we puL oíí unLil Lomorrow whaL should have
been done Loday.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Once again, Lhe righL-brainers Lend Lo Lhink more randomly Lhan
sequenLially, so communicaLing our LhoughLs Lo Lhose populaLing Lhe
opposiLe sphere can prove problemaLic. 8uL Lhis is where Lhe
scheduling can íurLher assisL you. MosL oí our business runs on some
íorm oí back-and-íorLh communicaLion - be iL wiLh clienLs, users,
colleagues, eLc. - so making Lime every day Lo sorL Lhrough your
inbox will keep iL running smooLhly. CeLLing back in a Limely íashion
will reílecL posiLively on you and build LrusL in your brand.
Tips for Tackling
• Again, geL Lime on your side and Lhis will help geL you going. lí
you íind LhaL you are regularly responding Lo Lhe same Lypes
oí queries, creaLe copy LemplaLes Lo move your mail along.
• PrioriLize and caLegorize and Lhe Lask will íly pasL. Keeping a
hierarchy oí your correspondences and having Lhem separaLed
by Lypes will keep you rolling Lhrough quick and easy. Again,
Lhis breaking down and separaLing oí your messages may noL
be Lhe easiesL íor Lhe righL-brainers Lo build inLo a habiL, buL iL
is cerLainly worLh a Lry.
• CeL in and geL ouL! 1ry Lo keep your inbox empLy and your
messages íiled away íor easy reíerence and prioriLizaLion. lí iL
is a message LhaL can be replied Lo quickly, Lhen go ahead and
immediaLely geL Lhis done, oLherwise íile iL íor laLer.
• 8reviLy is beyond key, iL is your besL íriend. Keep your
correspondence brieí and Lo Lhe poinL and avoid venLuring
down unnecessary avenues LhaL open yourselí up Lo íurLher
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
quesLions. lí you ramble on, you are simply wasLing Lime LhaL
you could be using elsewhere.
Client /elations
AnoLher oíLenLimes adminisLraLive nighLmare LhaL íreelancers come
across is Lhe clienL relaLions porLion oí Lhe posiLion. 1here is a reason
we like Lhe soliLude LhaL Lends Lo accompany Lhe íreelance career
paLh, and so breaking ouL oí LhaL soliLary shell Lo be able Lo eííecLively
communicaLe wiLh clienLs can be daunLing. lL's no secreL LhaL in order
íor your business Lo Lhrive, you need Lo have a clienL base Lo build
upon. And as should be no secreL Lo anyone, Lhe way you deal wiLh
your clienLs will oíLen deLermine ií Lhey will reLurn.
As a creaLive individual whose Lrain oí LhoughL pulls righL, inLeracLing
wiLh Lhose on Lhe leíL side oí Lhe Lracks will noL always go smooLhly. ln
íacL, iL may noL LranslaLe well. 1he means and meLhods LhaL righL-
brainers subscribe Lo, even in explanaLions and conversaLions, can
Lend Lo be hard Lo íollow íor leíLers, and vice versa. So iL is imperaLive
LhaL we Lry Lo make an eííorL Lo keep Lhese inLeracLions íocused and
on Lopic. And by undersLanding LhaL such a LranslaLion gap exisLs, we
can make more oí an eííorL Lo bridge Lhe gap when we deal wiLh our
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Tips for Tackling
• 1ry Lo sLep ouLside your regular righL-brained random ways.
MomenLarily leave Lhem behind and organize your LhoughLs
beíore meeLings. 1aking noLes and ouLlining Lhe poinLs you
need Lo cover beíorehand can help you sLay íocused and have
an easier Lime íollowing.
• JusL as we are oíLen responsible íor sLeering clienLs Lowards a
decision once Lhey employ us, we need Lo conLinue Lo make
sLrides Lowards being able Lo sLeer Lhe conversaLion. 1his helps
Lo ensure we sLay comíorLable as we converse, and iL keeps us
in our elemenL as much as possible.
• Since iL is necessary íor us Lo undersLand Lhe projecL írom
every angle, have your clienLs explain Lheir approach írom
many direcLions. 1his may help you íind a way Lo relaLe Lo iL
when you oLherwise wouldn'L.
• lL may sound cheesy, buL you may wanL Lo seL up dry-run
pracLices wiLh some oí your non-creaLive íriends or íamily.
Running Lhrough your side oí Lhe conversaLion wiLh someone
who does noL work írom a creaLive place may prepare you íor
meeLings wiLh clienLs.
Backups an. =p.ates
When iL comes Lo imporLanL adminisLraLive Lasks LhaL so many
íreelancers Lend Lo leL slip Lhrough Lhe cracks, keeping up wiLh
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
backups and updaLes ranks high on Lhe lisL íor righL-brainers. CreaLive
people Lend Lo work in Lhe momenL oí inspiraLion, and we are
enveloped by LhaL momenL. 8uL Lhe momenL moves on, and when iL
does move on, we are swallowed up by Lhe nexL Lask. WiLh our ever-
íorward-moving momenLum pushing againsL us, we íorgeL Lo look
back, leL alone backup (.sorry). And sLopping in Lhe middle oí our
creaLive ílow Lo updaLe our soíLware doesn'L exacLly rank high eiLher.
NaLurally, as a íreelancer you are going Lo be Lhe only one managing
and keeping records oí whaL is happening on your end, including
Lhose ever-precious works-in-progress. Losing Lhem would be
devasLaLing, buL remembering Lo back Lhem up, wouldn'L exacLly be a
righL-brainer move .Lhough l Lhink iL may be a boLh-brain sphere
issue. lL seems LhaL mosL oí us do noL consider backing up our íiles
unLil someLhing acLually happens Lo cause our drive Lo crash and we
lose Lhem all. 8uL again, in Lhe íreelance íield you are on your own
when iL comes Lo daLa loss, Lhere is no l1 deparLmenL backing you up,
so Lo speak.
Tips for Tackling
• AuLomaLion is a righL-brainer's buddy, and iL jusL means LhaL
you may acLually geL your backups and updaLes done! Finding
a service LhaL backs up your daLa auLomaLically Lakes Lhe sLress
oíí you and ensures LhaL you won'L have Lo worry abouL any
righL-brained inLeríerence in Lhis area.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• 1ake a momenL, and Lake a hike! For many oí us, as long as we
are aL our compuLer, we will noL have Lhe willpower Lo sLop
working and geL our backups and updaLes done. So walk away.
Cive yourselí a break, sLarL Lhe process and come back laLer
ready Lo go.
• A loL oí basic soíLware updaLes are quick and easy and do noL
inLerrupL your workílow íor very long. Scheduling can
deíiniLely work wiLh you in Lhis arena, as mosL producLiviLy
meLhods encourage you Lo Lake shorL breaks LhroughouL your
work day. SeL up Lo run updaLes during Lhese breaks so LhaL
you know Lhey geL done.
• Once again, Lurn Lo prioriLizaLion and a leíL-brained-sLyle
breakdown Lo geL over Lhe procrasLinaLion hump LhaL bars
mosL creaLives (and so many more) írom geLLing Lheir updaLes
and backups done. Decide whaL are your mosL imporLanL íiles
and programs, and make sure LhaL Lhey geL done íirsL and
íoremosL. 1hen as you work Lhrough your week, work Lhrough
your lower-prioriLy iLems.
6'erall ).'ice
Dou are creati'eE so act like itF
Overall, you cannoL ignore your adminisLraLive responsibiliLies and
hope Lhey go away. So do whaL iL is LhaL you do besL - approach iL
creaLively. 1he inLerwebs are alive wiLh creaLive soluLions Lo so many
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
diííerenL problems LhaL you are bound Lo be able Lo íind one LhaL íiLs
yours. lí noL, maybe come up wiLh your own. NoLhing is ouL oí reach
íor Lhe creaLive mind, because we know no limiLaLions. even Lhe
occasional cross-over Lo Lhe leíL side.
Inspiration is t!e eas5 partE no lets talk moti'ationF
One oí Lhe hardesL Lhings íor mosL creaLive-minded individuals Lo do
when approaching Lhe LerriLory oí Lhe leíL, is geLLing moLivaLed Lo
Lackle Lhese Lasks. Fven Lhose oí us noL prone Lo procrasLinaLion will
Lend Lo leL Lhe leíL work pile up longer Lhan Lhe righL simply because
iL is a less comíorLable íiL íor us. 1he Lhing Lo remember is LhaL
geLLing sLarLed is usually Lhe hardesL parL. NoL Lo go all Nike on you,
buL jusL do iL. Force yourselí Lo geL sLarLed, and leL iL roll. lmmerse
yourselí in as much oí a creaLive environmenL as you can Lo help
smooLh Lhe LransiLion, and run wiLh iL!
Do not elaborateE t!at 8ust complicatesF
¥ou know ií iL rhymes iL's goL Lo be Lrue (even Lhough LhaL absoluLe
doesn'L rhyme, buL sLill.). AnoLher imporLanL Lhing Lo remember is Lo
keep Lhings simple Lo help wiLh Lhese momenLary íorays inLo íoreign
LerriLories. Remember LhaL Lhis is noL where your sLrengLhs lie, so iL
may be besL íor you noL Lo Lake on Loo much in one biLe. Keep Lhings
as concise and brieí as you can, Laking Lhem a piece aL a Lime. As
righL-brained Lhinkers we Lend Lo see Lhings as a whole raLher Lhan in
parLs, so Lry Lo íind Lhe diííerenL parLs and break Lhem down, Lackling
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
one aL a Lime. 1haL was Lhe reason íor breaking everyLhing aparL
above, so LhaL you could see a way Lo sLarL separaLing Lhe diííerenL
parLs írom Lhe whole. 1his can make Lhe Lasks aL hand seem less
It?s in 5our reac!E 5ou 8ust !a'e to go for itF
An imporLanL Lhing Lo remember, overall, is LhaL jusL because we Lend
Lo preíer one mode oí Lhinking (be iL righL- or leíL-brained), we can
improve our abiliLies wiLhin each side Lhrough exercises LhaL sLimulaLe
Lhe diííerenL hemispheres. 1he problem Lends Lo arise when Lhere is
an imbalance in educaLional íocus LhaL íails Lo appeal Lo boLh sides oí
Lhe brain. 1his doesn'L mean iL is beyond us, jusL LhaL we have noL
worked aL improving Lhe opposiLe sphere. So Lhe more LhaL we keep
Lhose sides sLimulaLed, Lhe easier Lhe Lasks LhaL íall Lo LhaL side oí Lhe
brain will be Lo Lake on.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Pitc!ing >ike a Pro
by Ccmercn Chcµmcn
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Correspondence wiLh poLenLial clienLs is viLal Lo securing new work.
8eing able Lo wriLe a compeLenL, persuasive prosposal as well as a
proíessional cover leLLer and oLher leLLers (or emails) can seL a
designer aparL írom his or her less proíessional compeLiLion.
1he idea oí craíLing a íormal proposal can be inLimidaLing Lo many
designers. 8uL a good proposal can land you clienLs and seL Lhe Lone
íor your relaLionship wiLh Lhose clienLs. lL's worLh Lhe Lime and eííorL
Lo learn Lo creaLe a compelling proposal LhaL will convince prospecLive
clienLs LhaL you're Lhe designer íor Lhem.
WhaL íollows is a guide Lo creaLing a proíessional proposal, broken
down by secLion, as well as some Lips íor wriLing greaL cover leLLers Lo
accompany your proposals. 1here are also hinLs aL convincing
prospecLs Lo sign wiLh you insLead oí your compeLiLion aL Lhe end.
)natom5 of a Professional Proposal
1he web design proposal is one oí Lhe mosL imporLanL documenLs in
Lhe clienL-designer relaLionship. lL serves mulLiple íuncLions. an
ouLline oí Lhe projecL, a conLracL beLween Lhe clienL and designer, and
a meLhod íor clariíying whaL Lhe projecL is all abouL.
FxacLly how you íormaL your proposal is up Lo you, buL Lhere are
cerLain parLs LhaL virLually ever proposal should include. Feel íree Lo
geL creaLive in Lhe design oí Lhe proposal, buL remember LhaL Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
primary purpose is Lo convey iníormaLion. AnyLhing LhaL inLeríeres
wiLh Lhe readabiliLy oí Lhe documenL should be cuL.
Co'er Page
Fvery proposal should have a cover page. 1his cover page needs Lo
conLain some basic iníormaLion abouL whaL Lhe documenL conLains.
Mainly, iL should have.
A line LhaL says someLhing like. "WebsiLe Design Proposal íor
X¥Z Company".
Who prepared Lhe proposal, including company name and
conLacL iníormaLion.
¥ou mighL also wish Lo include your company's nondisclosure
sLaLemenL here.
1he cover page makes iL easy íor your clienL Lo immediaLely idenLiíy
whaL Lhe documenL is and who iL's írom. AnyLhing you can do Lo
make iL easier íor your prospecLive clienL Lo geL in Louch wiLh you (or
jusL remember who you are), is a posiLive Lhing íor you.
0on.isclosure Statement
A nondisclosure sLaLemenL should always be presenL on any proposal
you send Lo a clienL, no maLLer how iníormal LhaL proposal is. Many
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
clienLs don'L realize Lhere's anyLhing wrong wiLh Laking Lhe ideas oí
one designer and sharing Lhem wiLh anoLher designer. Many also
don'L realize LhaL sharing iníormaLion abouL how you íormaL your
proposals, whaL you include, and whaL your raLes are, is oíLen
sensiLive inLernal iníormaLion LhaL should noL be shared wiLh your
While a nondisclosure sLaLemenL will do liLLle Lo deLer shady clienLs
írom sharing your proposal's conLenL wiLh anoLher design íirm, iL can
do a loL Lo deLer clienLs who jusL don'L know any beLLer. ln any evenL,
including one is an imporLanL legal proLecLion. WheLher you wanL Lo
have a íormal, legal nondisclosure sLaLemenL draíLed by a lawyer or
simply sLaLe someLhing in plain language is up Lo you. 8uL Lhe
sLaLemenL should basically say LhaL all Lhe iníormaLion conLained in
Lhe proposal is Lhe properLy oí your design íirm and should noL be
shared wiLh anyone wiLhouL prior wriLLen auLhorizaLion.
Compan5 Statement
¥our company sLaLemenL is a surprisingly imporLanL parL oí any
design proposal. 1his is where you geL Lo give Lhe clienL a liLLle
iníormaLion LhaL will seL your company aparL írom compeLing íirms.
SLress your sLrengLhs here, as well as any perLinenL iníormaLion LhaL
makes you parLicularly qualiíied íor Lheir projecL.
¥our company sLaLemenL should include a liLLle background on your
company, as well as your company philosophy or mission sLaLemenL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
8uL keep Lhe whole Lhing shorL, a couple paragraphs is ideal, buL no
more Lhan a page under any circumsLances. lí you go longer, you risk
your clienL skimming LhaL parL oí Lhe proposal in íavor oí geLLing Lo
Lhe deLails oí Lheir projecL.
Client Information
1he clienL iníormaLion should sLaLe noL only Lhe name oí Lhe company
and Lheir conLacL iníormaLion, buL also your parLicular conLacL aL Lhe
company. 1here should also be a brieí, one-line descripLion oí Lhe
projecL here.
Client 2oals
1his secLion should ouLline whaL Lhe clienL's projecL aims Lo do.
Consider wheLher Lhe siLe Lhey're seeking bids íor will be an
ecommerce siLe, a social neLwork, or someLhing else. ¥ou should have
soughL Lhis iníormaLion prior Lo wriLing Lhe proposal, and should have
a good idea oí whaL Lhe clienL is looking íor. lí noL, you'll need Lo ask
Lhe clienL some quesLions abouL whaL Lhey're looking íor.
lí Lhere are speciíic objecLives already ouLlined íor Lhe projecL, a
bulleLed lisL can work really well íor Lhis secLion. OLherwise, jusL a
paragraph or Lwo LhaL describes Lhe projecL as you undersLand iL is
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Special Consi.erations
1his is a preLLy broad area, buL almosL every projecL will have aL leasL a
íew special consideraLions. ¥ou need Lo ouLline Lhem righL in Lhe
proposal, and consider Lheir impacLs on your overall Limeline and
cosLs. WhaL, exacLly, Lhese speciíic consideraLions are is likely Lo vary
subsLanLially beLween diííerenL projecLs and diííerenL clienLs. A íew
A siLe aimed aL children will need Lo íollow cerLain legal
guidelines regarding conLenL and parenLal permissions
A siLe íor disabled users will need Lo have special aLLenLion paid
Lo accessibiliLy issues
1he design mighL need Lo smooLhly LransiLion írom an older
design, íollowing a similar layouL or color scheme
1here could be special bandwidLh or sLorage needs ií Lhe siLe
will be hosLing a loL oí mulLimedia íiles or will be parLicularly
Oí course, Lhere are poLenLially hundreds oí diííerenL "special
consideraLions" you may need Lo accounL íor in Lhe design process.
OuLlining as many as you can in Lhe proposal sLage will help Lo ensure
Lhere are íewer misundersLandings laLer in Lhe process.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lL also helps Lo reassure your clienL LhaL you're really lisLening Lo Lheir
needs and will come up wiLh a comprehensive soluLion LhaL works íor
Lheir company.
Propose. Solution
1his secLion should oííer a brieí descripLion oí how you propose Lo
meeL Lhe goals oí Lhe clienL. Ceneral Lerms like "ecommerce siLe" or
"social neLwork" are key here, as Lhis secLion will be íollowed by more
Keep Lhis secLion Lo less Lhan a page, preíerably a couple oí
paragraphs LhaL ouLline whaL Lypes oí conLenL will be included on Lhe
siLe, as well as Lhe general íuncLionaliLy Lhe siLe will possess. Again,
you'll geL inLo more speciíics in subsequenL secLions.
Pro8ect Specifics
1his is Lhe real meaL oí Lhe proposal. 1his is where you ouLline
speciíically whaL Lhe siLe will consisL oí. An iLemized lisL oí exacLly whaL
work you're proposing Lo do should be included.
1he lisL should include a brieí descripLion oí any parL LhaL isn'L
obvious. Keep Lhese descripLions Lo a couple oí senLences aL mosL, or
break Lhem down inLo smaller parLs. 1his secLion should give your
clienL an idea oí exacLly whaL Lhey're geLLing íor Lheir money.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Depending on Lhe Lype oí siLe you're designing, you mighL include
here speciíic plugins LhaL will be used (or creaLed), as well as any
cusLom arLwork you'll be creaLing íor Lhe clienL. lL's noL uncommon íor
Lhis secLion Lo run well over a page, and oíLenLimes much longer íor
complicaLed or parLicularly large siLes.
Pro8ect P!ases
1his is where you wanL Lo ouLline exacLly how long each parL oí Lhe
projecL will Lake. For example, you mighL propose Laking Lwo weeks Lo
provide wireírames or an iniLial mockup. ¥ou mighL Lhen give Lhe
clienL one week Lo approve Lhose or suggesL changes.
Make sure you ouLline boLh your parLs and Lheirs. Fmphasize LhaL iL's
imporLanL Lhey meeL Lhe deadlines you've seL ií Lhey wanL Lo keep Lhe
projecL on schedule. lL's also a good idea Lo overesLimaLe how much
Lime Lhings will Lake you, as iL's beLLer Lo under-promise and over-
deliver Lhan Lhe oLher way around. lL can also be helpíul Lo someLimes
give your clienLs LighLer deadlines, as iL creaLes a sense oí urgency and
oíLen moLivaLes Lhem Lo Lake care oí Lhings immediaLely raLher Lhan
waiLing unLil Lhe lasL minuLe.
Using speciíic daLes raLher Lhan jusL a general Limeline can also add a
sense oí urgency. lí you opL noL Lo seL speciíic daLes in Lhe proposal,
speciíy LhaL you'll provide Lhem wiLh a íinalized schedule once Lhe
conLracL has been signed.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Some designers may opL Lo include Lhe projecL phases wiLhin Lhe
secLion on projecL speciíics. 1his can work well íor relaLively simple
projecLs, buL íor complex projecLs iL may be coníusing. lL's besL Lo
decide Lhis on a case-by-case basis.
%aintenance Plan
lL's a good idea Lo include iníormaLion on a monLhly mainLenance
plan íor your clienLs in Lhe proposal. OuLline whaL your regular
mainLenance agreemenL consisLs oí and how many hours oí work LhaL
includes. Also speciíy wheLher any unused Lime can be rolled over
inLo subsequenL monLhs or noL.
lnclude here wheLher hosLing is included in Lhe monLhly mainLenance
plan or ií LhaL's a separaLe cosL. Also include here iníormaLion on your
Limelines íor mainLenance or updaLes. ClienLs wanL Lo know wheLher
your Lypical Lurnaround Lime is a day or a week up íronL.
¥ou'll need Lo ouLline exacLly whaL your íees are íor Lhe projecL.
lLemizing Lo some exLenL is oíLen helpíul íor clienLs. Also speciíy
wheLher Lhis esLimaLe may change, and under whaL circumsLances.
LeLLing clienLs know LhaL delays on Lheir parL or exLra rounds oí
revisions will add Lo Lhe cosL is someLhing LhaL's oíLen overlooked by
designers. And ií iL's noL poinLed ouL Lo clienLs in Lhe proposal sLage,
Lhey may dispuLe exLra charges laLer.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Civing clienLs iníormaLion abouL how Lhe projecL is being charged can
someLimes be helpíul in landing Lhe projecL, buL can also be
deLrimenLal. Many clienLs don'L care how many hours someLhing will
Lake you, Lhey're only inLeresLed in Lhe íinal cosLs. Oí course, oLher
clienLs wanL Lo know exacLly whaL Lhey're paying íor, and will requesL
a more deLailed breakdown oí charges. 1his is anoLher Lhing you'll
need Lo Lailor Lo Lhe parLicular clienL.
AnoLher Lhing Lo include here is Lhe paymenL schedule, including how
much oí a deposiL is required beíore you sLarL work. Unless you've
worked successíully wiLh Lhe clienL beíore, you should always geL a
deposiL beíore you begin work. Some designers charge a small
amounL, only í0% or so, while oLhers mighL require as much as halí oí
Lhe LoLal up íronL. 1his is also largely dependenL on Lhe scope oí Lhe
projecL, Lhe overall Limeline, and Lhe LoLal charges.
0e4t Steps
DeLailing exacLly whaL Lhe clienL needs Lo do Lo geL Lhe ball rolling on
Lheir projecL is someLhing LhaL's oíLen overlooked. Using Lhe proposal
as a conLracL can oíLen work beLLer Lhan having a separaLe documenL
LhaL basically lays ouL exacLly Lhe same Lhing. lncluding a line íor Lhem
Lo sign as well as insLrucLions íor sending whaLever deposiL you
require Lo geL sLarLed can prompL a clienL Lo sign wiLh you.
lncluding a deadline íor Lhe clienL Lo sign Lhe proposal and geL iL back
Lo you can also increase your chances oí geLLing a signed conLracL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1elling Lhem LhaL ií Lhey geL Lhe signed conLracL back Lo you by X daLe
íor you Lo sLarL work by ¥ daLe can be a sLrong moLivaLor. AíLer all,
clienLs are oíLen eager Lo geL Lheir projecL underway.
Formatting Dour Proposal
¥our proposal should be íormaLLed like any business correspondence.
lL should emphasize Lhe conLenL over all else. lL should be easy Lo
read and noLhing should disLracL írom whaL iL says. lncluding a logo
or similar graphics on Lhe cover page is íine.
lí you're going Lo email Lhe proposal, converLing iL Lo a PDF beíore
sending will help ensure LhaL iL's seen by your prospecLive clienL Lhe
way you inLended iL Lo be seen. Make sure you check your íile size
beíore emailing iL, and Lry Lo make sure iL's less Lhan íM8 Lo prevenL
any Lransmission problems. Always aLLach your proposal, never
include iL in Lhe body oí Lhe email.
lí you're going Lo mail iL, make sure you use a good qualiLy paper, buL
don'L go overboard. A high qualiLy, brighL whiLe prinLer paper is íine.
1here's no need Lo use someLhing íancy like a coLLon paper or resume
paper. Make sure your prinLer Loner or ink isn'L running ouL and is
prinLing suííicienLly dark. Review Lhe íinal documenL in iLs prinLed
íorm beíore mailing iL Lo make sure Lhere were no prinLing problems.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Co'er >etters an. Business Correspon.ence
Whenever you're sending a documenL íor a clienL Lo review, you
should include a cover leLLer. lL makes Lhe enLire package look more
proíessional, and makes sure your clienL knows exacLly whaL iL is
Lhey've jusL received. ln Lhe case oí a proposal, iL helps seL Lhe Lone
íor a proíessional clienL-designer relaLionship. Business Format
¥our cover leLLer should íollow esLablished business-leLLer íormaL. 1his
means iL should include Lhe íollowing parLs, in order.
1he daLe, íormaLLed as. "day monLh, year" or "monLh day, year"
¥our address, unless iL's included somewhere on your leLLerhead
1he clienL name and address
1he saluLaLion (Dear Mr. X, or similar)
1he body oí Lhe leLLer. Keep Lhis proíessional, use proper
capitalization and punctuation, and only make it as long as it
needs Lo be
1he closing (Sincerely, or someLhing equally proíessional)
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
¥our signaLure
¥our name and LiLle, Lyped
lí Lhere are any enclosures
lí Lhe leLLer has been CC'd Lo anyone
Cover leLLers should be prinLed on your leLLerhead, on good qualiLy
paper. Make sure you use a íonL LhaL's proíessional and readable (a
good rule oí Lhumb is Lo use aL leasL an íí pL. íonL, and preíerably a
í2 pL. íonL). ¥our cover leLLer should rarely run more Lhan a single
Business >etters
Cover leLLers aren'L Lhe only business leLLers you're likely Lo send in
your career. For Lhe mosL parL, Lhough, you'll be corresponding by
email more Lhan mail. lL's LempLing Lo be very casual in an email, buL
Lhis is a very bad idea when dealing wiLh prospecLs and clienLs,
especially new ones.
Whenever you're corresponding wiLh a clienL or prospecL, always use
proper grammar and puncLuaLion, capiLalizaLion, and oLher sLandards
you would use in a prinLed business leLLer. Avoid using emoLicons or
slang, aL leasL unLil aíLer Lhe clienL has done so. Fven Lhen, Lhey
should be used sparingly.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
JusL because someLhing is being LransmiLLed elecLronically isn'L an
excuse Lo be less proíessional Lhan you would be in a mailed leLLer.
Always remember LhaL you're engaging in business correspondence
and acL accordingly. CreaLe a proíessional signaLure Lo include in
every email you send LhaL includes your name and LiLle, phone
number, preíerred email address, and websiLe address, as well as
oLher perLinenL conLacL iníormaLion.
Special ,mail Consi.erations
lí you're emailing your proposal, you'll wanL Lo wriLe Lhe cover leLLer in
Lhe body oí Lhe email. 1here are some íormaLLing consideraLions
you'll wanL Lo Lake inLo accounL when emailing your cover leLLer raLher
Lhan prinLing iL ouL. FirsL oí all, omiL everyLhing above Lhe saluLaLion
in sLandard business leLLer íormaL. SLarL wiLh "Dear Mr. X," or similar.
AL Lhe end oí your email, below your signaLure, you'll wanL Lo include
your conLacL iníormaLion, raLher Lhan aL Lhe Lop oí Lhe email. ¥ou can
omiL Lhe "CC'd" secLion aL Lhe end, as iL will be apparenL in Lhe header
oí Lhe email ií iL's been CC'd. ¥ou can also generally omiL Lhe
"enclosures" secLion, as iL should be apparenL whaL's been aLLached Lo
Lhe email. ¥ou may wanL Lo menLion any aLLachmenLs in Lhe body oí
Lhe email, Lhough, so LhaL your recipienL knows whaL Lhey're opening.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Con'incing Clients
Fven wiLh an excellenL wriLLen proposal and cover leLLer, you may have
Limes when a clienL is hesiLanL Lo sign you or your company. A loL oí
designers aL Lhis poinL will simply waiL íor Lhe company Lo make up
Lheir mind. 1hey're so aíraid oí coming across as pushy or like Lhey're
going íor Lhe "hard sell" LhaL Lhey don'L go íor any sale aL all.
1here are ways you can persuade a prospecL Lo sign wiLh you, Lhough,
LhaL aren'L pushy and won'L make you come across like a used car
Stress Dour Strengt!s
When you're Lrying Lo convince a prospecLive clienL Lo hire you, you
need Lo sLress why you're Lhe períecL person or Leam íor Lheir projecL.
1hink abouL Lhe Lhings Lhey need and how you can provide Lhose
Lhings. Keep reiLeraLing Lo Lhem LhaL you have Lhe skills Lhey need.
Provide evidence oí Lhose skills. Show Lhem oLher projecLs you've
Laken on and how whaL you did in Lhose insLances can be applied Lo
Lheir projecL. Prooí oí your sLrengLhs and compeLencies can be a
poweríul persuasive Lool.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Don<t Disparage Competitors
When a clienL Lells you Lhey're Lrying Lo decide beLween you and a
compeLing design íirm, iL can be LempLing Lo poinL ouL all Lhe ílaws in
LhaL oLher íirm. 1he LempLaLion grows even sLronger when Lhere are
real, idenLiíiable problems LhaL Lhe oLher íirm is Lrying Lo hide.
/esist t!at temptationF
ln a besL case scenario, you disparaging your compeLiLion is likely Lo
have liLLle eííecL on Lhe clienL's decision. ln a worsL case scenario, iL
looks like you've goL sour grapes over someLhing or oLher, and
acLually works in your compeLiLor's íavor. lí Lhere are real problems
wiLh Lhe compeLiLor (a hisLory oí uneLhical pracLices or uníinished
projecLs, íor example), simply urge your prospecLive clienL Lo check
reíerences íor boLh you and Lhe compeLiLor beíore making Lheir
)sk 9uestionsE 6ffer Solutions
lí a clienL is on Lhe íence, ask Lhem quesLions abouL why Lhey're
having a hard Lime deciding. 1hen address Lheir answers direcLly. Find
soluLions Lo Lheir concerns. ln many cases, Lhey mighL jusL be
coníused abouL some parL oí Lhe process or your proposal (or your
compeLiLor's proposal).
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Open and honesL communicaLion wiLh prospecLive clienLs will lead Lo
beLLer clienL-designer relaLionships in Lhe long run. ¥ou'll have a
clearer undersLanding oí exacLly whaL Lhey wanL, and Lhey'll íeel
comíorLable asking you quesLions abouL Lhe process or oLherwise
communicaLing when Lhey're coníused abouL someLhing. 1his
generally resulLs in happier clienLs in Lhe end and less sLressed
designers during Lhe projecL iLselí.
T!ings to Watc! 6ut For
lí a clienL seems impossible Lo saLisíy, you may be beLLer oíí walking
away írom Lhe projecL. lí Lhey're unable Lo make a decision during Lhe
proposal sLage, iL's only likely Lo geL worse as Lhe projecL progresses.
¥ou wanL Lo work wiLh clienLs who can make decisions and meeL
deadlines. ClienLs who can'L do eiLher only resulL in headaches íor Lhe
designer and are rarely compleLely happy wiLh Lhe íinished resulL.
AnoLher Lhing Lo waLch ouL íor is a clienL who's consLanLly Lrying Lo
geL you Lo come down on price or Lo Lhrow in exLras wiLhouL charging
íor Lhem. While someLimes Lhis is jusL indicaLive oí a budgeL-
conscious clienL, iL can also mean LhaL Lhe clienL is going Lo Lry Lo
nickel-and-dime you on every parL oí Lhe projecL, will dispuLe charges,
and possibly even delay or neglecL Lo pay Lheir bills.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
6'ercoming Specific Concerns
SomeLimes when a clienL can'L make up Lheir mind, iL seems
compleLely arbiLrary. 1hey don'L give you enough iníormaLion abouL
why Lhey're hesiLanL Lo hire you Lo eííecLively convince Lhem wiLh
anyLhing buL generaliLies. 8uL in oLher cases, Lhey give you speciíic
reasons why Lhey're unsure abouL hiring you. When Lhis happens, iL's
an opporLuniLy. 1hey're giving you Lhe chance Lo overcome Lheir
objecLions, as well as all Lhe iníormaLion you need Lo do so.
1here are a number oí common concerns clienLs have. And each one
can be overcome once you know whaL Lhey're hesiLaLion is based on.
Here are some oí Lhe mosL common concerns clienLs have, and whaL
you can do in response.
Scope an. Scale of t!e Pro8ect
AíLer reviewing your careíully craíLed proposal, some clienLs may geL
cold íeeL and say Lhey only wanL Lo Lackle parL oí Lhe projecL aL LhaL
Lime. ln mosL cases Lhis is relaLed Lo eiLher Lhe Lime involved in Lhe
projecL or Lhe price. ¥ou'll need Lo íind ouL which one iL is, and Lhe
easiesL way Lo do so is Lo ask. 8e upíronL and simply ask Lhem ií iL's
Lhe Limeline íor Lhe projecL or Lhe budgeL LhaL makes Lhem wanL Lo
only compleLe parL oí Lhe projecL aL Lhis Lime.
lí iL's Lhe Limeline íor Lhe projecL, suggesL sLicking Lo Lhe proposed
schedule (or a slighLly modiíied one), buL rolling ouL new íeaLures as
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lhey're compleLed, raLher Lhan waiLing íor Lhe enLire siLe Lo be
íinished beíore launching Lhe new siLe. AdjusL Lhe schedule ií
necessary Lo make sure each parL oí Lhe projecL is modularized so
parLs oí Lhe siLe can be rolled ouL separaLely. 1hen, adjusL Lhe
paymenL schedule so paymenL is made íor each secLion launched.
1his helps assure you won'L end up compleLing more work Lhan you're
paid íor ií Lhe projecL sLalls or is puL on hold by Lhe clienL.
lí iL's price Lhe clienL is concerned wiLh, you'll likely need Lo come up
wiLh a plan Lo sLreLch Lhe projecL over a longer Lime period. ¥ou can
also propose a compromise, wiLh a biL more Lhan whaL Lhey're
proposing íor Lhe projecL, buL shorL oí Lhe enLire proposal. lí Lhe clienL
has decided Lhey don'L wanL Lo spend as much money as Lhey'd
originally planned, Lhere's oíLen noL much you can do Lo overcome
LhaL. lnsLead, work wiLh Lhe clienL wiLhin Lhe new budgeL. 1he goal
here is Lo make Lhem very happy wiLh Lhe íirsL phase oí Lhe projecL so
Lhey'll Lhen be eager Lo move on wiLh Lhe resL. 1here's more on
overcoming price objecLions laLer in Lhis secLion.
ClienLs oíLen have high hopes íor Lheir websiLe when Lhey íirsL sLarL
ouL. 1hey hope iL will bring Lhem more cusLomers and more money.
8uL as Lhey move along in Lhe process, Lhey oíLen sLarL Lo doubL Lhose
original goals. 1his is oíLen due Lo honesL íeedback and guidance
írom designers, who don'L wanL Lhem Lo have unrealisLic expecLaLions
írom Lheir siLe. 8uL iL can quickly spiral ouL oí conLrol and suddenly
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lhose once-enLhusiasLic clienLs are wondering ií Lhere's even any poinL
in a new websiLe.
AL Lhis poinL, iL's usually a good idea Lo give Lhe clienL a pep Lalk. Ask
Lhem again whaL Lhey're hoping Lo geL ouL oí Lhe websiLe, and Lhen
give Lhem concreLe iníormaLion on how your proposal will help Lhem
meeL Lhose goals. Remind Lhem LhaL a new websiLe isn'L going Lo
miraculously improve Lheir business, buL iL's an imporLanL íaceL oí a
successíul markeLing and sales plan íor many businesses. Don'L over-
promise, buL be posiLive and remind Lhem why Lhey wanLed a new
websiLe in Lhe íirsL place.
1his can be a Lough one Lo overcome. LeL's say your prospecLive clienL
has proposals írom a number oí designers Lhey're considering, and
you're Lhe leasL-experienced. While someLimes coming in aL a lower
price Lhan your more experienced compeLiLors can be enough Lo
enLice Lhe clienL Lo Lake a chance, in oLher cases Lhey're more
concerned wiLh resulLs Lhan money.
1he Lhing Lo do here is Lo reassure Lhem LhaL you have Lhe necessary
skills Lo geL Lheir projecL done. PoinL Lhem Lo previous successíul
projecLs you've compleLed, and give Lhem LesLimonials or reíerences
Lo back up your claims. 1ell Lhem LhaL your price reílecLs Lhe íacL LhaL
you have less experience, buL LhaL you're coníidenL you can compleLe
Lheir projecL successíully. ln many cases, ií you're coníidenL you can
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
do Lhe work, iL will Lransíer Lo Lhe clienL, and Lhey'll gain coníidence
LhaL you know whaL you're doing.
)ccessibilit5 to Dou
1his can be a big concern Lo many clienLs. 1hey wanL Lo know LhaL ií
Lhey have a quesLion or need Lo geL in Louch wiLh you, LhaL you'll be
accessible Lo Lhem. People are used Lo 24-hour supporL lines and
insLanL answers when Lhey run inLo a problem. 8uL in mosL cases,
designers can'L be quiLe LhaL accessible.
Remind your clienL oí all Lhe diííerenL ways Lhey can geL in Louch wiLh
you, and leL Lhem know LhaL you'll be available should an emergency
wiLh Lheir websiLe arise. LeL Lhem know whaL your policy is when you
go on vacaLion or are sick (is Lhere someone else who handles Lhings
while you're gone or do you handle emergency work personally, even
ií you're siLLing on Lhe beach in Cabo¹) and assure Lhem LhaL you
won'L drop oíí Lhe íace oí Lhe earLh aL Lhe exacL Lime Lhey're websiLe
crashes due Lo a huge increase in sales.
Time /eBuire. on T!eir Part an. Dours
lí your clienL plans Lo keep Lheir websiLe updaLed Lhemselves, Lhey
may be concerned abouL how much Lime LhaL will require. Some
clienLs may envision having Lo hire an enLire new sLaíí member jusL Lo
keep Lheir websiLe updaLed. 1he besL way Lo overcome Lhis is Lo give
Lhem a sneak peek inLo Lhe CMS Lheir siLe will be builL on. Show Lhem
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
how easy iL will be íor Lhem Lo add a new image or change around
some LexL. lí you're using a good CMS, Lhis should seL Lheir mind aL
lí Lhe clienL wanLs you Lo be able Lo do updaLes Lo Lheir siLe, you may
need Lo reassure Lhem LhaL a) you have Lime Lo keep Lheir siLe
updaLed and won'L Lake weeks Lo make simple changes, and b) LhaL iL
won'L Lake you hours and hours every monLh Lo make simple changes
LhaL will end up cosLing Lhem hundreds or Lhousands oí dollars.
Civing Lhem an esLimaLe oí how much Lime diííerenL basic updaLes
Lake, as well as reminding Lhem oí your policy on minimum charges,
will make Lhem less wary oí huge unexpecLed mainLenance charges in
Lhe íuLure.
Content 6ners!ip
1his concern is someLimes surprising íor many designers. ClienLs oíLen
wonder who acLually owns Lheir websiLe, boLh Lhe conLenL on iL and
Lhe siLe iLselí. 1his can be exacerbaLed ií you're also oííering Lhem
hosLing and domain regisLraLion services. 1hey wanL Lo know whaL
happens ií Lhey decide Lo move Lheir siLe Lo a diííerenL hosL or ií Lhey
wanL Lo make changes in Lhe íuLure wiLh a diííerenL designer.
Make sure Lhere's someLhing in your proposal or conLracL LhaL sLaLes
LhaL as long as Lheir bills wiLh you are currenL, Lheir websiLe and all
conLenL on iL are Lheir properLy. LeL Lhem know LhaL aL any poinL Lhey
can swiLch web hosLs or designers and you'll help íaciliLaLe LhaL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
change (aL your normal hourly raLe) in whaLever way is necessary.
Assure your clienLs LhaL Lhe conLenL Lhey puL up on Lheir siLe is Lheir
properLy, and LhaL Lhe siLe iLselí is also Lheirs.
¥ou may wanL Lo puL a clause in Lhis, Lhough, LhaL sLaLes LhaL Lhe code
is your copyrighLed maLerial and is only oííered Lo Lhe clienL on a
non-exclusive license. OLherwise, iL's íeasible LhaL a clienL could sue
you ií Lhey saw you designed a compeLiLor's siLe and used similar or
idenLical íeaLures. 8uL assure Lhem LhaL Lhis only applies Lo Lhe code,
noL Lo Lhe design or conLenL.
SomeLimes Lhe clienL's resisLance is relaLed Lo price. 1here are a Lon oí
low-priced (and oíLen low-qualiLy) designers ouL Lhere, undercuLLing
Lhe compeLiLion and enLicing clienLs wiLh big promises. lL can be
LempLing, especially as a new designer, Lo Lry Lo maLch Lhese
compeLiLors on price. 8uL LhaL's a bad idea íor a íew reasons. iL
undervalues your work, iL makes clienLs come Lo expecL low prices
(which leads Lo even lower prices), and iL seLs a bad precedenL íor
íuLure work írom LhaL clienL. While someLimes oííering a small
discounL Lo secure an accounL or Lo keep a long-Lerm clienL happy is
accepLable, iL's a bad habiL Lo geL inLo.
RaLher Lhan Lrying Lo compeLe on price, compeLe on vclue. ln all
likelihood, ií a company is undercuLLing your price by a loL, Lhey're
cuLLing corners in one way or anoLher. Ask Lhe clienL quesLions abouL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
whaL your compeLiLor is oííering. 1hen compare iL Lo whaL you're
promising Lhem. Asking quesLions in a non-LhreaLening manner can
lead Lo Lhe clienL more careíully scruLinizing whaL Lhe compeLiLor is
acLually Lelling Lhem. Reassure Lhe clienL LhaL you sLand behind your
work, and while you can'L guaranLee resulLs, you will guaranLee LhaL
Lhe websiLe will be íully-íuncLional and supporLed.
lí Lhe compeLiLion is promising Lhe moon íor very liLLle money, iL can
be a good idea Lo remind your prospecL Lo geL and check reíerences,
and Lo visiL and use some oí Lhe siLes wiLhin LhaL company's porLíolio.
lL also pays Lo remind Lhem Lo be sure Lhe compeLiLor did Lhe enLire
websiLe, noL jusL Lhe design or coding. 1here are horror sLories ouL
Lhere oí people paying Lhousands íor whaL Lhey Lhink will be a íully-
íuncLioning websiLe and in Lhe end all Lhey end up wiLh are some PSD
íiles and a company LhaL won'L answer Lheir emails.
As menLioned beíore, you don'L wanL Lo Lrash your compeLiLion. 8uL
LhaL doesn'L mean you can'L encourage your prospecLive clienLs Lo
carry ouL proper due diligence in choosing which íirm Lo hire. Make
sure, Loo, LhaL you don'L alienaLe Lhe clienL ií Lhey decide Lo go wiLh a
diííerenL íirm. lí Lhe sole reason was price (and iL was a signiíicanL
diííerence), chances are Lhey may be unhappy wiLh Lhe íinished
producL. ¥ou wanL Lhem Lo come back Lo you ií Lhey decide Lo redo
Lheir siLe.
lí Lhe price issue has less Lo do wiLh a compeLiLor undercuLLing you
and more Lo do wiLh general sLicker shock, meeL wiLh Lhe clienL Lo
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
discuss Lheir budgeL needs in beLLer deLail. 1ry Lo come up wiLh a
soluLion LhaL works íor Lheir budgeL. Again, be careíul oí prospecLs
who are Lrying Lo nickel-and-dime you, buL realize LhaL someLimes
people jusL don'L realize how expensive a websiLe can be. Consider
working ouL phases oí Lhe projecL, so Lhey don'L have Lo pay
everyLhing all aL once and can compleLe diííerenL phases as Lheir
budgeL allows. Working wiLh a clienL and coming up wiLh muLually-
beneíicial soluLions like Lhis can be an excellenL íoundaLion Lo
building a long-Lerm relaLionship wiLh a clienL who will noL only bring
you consisLenL work, buL will also appreciaLe LhaL you're sensiLive Lo
Lheir business needs.
In Conclusion
CreaLing a proíessional proposal is a key sLep in landing new clienLs.
Spend Lhe Lime and energy Lo creaLe a cusLom proposal íor each
prospecLive clienL raLher Lhan using some boilerplaLe copy and you'll
see your closing raLes rise. A clienL who íeels like you're paying
speciíic aLLenLion Lo Lhem, Lheir needs, and Lheir projecL will be more
likely Lo hire you and will likely be happier wiLh Lhe end resulL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Finances of Freelancing
3y lule Reimer
We're noL accounLanLs. We're web designers. Fspecially when
working as an individual raLher Lhan as parL oí a Leam, many
íreelancers geL caughL up in íocusing on Lhe websiLes LhaL Lhey creaLe
raLher Lhan Lhe necessary pracLices surrounding each projecL. 1hese
pracLices can aid in a number oí ways, such as sLress-relieving
organizaLion, more eííicienL Lime managemenL, a beLLer
undersLanding oí cosLs and pricing, and ulLimaLely how your íreelance
work íiLs inLo your overall annual income.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Foun.ation
Record keeping and analysis are íoundaLional Lo íinancial eííorLs,
wheLher we like iL or noL. 1racking Lime spenL and corresponding Lasks
during a projecL is crucial Lo beLLer undersLanding your íreelance work
írom a high level. lL doesn'L need Lo enLail an hour-by-hour log – even
esLimaLing Lime spenL aL Lhe close oí a projecL, when Lhese íigures are
íresh in your mind, can do Lhe Lrick. 1he boLLom line is, beíore you
can seek Lo improve or LighLen up your íreelance íinances you need Lo
accuraLely undersLand where you currenLly sLand.
1he Lhree elemenLs oí keeping records are Lime, income, and
expenses. lí you can record Lhese íor each projecL, and how Lhe Lhree
oí Lhese inLeracL – you're in greaL shape Lo begin analyzing how you
can beLLer sLay organized and even increase your revenues.
%a4imiGing Profit
W!at to In'oice For
Our income as web designers is relaLively sLraighL íorward – we geL
paid íor a web projecL according Lo a price predeLermined in projecL
planning and clienL inLeracLion. However, iL's a good pracLice Lo
develop a more deLailed invoice Lhan jusL Lhe overall projecL cosL.
Common lines on your invoice can include adminisLraLive Lime spenL
documenLing and organizing Lhe projecL, overhead íor managing
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
conLracLors or projecL managemenL, maLerials such as sLock
phoLography/íonLs and any special soíLware requiremenLs, and
coníerence calls, Lravel, and meeLings. lL can íeel a liLLle
uncomíorLable aL íirsL billing íor Lhings like adminisLraLion or cosL per
kilomeLer íor Lravel, buL Lhese are generally accepLed pracLices LhaL
mosL clienLs engage in Lhemselves.
9uoting Best Practices
1he projecL quoLe or bid is where your projecL income all begins.
1here are enLire arLicles wriLLen on Lhis Lopic alone – and iL's besL Lo
do Lhe research Lo deLermine boLh how Lo go abouL quoLing a projecL
wiLh a clienL, and how Lo quoLe accuraLely (noL Loo high, noL Loo low).
lL's imporLanL Lo engage in Lwo speciíic pracLices when quoLing – a
needs analysis, and a markeL analysis. 1he needs analysis enLails
gaLhering every biL oí relevanL iníormaLion perLaining Lo Lhe projecL
and whaL Lhe clienL requires, and Lhe markeL analysis involves
assessing Lhe currenL web markeL íor Lhe Lype oí projecL, as well as
your level oí skill and experience (and LhaL oí your Leam members ií
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
%inimiGing ,4penses
=sing Web Tools
1here are liLerally hundreds oí web apps, online Lools, and open
source downloads LhaL can assisL you in Lime managemenL, invoicing,
documenL LemplaLes, process mapping, and all sorLs oí Lasks LhaL
occur LhroughouL Lhe design and developmenL process as well as
overall íinances. Pick a íew oí Lhese, buL noL all oí Lhem, and work
Lhem inLo your business model.
Pen and paper, or sporadic spreadsheeLs and documenLs, can only
Lake you so íar beíore Lhey begin wasLing your Lime raLher Lhan
saving iL. l íind web Lools parLicularly useíul íor Lime Lracking, projecL
managemenL, invoicing, and sLreamlining communicaLions.
Streamline Dour Process
8e sure Lo develop a process or Lo save Lime and prevenL yourselí
írom re-invenLing Lhe wheel wiLh every projecL. 1here are some greaL
web design process guides in Lhe resources secLion – check Lhem ouL!
OLher sLreamlining Lime-saving acLiviLies can involve draíLing
common emails, Lo-do lisLs, and leveraging collaboraLion Lools.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
)' Pitfalls
1here are cerLainly some íinancial risks when iL comes Lo íreelancing
LhaL can leave you ouL in Lhe cold. Some oí Lhese pracLices have
helped keep me írom geLLing burned, or have come abouL írom
experiencing some uníorLunaLe siLuaLions in Lhe pasL!
• Fi4e. Buotes from subcontractors
1his is someLhing LhaL l almosL always demand, especially
concerning a large projecL. Allowing sub-conLracLors Lo charge
by Lhe hour opens you up Lo serious risk, even ií Lhe individual
in quesLion is a LrusLed íriend or associaLe. lí he or she
underesLimaLes Lhe Lasks – uníorLunaLely, LhaL's Lheir problem,
noL yours. AíLer all, you're Lrying Lo run a business.
• Clear financial communication
• Wit! clients
8eing upíronL abouL cosLs and expenses could very
well be Lhe number one rule Lo íinancial eííecLiveness
in íreelancing. Remaining clear abouL expenses aL Lhe
beginning oí a projecL is much easier Lhan Lrying Lo
jusLiíy Lhem in Lhe end. lí all is laid ouL and Lhe clienL
undersLands whaL Lhey will be charged and why Lhey
are being charged íor iL – Lhey'll be happy Lo pay you.
Surprises, on Lhe oLher hand, can cause delays and
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• Wit! subcontractors
Clear íinancial communicaLion is jusL as crucial when
dealing wiLh your Leam or your subconLracLors. Make
sure Lhey are aware exacLly whaL you will pay, when you
will pay iL, and conversely whaL you expecL in reLurn,
and when you expecL Lo geL iL.
• C!arge part of 5our pro8ect re'enue up front
lL's common indusLry pracLice Lo charge a percenLage oí your
projecL revenue up íronL – or aL leasL a porLion oí iL
somewhere in Lhe early sLages. lí you've pracLiced good clienL
inLeracLion, sales, and communicaLion, Lhe clienL shouldn'L
have a problem wiLh Lhis concepL. 1his can also save your Lail ií
Lhe clienL íor some reason decides Lo upseL Lhe projecL parL-
way Lhrough, and drives íurLher commiLmenL Lo conLribuLe Lo
Lhe working relaLionship.
• Back up 5our files
lL only Lakes one hard drive íailure Lo burn Lhis pracLice inLo
your memory íorever, and you'll never quiLe expecL iL when iL
comes. PrevenL Lhis Lype oí scenario by backing up noL only
your web siLe íiles, buL all oí your records and íinancial daLa as
well. lL's a good policy even Lo make hard copies oí cerLain
imporLanL documenLs such as conLracLs and income
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1he way l approach backing up iníormaLion is Lhe "íire
menLaliLy". lí my ílaL or oííice burned Lo Lhe ground, whaL
would l have leíL¹ 1his means LhaL beyond your compuLer,
your exLernal hard drives, and hard copies you need Lo have
addiLional or supplemenLary backup eiLher online or aL a
separaLe locaLion.
While many oí us sLarL by working ouL oí our kiLchens or bedrooms as
an individual íreelancer, iL's imporLanL Lo separaLe your personal
íinances írom your business íinances – especially ií you're planning on
expensing cerLain iLems Lo Lhe business íor Lax deducLions.
SLarL by meeLing wiLh someone írom your local bank – Lhey're
generally happy Lo siL down by appoinLmenL and discuss your needs
as a small business owner, and Lhey can shed some greaL lighL on
your íinancial siLuaLion sLemming írom Lheir experience in Lhe
banking indusLry. Once you have a good handle on your opLions and
whaL Lhe sLandards are, open up a business bank accounL and sLarL
running your income and expenses Lhrough iL raLher Lhan your
personal accounL. 1haL way everyLhing is kepL nicely separaLe and iL's
easy Lo view your business acLiviLy by checking ouL your accounL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí you expense equipmenL, Lravel, íood, supplies, and Lhe like Lo your
business íor Lax deducLion, be sure Lo keep a record oí all receipLs as
hard copies as well as Lo enLer Lhe daLa elecLronically in some íashion
(poLenLially using a web Lool).
2o'ernment or Institutional Support
lL may be diííerenL depending on your geographic locaLion, buL iL's
worLh looking inLo eiLher way. ln Canada, íor insLance, Lhere are a
whole pile oí resources aimed aL helping small business owners
succeed – Lhese include small business cenLers in every major ciLy íor
seminars, neLworking, and markeLing, as well as applicaLions íor
granLs and loans írom Lhe governmenL Lo help you on your way. lL's
worLh looking inLo Lhe supporL LhaL may be available Lo you, wheLher
iL's simply a neLwork or acLual íinancial aid.
2etting Personal
-ig! >e'el Perspecti'e on Dour Income
Freelance income is oíLen seriously sporadic, especially ií iL's a parL
Lime side gig as wiLh mosL web designers. ¥ou do some work in whaL
íeels like your spare Lime, and you receive almosL random iníluxes oí
cash as projecLs close or you move Lhrough paymenL schedules.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1his sLyle and Lype oí income generaLion can be diííiculL Lo wrap your
head around in comparison Lo a sLeady salary and a sLandard pay day
once every íew weeks LhaL you'd receive írom a íull-Lime corporaLion.
lL's imporLanL Lo sLep back and undersLand how much you're acLually
earning, especially in comparison Lo Lhe overall Lime you puL inLo each
Personal Bu.geting
Personal budgeLs are always a pain, unless you're Lhe hyper-organized
Lype. However, using Lhe íigures gleaned írom íinancial esLimaLes and
calculaLions based on web projecLs can play a major role in organizing
yourselí economically.
lnsLead oí "oh, and l'll probably make a couple grand here and Lhere
írom web projecLs", iL should ideally be, "lasL year my neL income írom
web design was roughly SXXXXX, so l can íacLor Lhis inLo my overall
expenses and income."
1his is also a localized issue depending on whaL counLry you design
ouL oí, buL iL's a generally imporLanL piece oí Lhe puzzle Lo keep in
mind LhroughouL Lhe enLire year. All oí your record keeping and LighL
organizaLion will conLribuLe Lo a much more sLress-íree Lax íiling
season Lhan a mad scramble Lo dig up receipLs and old senL emails.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
8e sure Lo invesLigaLe Lhe proLocols and limiLs íor whaL you can
expense Lo your business, as well as any oLher regulaLions. Web
design income can be LempLing Lo keep oíí oí Lhe books in cerLain
siLuaLions, buL in Lhe long Lerm iL is rarely in your íavour. ¥ou're much
beLLer oíí developing sLrong small business accounLing pracLices and
íinancial discipline Lo aid you in íuLure work.
Financial Planning
Linking Lo Lhe discussion oí undersLanding your web design income
írom a high level, íinancial planning on a longer Lerm scale is also
imporLanL. When analyzing your personal income plan and having a
birds-eye-view íinancial ouLlook, iL's imporLanL Lo consider reLiremenL
planning as well as debL pay-down plans. Use Lhe records you've
begun Lo keep and your íinancial daLa írom web income Lo assisL
Lhese personal íinancial plans. 1he previously menLioned discussion
wiLh a banker can also be a good Lime Lo bring up Lhese concepLs.
lL all comes down Lo spending Lhe righL Lime and eííorL Lo keep Lrack,
save Lhe iníormaLion, and Lhen use iL when necessary Lo accomplish
Lasks and adminisLraLion aL high eííiciency. FsLimaLion is a concepL
employed a greaL deal by web designers, and sLriving Lo make Lhese
esLimaLions accuraLe should be a very high prioriLy. WiLh Lhis
iníormaLion you can reach ideal revenue írom projecLs, minimize your
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
expenses wiLh each new venLure, and organize yourselí íinancially íor
discipline and íreedom írom sLress.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Communication it! Clients "
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to I.entif5 an. Deal Wit! Different
T5pes 6f Clients
by Rcbert 3cwen
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
ln business, being able Lo read people and quickly geL a sense oí who
you're dealing wiLh is an invaluable skill. lL Lurns your encounLer wiLh a
clienL inLo an opporLuniLy Lo caLch a glimpse oí Lhe upcoming projecL
and how iL will need Lo be handled. lL is one oí Lhe building blocks oí
a proíessional relaLionship.
ln Loday's digiLal age, Lhe arena has shiíLed Lo Lhe Web, and Lhe online
oííice space LhaL mosL íreelancers inhabiL limiLs personal inLeracLion.
1hough sussing ouL a clienL's personaliLy via online communicaLion is
diííiculL, iL sLill remains an invaluable Lool in your arsenal.
ln Lhe íreelancing íield, you will encounLer a range oí clienL Lypes.
8eing able Lo idenLiíy which you are dealing wiLh allows you Lo
develop Lhe righL sLraLegy Lo maximize your inLeracLions wiLh Lhem,
and iL could save your saniLy. 8elow is a lisL oí Lhe mosL common
personaliLy Lypes and Lhe Lell-Lale signs LhaL will Lip you oíí.
T!e Passi'e7)ggressi'e
1his is Lhe clienL who is very passive when you ask íor iniLial inpuL, buL
when you submiL Lhe íinished producL, Lhey aggressively aLLack iL,
demanding a loL oí deLailed changes, boLh major and minor. 1hey had
an idea oí whaL Lhey wanLed all along buL kepL iL mosLly Lo
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Fven Lhough Lhey showed appreciaLion oí cerLain ideas and elemenLs
LhroughouL Lhe developmenL process, do noL expecL Lhe passive-
aggressive clienL Lo keep any oí Lhem as Lhey send revisions your way.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• CommunicaLion is mosLly one-sided and unhelpíul during
projecL developmenL.
• Makes sLaLemenLs such as.
• "l'm noL really sure whaL we're looking íor."
• "JusL do someLhing LhaL would appeal Lo us generally."
• "¥ou LoLally missed Lhe poinL oí whaL we wanLed."
-o to Deal
PaLience is Lhe key. FxpecLing Lhe lasL-minuLe requesLs íor revisions
may soíLen Lhe blow oí Lhe clienL's aggressive behavior. Keep your
original layered design inLacL so LhaL you can easily reíine and change
iL laLer (noL LhaL you wouldn'L, buL iL does happen). Also, make sure
your conLracL speciíies a limiLed number oí revisions.
T!e Famil5 Frien.
1his is Lhe clienL whom you have known íor years eiLher Lhrough
personal or íamily inLeracLion, and Lhis connecLion has landed you Lhe
job. 1he relaLionship will be LesLed and perhaps marred íorever by
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
whaL could very well be a nighLmare oí a projecL. 1his íamily íriend
believes he deserves a "special" price and unbridled access Lo your
work. 1hey will someLimes unwiLLingly beliLLle your work or noL Lake iL
seriously because oí Lheir personal connecLion Lo you.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• 1hese clienLs are easy Lo idenLiíy because. well, you know
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "Could you jusL Lhrow someLhing LogeLher íor me¹"
• "l don'L wanL you Lo Lhink LhaL jusL because l know you
l wanL you Lo cuL me a deal."
• "¥ou're going Lo charge me whaL¹! 8uL we go way
-o to Deal
1he way Lo deal wiLh Lhis clienL depends on how well you know Lhem
and how much you value your relaLionship wiLh Lhem. 8uL remember
LhaL anyone who would Lake advanLage oí such a relaLionship is noL
Lruly a íriend, so respond accordingly. An honesL approach could end
up saving Lhe relaLionship. 8uL sLarL oíí wiLh a proíessional, noL
personal, Lone, and Lhey may íollow your lead. Oí course, ií you Lruly
value Lhe relaLionship, you may wanL Lo pass on Lhe job alLogeLher.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e =n.er7Haluer
Like Lhe íamily íriend described above, Lhis clienL will devalue your
creaLive conLribuLions. 8uL Lhere is a diííerence. you do noL acLually
know Lhis person. 1here is no raLionale íor Lheir behavior. 1hey íeel
Lhey should geL a "íriend's" pricing raLe noL because Lhey wanL Lo be
íriends wiLh you, buL because Lhey do noL see your work as being
worLh LhaL much. even ií Lhey couldn'L do iL Lhemselves. NoL coming
írom a creaLive background or even having had exposure Lo Lhe arLs
can mar someone's appreciaLion oí Lhe work LhaL you do. AíLer years
in our íield, we make iL look easy, and LhaL is whaL Lhe under-valuer
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• Does noL respond Lo quesLions in a Limely íashion.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "lL's noL like iL Lakes much eííorL on your parL."
• "Couldn'L you jusL Lhrow someLhing LogeLher íor me¹"
• "How hard can Lhis really be¹"
-o to Deal
Coníidence is key here. ¥ou know whaL your work demands and how
well you do your job. 1he under-valuer will recognize Lhis coníidence.
Don'L back down or concede a poinL Lo Lhe clienL when discussing
your role in Lhe projecL. SLanding íirm will esLablish Lhe proíessional
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
and respecLíul Lone you deserve. lí Lhe clienL does noL respond in
kind, cuL your losses and decline Lheir projecL.
T!e 0it7Picker
1his clienL is never íully saLisíied wiLh Lhe work you do and will
consLanLly pick on minor deLails here and Lhere LhaL Lhey dislike and
wanL changed. Do noL be surprised ií Lhey ask you Lo change Lhese
same deLails over and over ad nauseam.
lL is noL a sign oí disrespecL (as iL is wiLh Lhe oLher clienLs), buL simply
Lhe naLure oí Lhe person. 1hey may have been burned in some oLher
projecL and are now unsaLisíied wiLh everyLhing in Lheir paLh,
including your work.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• Complains almosL consisLenLly abouL unrelaLed Lhings.
• Personal ouLlook comes wiLh a scaLhing biLe.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "How hard is iL Lo [íill in Lhe blank wiLh any ranL]¹"
• "l'm really noL sure abouL Lhis elemenL here. lL jusL
doesn'L pop!"
• "l don'L Lhink you are really geLLing iL."
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Deal
Once again, paLience is imporLanL (especially ií you have some
masochisLic reason íor Laking on niL-picking clienLs). 1ry Lo deLach
yourselí írom Lhe projecL as much as possible, so LhaL Lhe consLanL
niL-pickery does noL aííecL you personally.
lL is easy Lo íeel hurL or geL deíensive when your work is repeaLedly
quesLioned, and you may begin Lo doubL your skill. 8uL undersLand
LhaL Lhis is noL abouL you or your LalenL, iL is simply a personaliLy LraiL
oí Lhe person you are dealing wiLh. And once again, proLecL yourselí
in Lhe conLracL.
T!e Scornful Sa'er
1his clienL has similariLies Lo Lhe niL-picker and under-valuer buL is
acLually impressed wiLh your work and skill seL. 1hey criLicize you
merely Lo undermine your coníidence in an aLLempL Lo lower your
pricing raLe. Unlike some oLher clienL Lypes, Lhe scorníul saver
undersLands creaLive people and Lheir processes. 8uL Lhey are cheap
and manipulaLive, and Lheir scheme may have worked in Lheir íavor
once or Lwice in Lhe pasL. So, Lhey conLinue Lo subLly abuse Lhe
people Lhey hire in Lhe hope oí saving every lasL penny.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• ComplimenLs always come wiLh a less-Lhan-ílaLLering qualiíier.
• 1akes Lime Lo respond Lo quesLions, someLimes making you
ask more Lhan once.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "l really like whaL you've done overall, buL l'm unsure
abouL one or Lwo Lhings."
• "¥ou may noL have goLLen exacLly whaL we're looking
íor, buL you're close."
-o to Deal
Once again, iL is all abouL coníidence. Having a solid undersLanding oí
your íield and being coníidenL in your knowledge and abiliLies will
keep Lhis clienL's manipulaLion in check. SLanding your ground and
even calling Lhe clienL on some oí Lheir LacLics could shiíL Lhe balance
oí power over Lo you. 8e prepared Lo walk away írom Lhe projecL ií
Lhe disrespecL and manipulaLion conLinues. 1here will be oLher
projecLs and oLher clienLs.
T!e II7Coul.7Do7T!is7%5selfJ7er
Where Lo begin. When Lhis clienL íarms a projecL ouL Lo you, Lhey
make clear Lo you LhaL Lhey know how Lo do whaL Lhey're hiring you
Lo do buL LhaL Lhey jusL don'L have Lhe Lime Lo acLually do iL. 1hey may
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
be working aL a íirm or an enLrepreneur, eiLher way, you are Lhere Lo
pick up Lheir slack. lí Lhey're aL a íirm, you could be in íor an
inLeresLing siLuaLion, Lhey were likely hired íor Lheir parLicular sLyle
and proposals, and now you will have Lo please Lwo seLs oí people.
Lhe person who hired you and Lhe people who hired him.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• Will generally be (or look) hecLic and rushed.
• CommunicaLion írom Lhem oíLen Lakes Lhe íorm oí shorL
bursLs oí iníormaLion.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "l could easily handle Lhis ií my schedule weren'L so
• "Really¹ NoL sure LhaL's Lhe direcLion l would've gone in,
buL whaLever."
• "Remember, you are íilling my shoes, and Lhey're preLLy
-o to Deal
1he "l-Could-Do-1his-Myselí"-er will likely have recognized your
LalenL and skill righL away, which is why Lhey hired you. 1hey merely
wanL you Lo know LhaL Lhis projecL (and Lhus you) is noL above Lheir
abiliLy. And Lhough Lhese reminders will graLe on you periodically,
Lhey will leL you run wiLh your ideas, perhaps oííering suggesLions or
íeedback on Lhe íinal design.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Control Freak
1his clienL desperaLely needs Lo micro-manage every liLLle deLail oí
Lhe projecL, no maLLer Lheir qualiíicaLions. No decision may be made
wiLhouL Lheir expliciL inpuL and approval. 1his Liresome clienL íorces
himselí inLo your workílow, heedless oí eiLher inviLaLion or proLesL,
and will demand access Lo you aL whim. 1he concepLs oí boundaries
and sLricL work processes are easily losL on Lhe conLrol íreak, who
consLanLly disrupLs Lhe ílow. 1hey may also believe you lack
dedicaLion or preparedness, íurLher reiníorcing Lheir need Lo inLeríere.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• lniLial conLacL is long, deLailed and one-sided, wiLh liLLle inpuL
soughL írom you.
• ¥our inpuL remains unsoughL as Lhe projecL pushes íorward.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "1his way we can keep in conLacL 24/7 in case you have
any quesLions, or l do."
• "l really know besL whaL is righL íor Lhe projecL and
whaL is noL."
• "WhaL do you mean, l'm disLracLing you¹ l am Lhe only
Lhing keeping Lhis projecL on Lrack!"
-o to Deal
lí you absoluLely musL Lake on Lhis clienL, íor whaLever reason, resign
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
yourselí Lo Lhe íacL LhaL you will noL be sLeering aL any poinL. ¥ou will
have Lo deLach yourselí írom Lhe work because you will have no
conLrol aL all. ¥ou will merely be consLrucLing, noL designing, so jusL
leL go and leL iL happen. ¥ou may wanL Lo exclude Lhis projecL írom
your porLíolio.
T!e Dream Client
1his clienL, widely dismissed as a myLh, does in íacL exisL and
undersLands Lhe íull scope and arLisLry oí your work. 1hey value your
role and creaLive conLribuLions and wanL you in Lhe driver's seaL as
soon as Lhe projecL geLs underway. 1hey are Limely wiLh responses
and paymenLs. paymenLs LhaL Lhey did noL "negoLiaLe" buL raLher
accepLed íor whaL Lhey are. 1hey reílecL on your suggesLions and have
coníidence in your capabiliLies.
I.entif5ing C!aracteristics
• ls enLhusiasLic abouL Lhe projecL and your involvemenL in iL.
• CommunicaLion shows awareness oí and respecL íor your role.
• Makes such sLaLemenLs as.
• "Here's Lhe brieí we prepared. 1he resL is preLLy much
up Lo you."
• "We like whaL we've seen and LrusL you'll do greaL
Lhings íor us."
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Deal
Don'L brag! JusL enjoy Lhe ride and hold on Lo Lhem íor as long as you
possibly can!
8eing able Lo idenLiíy Lhe Lype oí clienL you are dealing wiLh will
prepare you íor Lhe job ahead. lL will also help you decide wheLher Lo
accepL Lhe job in Lhe íirsL place. ¥our conLracL will reílecL Lhe power
dynamics oí Lhe projecL, so Lhe more you know abouL Lhe clienL, Lhe
beLLer able you will be Lo adjusL Lhe conLracL as necessary.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Impro'e Designer7Client
3y Acrcn Crijjith
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Cood business relaLionships rarely jusL happen. While a smiLLen
designer and Lheir sLarry-eyed clienL may sLarL ouL well wiLh a
"honeymoon" oí a successíul iniLial projecL launch, Lhings can geL
rocky íasL. 1he once-anLicipaLed phone calls requesLing new designs
LhaL used Lo be welcomed are now dreaded, and Lhe previously
inírequenL and brieí revision requesLs are now hosLile diaLribes
criLiquing every aspecL oí a submiLLed projecL.
1ruly, ií you LhoughL LhaL hearing "LeL's jusL be íriends" írom your
junior high love inLeresL was bad, waiL unLil one oí your clienLs cancels
your projecL wiLh an email LhaL ends wiLh "One oí our sales guys
boughL LhaL PhoLoshopper Lhing, he's going Lo give Lhis logo sLuíí a
JusL like a romanLic relaLionship, clienL/designer parLnerships Lake
work Lo be successíul. While each clienL has Lheir own unique needs,
here are a íew Lips LhaL hopeíully will keep your working relaLionships
healLhy and enjoyable.
#. Don?t be afrai. to sa5 KnoK
1his may seem counLerinLuiLive, buL you cerLainly can have Loo many
clienLs LhaL require way more Lime and eííorL Lhan Lhey are worLh. lí
you have Lhe Lime, energy, and manpower aL your disposal Lhen, by all
means, Lake on new projecLs and grow your business. However, ií you
don'L have Lhese limiLed resources (and Lhey are limiLed!), don'L place
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
an unneeded burden on yourselí or your Leam Lo pull an excellenL
íinal producL ouL oí Lhin air. lí you over-commiL yourselí Lhen Lhere is
Lhe risk oí noL spending Lhe Lime and eííorL needed on exisLing work,
making your currenL clienLs unhappy and poLenLially driving Lhem
away. lL can be very LempLing Lo obligaLe yourselí Lo new projecLs LhaL
could be enjoyable or lucraLive íor you and your Leam, buL ií you
know LhaL you can'L handle Lhe work aL LhaL momenL, iL is íar beLLer Lo
say "no" Lhen Lo risk your repuLaLion and good name. AL besL you will
eiLher hand Lhe projecL in laLe or you will overwork yourselí and your
Leam while sacriíicing Lime on exisLing work- neiLher is desirable. Far
beLLer Lo poliLely decline a requesL and ask íor a rain check- Lhe
prospecLive clienL will respecL you íor iL and poLenLially come calling
On a relaLed noLe (and keeping wiLh Lhe relaLionship Lheme),
someLimes a "divorce" is called íor beLween yourselí and a clienL. lí
you íind LhaL one clienL is Laking up mosL oí your Lime, causing mosL
oí your headaches, and could easily be replaced by someone beLLer,
Lhe Lime may be righL Lo move on. A decision like Lhis should never be
made lighLly, buL iL can poLenLially make your liíe easier and open up
space íor beLLer cusLomers.
2. Talk t!ings out
A loL oí problems in a romanLic relaLionship can be avoided ií boLh
parLies are willing Lo admiL LhaL Lhey aren'L mind readers LhaL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
inLuiLively undersLand Lhe needs oí Lhe oLher person. 1he same goes
íor designers and Lheir clienLs. no maLLer how well a designer Lhinks
Lhey undersLand a clienL's insLrucLions, Lhey likely are missing
someLhing because Lhe clienL eiLher doesn'L Lhink LhaL Lhey need
cerLain iníormaLion or Lhey assume LhaL such inío is a given. 8y simply
asking a íew poinLed quesLions Lo your clienLs, you can sLimulaLe
necessary discussion LhaL will do away wiLh uncerLainLies LhaL lead Lo
unnecessary revisions and wasLed Lime. Here are a íew examples.
• WhaL is Lhe ulLimaLe purpose oí Lhis design¹
• Who are you Lrying Lo reach wiLh Lhe design¹
• How will Lhis design be used (ílyer, websiLe, billboard, eLc.)¹
• How much Lime should l spend on Lhis/ how much money are
you willing Lo spend¹
Also, ií you anLicipaLe any poLenLial conílicL or diííiculLies LhaL will
arise wiLh your clienL while you work on a projecL íor Lhem, negoLiaLe
Lhe deLails beíore sLarLing work. ln many cases negoLiaLion may mean
leLLing Lhem know LhaL you require a cerLain amounL oí íreedom in
your work Lo make Lheir design a success. 1o have a reíerence poinL
íor íuLure discussions, wriLe down all Lhe agreemenLs LhaL you and
your clienL come Lo in your negoLiaLions. UlLimaLely, you need Lo
make sure LhaL you undersLand as much as you can abouL who your
clienL is and whaL Lhey expecL írom you beíore you sLarL work. While
Lalking Lhings ouL aL lengLh beíorehand may seem Ledious, Lrying Lo
work solely oíí oí your inLuiLion won'L geL you very íar and iL likely
won'L endear you Lo your clienLs.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3. Create a ork process
CreaLive Lypes Lypically eschew uniíormiLy and predicLabiliLy, buL Lhe
implemenLaLion oí a sLandardized (read. boring) work process mighL
be jusL whaL you need Lo improve relaLionships wiLh your clienLs. ¥es,
"process" has Lhe connoLaLions oí an overused piece oí managemenL-
speak, buL whaL is iL really¹ Simply puL, iL is a sLandardized way LhaL
you organize your LhoughLs and work so LhaL you can work more
eííicienLly and eííecLively. ¥our process doesn'L have Lo be Loo speciíic
or deLailed, buL iL should Louch on every aspecL oí sLarLing, working
on, and delivery oí your projecL Lo a clienL. WhaL does a process look
like¹ Here's a general example upon receiving a projecL requesL.
í. Coníirm projecL deLails (due daLe, cosL, eLc.)
2. 1ask ouL every aspecL oí projecL
3. Figure ouL whaL Lasks are yours, delegaLe oLhers wiLh speciíic
4. CreaLe draíL íor review
5. SoliciL íeedback írom clienL
6. Make adjusLmenLs based on íeedback (RepeaL sLeps 5 and 6 as
7. 8ill cusLomer
8. Check back in 6 monLhs íor more projecLs
¥ou may Lhink LhaL someLhing as simple as Lhis plan is unnecessary,
and you may be righL. However, iL can be very helpíul Lo have an
ordered checklisL oí Lhings LhaL you always do Lo reíer Lo when
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
working wiLh clienLs. Having a process checklisL like Lhis hanging on
your wall can give you direcLion and keep you on Lrack when
managing mulLiple or complex projecLs. 8eLLer yeL, one idea mighL be
Lo even share your process wiLh your clienL – LhaL way you can poinL
Lhem Lo speciíic sLeps LhaL you are on in your work íor Lhem. A clienL
will appreciaLe knowing exacLly whaL is going on wiLh Lhe projecL, and
Lhey will be less likely Lo badger you wiLh requesLs íor sLaLus updaLes.
1. 2et Kpreempti'eK fee.back
8eíore you asked your middle school crush ouL on a daLe, you
probably ran your game plan by your íriends and had Lhem look íor
ílaws ("Dude, you should deíiniLely noL Lake her Lo 8urger King and
Lhen SchinJler´s list!"). Similarly, Lhere are íew Lhings LhaL can be more
helpíul Lhan having oLher people look over your design work and
criLique iL beíore you submiL iL Lo a clienL. However, geLLing good,
acLionable íeedback isn'L always easy and iL can be a very humbling
process. Here are Lwo Lips íor Lhose who wanL Lo geL preempLive inpuL
írom oLhers.
2et fee.back from t!e rig!t people
NoL all criLicism is creaLed equal. Some oí iL is really valuable, some is
average, and Lhe resL could geL you íired ií you implemenLed iL.
1hereíore, you need Lo choose your íeedback sources careíully.
However, Lhis doesn'L mean LhaL you should only soliciL help írom
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
oLher designers or proíessionals in your íield. lL is essenLial Lo geL an
ouLsider's perspecLive LhaL comes írom someone in your clienL's
LargeL markeL, or aL leasL oLher designers LhaL undersLand Lhe
populaLion LhaL you are Lrying Lo caLer Lo.
Put 5our ego asi.e
CeLLing your work criLiqued by oLhers can be a painíul process,
especially ií you puL loLs oí Lime and energy inLo your projecLs and
you Lake pride in whaL you do. However, ií you really wanL good
íeedback Lhen be prepared Lo have your design ideas called inLo
quesLion. Don'L be deíensive or view criLiques as ad hominem aLLacks
on you or your philosophy as a designer. 1ry Lo remember LhaL your
work isn'L ulLimaLely abouL you – iL`s a service íor someone else and
Lheir needs as a clienL. Once you do Lhis you are lessening Lhe
emoLional burden on yourselí, Lhus making iL easier Lo hear and
implemenL suggesLions írom oLhers regarding your work.
*. Be timel5
¥ou wouldn'L show up 30 minuLes laLe íor a íirsL daLe, and regular
Lardiness can be a consLanL source oí aggravaLion íor some signiíicanL
oLhers. lL's noL Loo diííerenL wiLh your design work, be on Lime, and
nerves are much less likely Lo be írayed. 8eing Limely sounds simple
(and iL is), buL iL is essenLial LhaL designers undersLand LhaL noLhing
peeves a clienL like Lurning projecLs in laLe or missing seL deadlines.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1he key Lo being on Lime has a loL Lo do wiLh sLaying íocused on your
work, doing whaL you say you will do, and noL sLreLching yourselí Loo
Lhin (see Lip #í). 8uL perhaps Lhe besL sLraLegy íor working wiLh your
clienL in a Limely manner is Lo sLay in consLanL communicaLion wiLh
Lhem. 1his may mean giving a regularly scheduled updaLe on Lhe
projecL's progress, or iL may jusL require Lhe occasional email or phone
call Lo leL Lhem iníormally know how Lhings are going. Choosing how
Lo do Lhis is up Lo you, buL Lhe main reason íor doing so is Lo keep
your clienL aware oí any issues or problems LhaL you run inLo LhaL
would prevenL you írom handing in a projecL on Lime. MosL clienLs will
have no problem pushing back a due daLe because oí uníoreseen
circumsLances as long as Lhey are kepL in Lhe loop wiLh whaL is going
on and Lhey are made known oí Lhe problems when Lhey happen.
Fxplaining an unexpecLed issue Lwo weeks (or even Lwo days) írom
Lhe due daLe is much easier Lhan Lwo hours beíore Lhe projecL was
Hopeíully Lhis arLicle has given you some help in successíully
improving and mainLaining your relaLionships wiLh clienLs (wiLh a íew
íree daLing poinLers along Lhe way, íree oí charge!). 1his lisL isn'L
exhausLive – Lhere are many diííerenL sLraLegies Lo build rapporL wiLh
your clienLs – buL jusL sLarLing wiLh Lhese 5 basic pracLices will
sLrengLhen Lhe relaLionships you currenLly have and build a solid
íoundaLion íor sLarLing new ones.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Communicate it! De'elopers
by Rycn Scherj
lí you have ever worked wiLh a developer or a developmenL Leam, Lhis
arLicle will probably sLrike close Lo home. As designers, we work wiLh
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
dozens oí developers across Lhe globe aL lengLh in Lerms oí whaL
needs Lo be accomplished wiLh Lhe user inLeríace, and whaL iL needs
Lo make Lhis happen. MosL oíLen, however, we íind developers LhaL we
generally don'L see eye Lo eye wiLh.
When many people are involved in a projecL, iL is very imporLanL Lo
make sure LhaL Lhey have a common undersLanding oí Lhe problem
and iLs soluLion. 1his is noL meanL as a slam on developers, as l
believe Lhey are a much diííerenL breed Lhan designers, raLher, Lhe
hope is LhaL ií you íollow some oí Lhe principles ouLlined here, your
developmenL process can hopeíully be sLreamlined a biL more Lhan iL
was beíore.
#. Pro'i.e an a.eBuate le'el of .ocumentation
Modern soíLware developmenL meLhodologies may lead you Lo
believe LhaL less documenLaLion is beLLer, however Lhis isn'L
necessarily always Lhe case. For sLarLers, Lhe besL documenLaLion LhaL
is provided is Lhe user inLeríace. NoL only does Lhe Ul show Lhe
developer where daLa should be and how iL should be íormaLLed, buL
iL also represenLs Lhe basic ílow oí whaL needs Lo happen. A well
LhoughL-ouL and compleLe Ul will make you a developer's dream
colleague. CranLed, Lhere will always be developers who don'L like
everyLhing deíined and love Lo Lake liberLies wiLh your inLeríace.
1hese developers are rare (and mosL oí Lhe Lime unwelcome) in Lhe
design communiLy.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Sta5 a!ea.
As a designer, you don'L need Lo have every single page LhoughL ouL
beíore sLarLing developmenL, buL iL is helpíul Lo sLay ahead oí Lhe
developers. Plan your íeaLures accordingly, and make sure you aL leasL
have some Lype oí sLrucLure (H1ML, eLc) ready Lo go when Lhey need
iL. lL is a loL easier íor developers Lo come Lhrough on a polished page
and inserL daLa where iL is needed insLead oí creaLing Lhe page írom
scraLch and having Lhe designer come in aíLer Lhem.
2. Be .ecisi'e
As designers, we make hundreds oí decisions on each inLeríace we
work on. WheLher iL is Lhe heighL oí navigaLion, Lhe amounL oí LexL in
a Lable cell, or Lhe alignmenL oí LexL in Lhe íooLer, we need Lo make
many decisions each and every day. 1his is very much like íor
developers who have jusL as many (or more) niLpicky decisions Lo
make on every piece oí íuncLionaliLy Lhey wriLe. 8uL Lhe beauLy oí
developmenL is LhaL iL is less subjecLive Lhan design. Sure, Lhe
archiLecLure, code sLyle and language could all be subjecL Lo opinions,
buL noL in Lhe way LhaL design is subjecLive. Some people preíer sLock
images, while oLhers illusLraLions. Fveryone has a íavoriLe color, while
many colors may be perceived diííerenLly by every person.
As designers, we need Lo decide whaL Lhe inLeríace should look like.
AlLhough some developers may enjoy Linkering wiLh Lhe Ul, iL's noL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lheir job, and ulLimaLely slows Lhem down írom whaL Lhey should be
doing. developing.
Don?t c!ange mi.7c5cle
lL is also imporLanL Lo Lry noL Lo change Lhe design while Lhe
developers is in Lhe middle oí developing LhaL speciíic íeaLure. Agile
and Scrum meLhodologies insisL LhaL Lhe developers work wiLh Lhe
requiremenLs Lhey had aL Lhe Lime, and in Lhe íollowing sprinL, Lhe
developer could revisiL Lhe íeaLure and make modiíicaLions. As
designers, we should Lry Lo avoid any Lype oí reíacLoring oí Lhe Ul as
we can. lL is Ledious work íor developers Lo go back and change
Choose an H1ML sLrucLure and sLick Lo iL. 1ry Lo accounL íor any Lype
oí design íeaLure in your íirsL draíL oí Lhe H1ML (even ií iL makes your
H1ML seem somewhaL bloaLed). CSS should already conLrol Lhe look
oí your inLeríace, so Lry Lo Lhink oí H1ML as backend code LhaL is
more diííiculL Lo change Lhan a íonL color in CSS.
Developers don'L like reíacLoring Lheir code as much as we don'L like
providing revisions Lo clienLs. CeL Lhe 'mosL períecL' resulL as soon as
you can.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3. Communication is ke5E so be a'ailable
¥ou have spenL counLless hours mocking up Lhe Ul, polishing iL Lo
your liking and you're ready Lo hand iL oíí Lo Lhe developmenL Leam.
OíLen Limes, Lhis is where design ends and developmenL begins. As
designers, Lhis is where we should be mosL involved Lo ensure LhaL Lhe
design concepL is íully realized in Lhe working applicaLion. Avoid jusL
'Lhrowing Lhe design over Lhe íence', and hoping Lhe developers
implemenL iL exacLly how you have envisioned iL in your mind.
Sta5 In'ol'e.
lL is also imporLanL Lo noL drop oíí Lhe projecL here. AL Lhe leasL, be
available by email so Lhe developers can conLacL you abouL issues
wiLh your designs. Respond quickly Lo ensure your developers are
sLaying on Lrack wiLh Lhe íinal producL. Once again, be decisive in your
communicaLion. MosL oí Lhe Lime, Lhe real daLa don'L maLch whaL you
mocked up, and Lhere are many issues you will need Lo work ouL in
conjuncLion wiLh your developer.
1. )'oi. feature creep
1he crew over aL 37signals wroLe a quiLe íamous book CeLLing Real
which Lalks abouL Lhis exacL problem. 1his Lopic probably is more
relevanL Lo producL managers, however iL is also imporLanL íor
designers. Always ask yourselí, "why does Lhis íeaLure maLLer¹" Avoid
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
a Ul LhaL is íar Loo complex, as iL only adds Lime on Lo developmenL,
and ulLimaLely íorces you Lo miss deadlines. lí you can'L come up wiLh
a good reason why iL should be included, Lhen iL doesn'L need Lo be
Lhere. lL will only slow your Leam down, as well as creaLe more íor you
Lo supporL.
Sta5 Focuse.
Focus on whaL is imporLanL íor your users. For example, ií your users
aren'L going Lo use invoicing heavily, or you already know beLLer
alLernaLives exisL in Lhe markeL LhaL you can'L beaL, don'L include
As we developed one oí our recenL projecLs, we weren'L planning on
providing a íull suiLe oí Lools LhaL included invoicing. We wanLed Lo
concenLraLe on proposals, bids and requesLs íor proposals (RFPs),
knowing LhaL we sLill needed Lo serve a small user base LhaL may
require invoicing. We chose Lo add in a bare-bones sysLem (simple
line iLems, noLhing recurring), because we íelL iL may be useíul Lo
some people who didn'L already have an invoicing soluLion. We also
realized LhaL users probably wouldn'L wanL Lo swiLch Lo our invoicing
sysLem (mainly because Lhey already had a soluLion), so Lhere was no
sense in creaLing someLhing robusL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
*. Set realistic .ea.linesE an. stick to t!em
As designers, we can quickly Lurn around designs in a íew days and
be done wiLh iL. UníorLunaLely, Lhis is noL Lhe case íor developmenL.
1he raLio oí design Lo developmenL hours is noL even close Lo í.í.
Make sure your deadlines allow enough Lime íor Lhe developer Lo
implemenL Lhe íeaLures, as well as any back and íorLh Lime íor
No maLLer how hard you Lry Lo hiL your deadlines, someLhing always
comes up. Perhaps anoLher projecL, kids, íamily, eLc. 1ry your besL noL
Lo announce any hard daLes unLil you are absoluLely sure you will hiL
Lhem. Announce Lhe week beíore (or even monLh beíore) ií you íeel
comíorLable. lí you jusL sLarLed a projecL, never commiL Lo launching
in Lhe nexL 6 monLhs. lL jusL won'L happen, and your users may or may
noL hold you accounLable íor LhaL daLe.
Don?t make promises 5ou can?t keep
As irriLaLing as missing deadlines is íor you and your Leam, iLs even
more irriLaLing íor poLenLial cusLomers who are waiLing íor your app
Lo change Lheir workílow. 8e vague abouL deadlines, and keep people
wanLing more.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
6. Test it 5ourself
Don'L rely on your developers Lo wriLe períecL code, as iL will never
happen. ¥ou can'L always rely on developers Lo LesL Lheir code Lo
make sure iL íuncLions properly, íulíills requiremenLs and ulLimaLely
works in Lhe manner you described. 8uL remember, developers don'L
wriLe buggy code on purpose. 1hey would raLher wriLe períecL code
and work on newer, cooler íeaLures each release. Since your
developers are so close Lo Lhe code and sysLem, Lhey will ineviLably
miss someLhing. Don'L blame Lhem, help Lhem íix iL. Fxplain Lo Lhem
where iL's íailing and whaL Lhe desired acLion should be.
Also as you Lake on Lhe LesLing, Lhis írees up Lhe developer Lo keep
moving on Lhe back-end, which once again, is where Lhey should be
íocusing. And as you íind bugs, make sure Lo íully documenL Lhem,
including screenshoLs, how Lo recreaLe and mosL imporLanLly, Lhe
desired ouLcome.
Oí all Lhe developers we've worked wiLh, none oí Lhem has been
inLeresLed in any Lype oí LesLing pasL in-Lhe-code uniL LesLing. Large
enLerprise shops higher enLire QualiLy Assurance Leams Lo íollow-up
on developers work (which doesn'L make iL righL, buL iL's Lhe way iL is).
Help your developers ouL by LesLing Lheir íeaLures - your app will be
much beLLer íor iL.
One lasL poinL is Lo measure períormance. SeL milesLones and goals
and make sure you are hiLLing your marks. 1ry Lo moniLor how your
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Leam is doing on íixing bugs versus creaLing new íeaLures, as Lhere
will always be a snowball eííecL. Fix bugs early and oíLen Lo prevenL
Lhem írom growing inLo larger and more complex bug colonies in Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to ,.ucate Dour Clients on Web
3y Aurimcs AJcmcvicius
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí you are running a design agency, your job is very likely Lo combine
business developmenL, graphic design, Lechnology and user
experience design. a baskeLíul oí very diííerenL íields. When dealing
wiLh clienLs, one íaces Lhe challenge oí clearly and eííecLively
communicaLing Lhe goals and resulLs oí Lhe work done in Lhese areas.
ln Lhis arLicle, we'll provide you wiLh some ideas on sharing
iníormaLion and knowledge wiLh developers and clienLs – a couple oí
Lips and Lricks we've learned írom our own experience.
As designers, our core purpose is Lo solve business challenges íor our
clienLs. No, l haven'L íorgoLLen you Mac-loving, single-mouse-buLLon-
íanaLic designers. A business soluLion includes an applicaLion
plaLíorm, solid daLa design and a page design LhaL makes Lhe Ul and
websiLe approachable and easy Lo use (íor converLing, LransacLing,
clicking on a monkey's buLL, eLc.). ¥our daily challenge, Lhen, is Lo
deliver Lhe projecL on Lime while saLisíying Lhe clienL's visual, business
and aesLheLic requiremenLs.
Dou?re 0ot as Smart as Dou T!ink
l like Lo Lhink LhaL l'm always righL (boy, would my wiíe have
someLhing Lo say abouL LhaL), and LhaL becomes Lricky when
communicaLing wiLh clienLs. As a proíessional, l am able Lo deLecL
paLLerns, usabiliLy issues, Lrends in Lhe indusLry and oLher imporLanL
issues LhaL Lhe clienL mighL noL be aware oí. On Lhe oLher hand, l'm a
compleLe idioL when iL comes Lo semi-conducLor LemperaLure
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lolerances, íurniLure íor pre-school insLiLuLions and Lhe imporLance oí
sLeel spikes in lederhosen. My clienL, on Lhe oLher hand, may be an
Fncyclopedia 8riLannica on every single one oí Lhose Lopics. WhaL l'm
Lrying Lo say is LhaL you have Lo remember LhaL you're an experL only
on your cwn jielJ and LhaL you should prick up your ears when Lhe
clienL Lells you someLhing.
0egotiating for a Win7Win /esult
So, as you Lread your piLiable pixel-pushing exisLence, you should be
aware oí Lhings LhaL mighL give your sorry designer selí an advanLage
in negoLiaLing Lhose sLicking poinLs in projecLs. Have you ever had a
clienL who wanLed a larger logo on Lheir websiLe¹ Maybe a logo done
in Flash, wiLh a spinning earLh and sparkles!¹ All valid requiremenLs,
l'm sure, and so during LhaL meeLing, as you slowly reached íor Lhe
pencil Lo sLab your quads under Lhe Lable, you should have realized
LhaL business owners love Lheir brands and are emoLionally aLLached
Lo Lhem. ¥ou should have based your response, Lhen, on a composiLe
oí research-based íacLs (besL presenLed as a link Lo a repuLable source
on Lhe Web) - an explanaLion LhaL is speciíic Lo Lheir business.
Client. ´l reclly wcnt c biççer lcçc. l jeel lile it´s
çettinç lcst in the website.¨
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
You: ´l unJerstcnJ why ycur brcnJ is imµcrtcnt tc
ycu. l hcve resecrch here bcseJ cn the tcµ S00
retcilers cn the lnternet cnJ their lcçc sizes. 1he
resecrch inJicctes thct the lcçc shculJ tcle uµ less
sµcce thcn cr be similcr in size tc the ccll-tc-ccticn
element, cr be cne-jcurth cj the website´s wiJth ct
mcst. ln cur ccse, thct ´view µrcJucts´ linl shculJ be
the jcccl µcint cj the website.
Damage ControlL 2i'ing in Is Part of t!e ;ob
A successíul negoLiaLor (and you cre a negoLiaLor - perhaps noL a
gun-LoLing, hosLage-holding Samuel L. Jackson, buL a negoLiaLor
noneLheless) delivers a soluLion LhaL makes boLh parLies win. ¥our
clienL is happy LhaL Lheir demands were meL by Lheir responsive and
well-iníormed developer, and you're happy because you didn'L have
Lo wasLe Lime in meeLings. Hopeíully, aíLer you've demonsLraLed Lhe
íacLs and your reasoning íor keeping Lhe logo aL Lhe same size, Lhe
clienL will change Lheir mind and leave you basking in Lhe glory oí
being righL and noL having Lo go back íor a íix. ln case Lhey don'L, you
sLill mighL noL have Lo increase Lhe size, perhaps you could reassess
your use oí whiLe space or employ oLher visual Lrickery oí LhaL
devilishly sexy design íield.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Position of )ut!orit5L Dour Hoice %ust Be -ear.
As l menLioned, you do wield some auLhoriLy in Lhis line oí work, buL
your clienL does also in Lheir business. l recommend LhaL íor every
projecL, you esLablish aLLainable and clearly deíined goals, goals LhaL
will be measured by Lhe websiLe's períormance and eníorced by sLricL
deadlines. lí you or your clienL doesn'L meeL cerLain goals or
deliverables by Lhe deadlines, you could sLill launch Lhe websiLe ií all
criLical iLems are compleLed, and Lhen clear up Lhe remaining iLems
once Lhe websiLe is live. 1his sLraLegy is used by major Lech companies
such as Coogle and accomplishes several imporLanL Lhings.
• Forces you Lo deliver on Lime,
• Focuses you on daLe-based deliverables, which makes Lhe
clienL easier Lo educaLe on "sLicky" issues,
• Forces Lhe clienL Lo deliver conLenL, sLock phoLos and Lheir
ideas Lo you on Lime, because any missing íeaLures would
have Lo be paid íor on an hourly consulLing basis.
As you work Lowards Lhese goals, know LhaL aL a cerLain poinL your
opinion and decisions are criLical Lo Lhe projecL's success. 1here's no
backing down or hiding your Lail beLween your legs. SomeLimes you
cannoL negoLiaLe, and Lhe clienL musL undersLand LhaL Lhey are paying
you íor a reason. because you know your sLuíí!
Keep in mind LhaL your clienL also has auLhoriLy and knowledge LhaL
mighL noL be apparenL Lo you during negoLiaLions. For example.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Client. We wcnt ll6 suµµcrt thrcuçh the website. 1he
website will hcve c lct cj IcvcScriµt, Jyncmic
elements, PNC çrcµhics, etc.
You. [Icttinç Jcwn c reminJer tc senJ hcte mcil tc
the ll6 tecm ct Micrcscjt,j ll6 is cctuclly cn cutJcteJ
brcwser thct hcs security jlcws, c very µccr renJerinç
ençine cnJ very jew users cut there. l reccmmenJ we
Jcn´t ccccmmcJcte it (even Mcilchimµ Jcesn´t!), cnJ
we tell thcse suclers tc çc tc hell.
Client. DiJ l menticn thct we service c lcrçe
restcurcnt inJustry, cnJ c lct cj the termincls in
restcurcnts still run WinJcws XP with ll6?
You. [UµJctes reminJer tc hunt Jcwn ll6's crectcrs.j
AL Lhe end oí Lhe day you are aL Lhe mercy oí Lhe clienL, and you need
Lo meeL all oí Lheir requiremenLs. 8uL you also have Lo recognize your
value and be able Lo demonsLraLe iL Lhrough examples, research and
logical argumenLs.
8e responsive. ask a loL oí quesLions in order Lo undersLand Lhe
clienL's moLivaLion. l endorse clienL educaLion, buL noL Lo Lhe poinL oí
losing Lhe clienL and projecL. Remember LhaL your clienL is a resource
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lo you, and good communicaLion will enable boLh oí you Lo compleLe
Lhe projecL in Lime Lo waLch Lhe men's íigure-skaLing compeLiLion.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to ,4plain to Clients t!at T!e5 )re
by Scm 3crnes
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
ClFs oí spinning @s on Lhe "ConLacL us" page. Common usabiliLy
misLakes íor Lhe sake oí visual appeal. Splash pages. Fancy search box.
No whiLespace. Music on page load. Home page banner oí a jigsaw-
puzzle globe wiLh a piece missing. SomeLimes you jusL know LhaL
whaL a clienL is requesLing is wrong and LhaL you have Lo íind a way Lo
Lell Lhem. 8uL how¹
Is T!e Client Wrong:
8eíore geLLing inLo hcw Lo explain Lo a clienL LhaL Lhey're wrong, ask
yourselí, "ls Lhe clienL wrong Lo begin wiLh¹" JusL because you don'L
approve oí Lhe direcLion Lhey're Laking or oí a requesL Lhey've made
doesn'L necessarily mean iL is noL a sLep in Lhe righL direcLion íor Lhe
projecL. 1o be able Lo answer Lhis quesLion eííecLively, you need Lo
Lrain yourselí Lo be compleLely objecLive and humble when dealing
wiLh clienL requesLs.
FirsL oí all, appreciaLe one criLical Lhing. Lhe clienL probably knows
Lheir LargeL audience a loL beLLer Lhan you do. JusL as Web
proíessionals quickly learn personaliLy Lypes among Lheir own clienLs,
your clienL inLeracLs wiLh Lheir LargeL audience on a daily basis and
knows whaL makes Lhem Lick. and LhaL may be jusL whaL makes you
¥ou can begin Lo esLablish ií Lhe clienL is wrong simply by exploring
why Lhe clienL is making such a requesL and whaL Lhe business case
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
íor iL is. lL could well be a siLuaLion in which Lhey spoke Lo many
people in Lhe LargeL audience demographic, and Lhey all said LhaL
Lhey were more likely Lo click an animaLed Flash banner link Lhan a
sLaLic one, or LhaL Lhey íelL more engaged by a websiLe LhaL had sLock
images oí smiling people everywhere.
lL could be LhaL Lhe picLure oí Lhe jigsaw-puzzle globe wiLh a piece
missing acLually sums up Lhe clienL's sales piLch quiLe well and LhaL
similar messaging has proven Lo win over poLenLial cusLomers in Lhe
Oí course, when íaced wiLh such a siLuaLion, a good Web proíessional
would undersLand Lhe business driver and suggesL alLernaLive
soluLions LhaL convey Lhe same message and achieve Lhe same goal
buL LhaL are unique, original and creaLive.
WhaLever Lhe case Lhough, always keep an open mind. Don'L assume
Lhe clienL is wrong beíore seeing Lhe evidence. One guaranLee in Lhis
business is LhaL Lhe more you design and develop websiLes, Lhe more
oíLen you'll íind yourselí in siLuaLions where, six monLhs aíLer a
projecL's launch, you hear LhaL Lhe mosL posiLive íeedback írom users
wasn'L Lhe cool biL oí JavaScripL you implemenLed using
groundbreaking Lechnology, buL raLher someLhing LhaL you
considered boring and unoriginal buL LhaL exciLed Lhe clienL during
developmenL. We deliver websiLes íor Lhe clienL's LargeL audience, noL
our peers in Lhe Web communiLy. someLimes painíul Lo swallow, buL
clwcys Lrue.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1haL scenario aside, leL's puL our cool haLs on again and assume LhaL
Lhe requesL íor Lhe jigsaw-puzzle globe has come in, and LhaL iL
clearly has noLhing Lo do wiLh Lhe clienL's business, and LhaL iL has
made you curl up in a corner oí Lhe room, banging your head againsL
Lhe wall, muLLering "Why¹ Why¹ Why¹"
WhaL approaches can you Lake Lo explain Lo Lhe clienL LhaL, in your
proíessional opinion, Lhey're wrong¹
Speak t!e Client?s >anguage
One oí Lhe mosL common problems, especially among íreelancers, is
an inabiliLy Lo speak Lhe clienL's language. 8eing able Lo speak in a
way LhaL relaLes Lo Lhe clienL's business sense is crucial aL all sLages oí
managing a Web projecL, buL never more so Lhan when challenging a
clienL's decision.
lí you're Lrying Lo explain Lo a clienL LhaL a roLaLing banner (or any
oLher íeaLure) may noL be Lhe mosL eííecLive use oí Lheir budgeL,
raLher Lhan say someLhing like, "l jusL don'L Lhink iL will work," or "l'm
noL sure you have Lhe budgeL," ask insLead how Lhey Lhink
implemenLing iL will beneíiL Lheir business, generaLe more qualiLy
leads or increase conversions.
Always emphasize Lhe main goals, or KPls (key períormance
indicaLors), oí Lhe projecL. ¥ou'd be surprised by how oíLen such a
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
quesLion will resulL in a íew seconds oí uncomíorLable silence, as Lhe
clienL realizes LhaL Lhey wanL Lhe íeaLure because Lhey Lhink iL looks
cool, when in íacL Lhey can'L connecL iL Lo a KPl.
8uilding a websiLe or Web applicaLion should be LreaLed in Lhe same
way as growing a business.
í. Know whaL you wanL Lo achieve.
2. Deíine some measurable KPls or goals.
3. Develop a plan.
4. 8egin execuLing Lhe plan.
5. FvaluaLe every decision along Lhe way Lo make sure iL supporLs
a KPl, Lhus Laking repeaLed sLeps Lowards achieving Lhe
projecL's goals.
8y mainLaining Lhis approach, you will also rcJicclly change Lhe
clienL's opinion oí you, írom LhaL oí a creaLive hippie-Lype Lo a
business-savvy Web designer or developer whom Lhey should lisLen
Lo ií Lhey wanL Lo sLay íocused on Lhe purpose oí Lhe projecL.
8eing able Lo speak Lhe clienL's language will undoubLedly help
greaLly when Lhe Lime comes Lo Lell Lhe clienL LhaL Lhey're wrong.
8eyond using 8uzzword 8ingo words wiLh coníidence, you need Lo be
able Lo back Lhem up wiLh valuable advice drawn írom your area oí
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
,stablis! Dourself as t!e ,4pert
One oí Lhe mosL imporLanL ways Lo make Lhe ordeal oí explaining Lo a
clienL LhaL Lhey're wrong as sLress-íree as possible íor boLh parLies is
Lo esLablish yourselí as Lhe Web experL. lí you do Lhis, Lhe clienL will
compleLely LrusL you and your recommendaLions wiLhouL a momenL's
8uL even ií you are a Web experL, Lhe posiLion is noL always easy Lo
esLablish, because iL usually only becomes apparenL over Lime, aíLer
you've goLLen a íew successíul decisions or projecLs under your belL
wiLh Lhe clienL. lL doesn'L help eiLher LhaL many clienLs sLill regard
creaLive digiLal agencies and íreelancers as eiLher kids living in Lheir
parenLs' basemenL or shady proíessionals ouL Lo Lake Lhem íor every
lasL penny.
1hough a challenge, you can esLablish your credibiliLy quickly using a
íew meLhods, some oí which are relaLively simple Lo do.
Be Professional
8eíore Lhey're convinced LhaL you're a digiLal proíessional and LhaL
Lhey should LrusL your recommendaLions, you musL íirsL demonsLraLe
your proíessionalism by doing Lhe basics well.
• 8e puncLual aL meeLings and Leleconíerences.
• Always speak in a proíessional manner.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• Deliver pre-sales paperwork on Lime.
• PresenL all documenLs and images on proíessionally branded
• Use correcL grammar and puncLuaLion in emails.
¥ou'd be surprised by how quickly clienLs pick upon deíiciencies in
Lhese basic business skills. 1heir percepLion oí you and your
recommendaLions will be immediaLely aííecLed. Unless you come
across as Lhe consummaLe proíessional early on, shaking oíí Lhis
repuLaLion will be diííiculL.
Don?t Be S!5 about Citing -ig!7Profile Clients
¥ou could well be a digiLal guru who has spenL years working in Lhe
indusLry and earned Lhe respecL oí Lhe Web communiLy, buL mosL
clienLs won'L undersLand whaL Lhis means. 1hey have never heard oí
websiLes such as Smashing Magazine or magazines such as .NeL, and
Lhey probably won'L grasp Lhe graviLas LhaL comes wiLh being a
speaker aL Web coníerences such as SXSW.
However, all clienLs Lend Lo respond when you say you have worked
on a high-proíile brand websiLe. When clienLs hear LhaL you've been
hired by a big name LhaL Lhey've heard oí and whose producLs Lhey
perhaps use, Lhey siL up like a meerkaL and Lhink Lhey've hiL Lhe
jackpoL. Simples!
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
While some Web íolk aren'L always comíorLable selling Lhemselves,
and while big brand experience is noL always prooí oí abiliLy, iL almosL
always resonaLes wiLh clienLs and makes Lhem see you as more
credible. 1his reiníorces your posiLion as an experL whose advice
should be heeded. AíLer all, ií big brand X LhoughL you were good,
you musL be, righL¹
SomeLimes, oí course, no maLLer how much credibiliLy you
demonsLraLe, a clienL may choose noL Lo lisLen Lo your
recommendaLions. 8uL perhaps Lhey'll lisLen Lo oLhers.
Backup /ecommen.ations it! ,'i.ence
How oíLen in liíe have you volunLeered your poinL oí view Lo someone
íor monLhs, only Lo be beaLen down each Lime, and yeL when
someone else comes inLo Lhe picLure and says Lhe exacL same Lhing,
Lheir advice is seized upon as revoluLionary. 1his is human naLure and
happens jusL as much when explaining Lo clienLs LhaL Lhey're wrong.
lí a clienL is, íor whaLever reason, unpersuaded by your argumenLs,
you mighL wanL Lo consider producing evidence LhaL backs up your
1his evidence can come in many íorms. For example.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• 8log posLs írom world-respecLed Web experLs.
• SLaLisLics írom large usabiliLy sLudies.
• Well-known cases where Lhe same Lhing was Lried and had
negaLive resulLs.
1his kind oí evidence is obvious. 8uL someLimes, Lhe less obvious kind
can be jusL as eííecLive.
• Cuerrilla usabiliLy LesLing, by asking Lhe clienL Lo obLain
íeedback írom employees wiLhin Lhe company.
• Using íree Lools like Lo ílash LesL designs.
• SubmiLLing designs Lo communiLies dedicaLed Lo providing
design íeedbacky.
• Feedback írom cusLomers wiLh whom Lhe clienL has a good
• SeLLing up a poll on Lhe websiLe LhaL presenLs boLh ideas.
• Web analyLics írom Lhe currenL websiLe.
Common poinLs oí conLenLion will be which browsers Lo supporL,
which screen resoluLions Lo opLimize íor and where Lo puL Lhe íold.
8uL no maLLer Lhe debaLe, backing up your poinL oí view wiLh LrusLed
Lhird parLies can someLimes Lip Lhe balance in your íavor and improve
how Lhe clienL perceives your dedicaLion, enLhusiasm and passion íor
geLLing iL righL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
SometimesE Being Direct Works
When all else íails, you could always Lell Lhe clienL ílaL ouL LhaL Lhey're
wrong. 1his is always a risky move, because clienLs will reacL
diííerenLly. Some will appreciaLe iL, while oLhers will íind iL
disrespecLíul or personally insulLing. 8uL ií you íeel sLrongly abouL iL
and you've Lried every oLher meLhod, being direcL mighL do Lhe Lrick.
Personally, l've been in siLuaLions in which l've had no alLernaLive buL
Lo Lell a clienL LhaL Lheir requesL is "naíí." 1o my surprise, despiLe Lhe
íerociLy wiLh which Lhe clienL iniLially deíended Lheir opinion, Lhey
backed down immediaLely and Lhanked me, saying LhaL Lhis is whaL
Lhey were paying me íor. Lo be sLrong and sLubborn and Lo Lell Lhem
Lhings like Lhis. However, merely saying LhaL someLhing is naíí and
noLhing more is noL ideal, you have Lo oííer an alLernaLive soluLion.
Use Lhis approach wiLh cauLion. 1ake inLo accounL your rapporL wiLh
Lhe clienL, and be passive in your Lone oí voice. Also, choose your
meLhod oí communicaLion wisely, íor example, being so direcL by
email is usually a big misLake because oí Lhe possibiliLy oí
lí possible, be direcL wiLh Lhe clienL íace Lo íace or by Lelephone. 1his
allows you Lo deliver Lhe message direcLly and seL Lhe righL Lone. ¥ou
will also be able Lo observe Lhe clienL's body language or hear Lheir
response insLanLly and Lhen quickly adjusL your approach ií needed.
Cenerally, ií a clienL Lurns green wiLh íury, Lheir nosLrils emiL a Lrace oí
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
sLeam and Lheir cloLhes rip aL Lhe seams, you may wanL Lo back down
and move swiíLly Lo Lhe nexL iLem on Lhe agenda. or call an
ambulance because Lhey may be ill.
Oí course, someLimes no maLLer whaL you say or do, a clienL will
overrule and insisL LhaL you íollow Lheir requesL. ¥ou know whaL¹
1haL's okay. lL happens. 1haL's liíe.
8uL LhaL doesn'L necessarily have Lo be Lhe end oí Lhe debaLe!
Cno W!en an. -o to ).mit Defeat
Occasionally you'll Lry every known meLhod oí explaining Lo a clienL
LhaL Lhey're wrong, and noLhing works. 1hey'll conLinue insisLing LhaL
you design or develop whaLever Lhey wanL or else Lhey'll go Lo
someone who will. And yeL you íeel wiLh ccmµlete sincerity LhaL
Lhey're making a misLake LhaL will have a negaLive impacL on Lheir
business. 1his is never a good siLuaLion Lo be in.
1here really are no hard and íasL rules on whaL Lo do in such a
siLuaLion. Fach case should be LreaLed on iLs own basis. 8uL wiLh
experience comes Lhe insLincL oí knowing when Lo admiL deíeaL and
do as you're Lold.
1his íeeling is never nice, buL someLimes LhaL's how iL is. And ií you
have Lo siL in Lhe corner and be quieL, do iL proíessionally and poliLely.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Under no circumsLances should you Lhrow your Loys ouL oí Lhe pram
and give Lhe clienL aLLiLude. Simply explain Lo Lhem LhaL you have puL
íorward your recommendaLions and given your reasons. AL Lhe end oí
Lhe day, iL's Lheir business and Lheir decision. lL sLings, buL you've
done all you can, and your digniLy remains inLacL. 8uL don'L give up
Treat Defeat as an 6pportunit5
Saying LhaL good enLrepreneurs view every deíeaL as an opporLuniLy
is almosL a cliché Lhese days. 8uL iL's Lrue, and Lhese siLuaLions are no
diííerenL. 1here's admiLLing deíeaL, and Lhen Lhere's µretenJinç Lo
admiL deíeaL! Once you've been beaLen down by a clienL, accepL iL,
geL over iL and Lhink posiLively abouL how you can Lurn deíeaL inLo a
win/win íor everyone.
For example, suggesL Lo Lhe clienL LhaL ií Lhey choose Lo press ahead
againsL your recommendaLion, Lhen your nexL recommendaLion will
be Lo implemenL some cusLom Web analyLics Lo moniLor Lhe ouLcome
oí Lhe decision.
lí a clienL insisLs on giving Lhe home page banner a small call Lo
acLion LhaL, in your opinion, is diííiculL Lo read or noL prominenL
enough, persuade Lhem Lo leL you implemenL some A/8 LesLing. one
monLh wiLh Lheir banner and one monLh wiLh your proposed soluLion,
and leL Lhe sLaLisLics do Lhe Lalking. No clienL would conLinue Lo insisL
on Lheir soluLion ií yours delivered a beLLer reLurn on invesLmenL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí you're Lhinking, "WhaL Lhe heck is A/8 LesLing¹" even beLLer! 1his is
an ideal opporLuniLy Lo learn a valuable skill while geLLing paid and
giving your clienL excellenL service!
Fxplaining Lo a clienL LhaL Lhey're wrong is never easy. lL could blow
up in your íace and damage whaL was a good relaLionship. 8uL
everyone is wrong someLimes, and clienLs are no diííerenL. Always
sLarL by asking yourselí ií Lhe clienL is, in íacL, wrong. Or are you Lrying
Lo impose your opinion (based on a narrow Web-only view) on whaL
is ulLimaLely a business decision LhaL aííecLs Lhe clienL's enLire
sLraLegy, boLh online and oííline.
lí you conclude LhaL Lheir direcLion is sLill misguided, open a dialogue
wiLh Lhem in language Lhey relaLe Loo. business language. RaLher Lhan
say iL won'L work, ask Lhem whaL goals or reLurn on invesLmenL Lhey
Lhink Lhe direcLion will help achieve.
FsLablish yourselí as Lhe digiLal experL írom Lhe momenL you make
conLacL wiLh Lhe clienL by conducLing all aspecLs oí your work wiLh
proíessionalism. Do everyLhing you can Lo posiLion yourselí as
someone who has Lhe experience Lo suggesL alLernaLive soluLions.
And where possible, back up your recommendaLions wiLh Lhird-parLy
maLerial and user íeedback.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí all else íails, be direcL wiLh Lhe clienL. 8uL know which clienLs you
can be direcL wiLh and when you will have Lo back down. Finally, don'L
leL being overruled be Lhe end oí Lhe debaLe. SuggesL LesLing periods,
and leL Lhe Web analyLics do Lhe Lalking. All clienLs respond when Lhey
see imporLanL meLrics go up raLher Lhan down!
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to /espon. ,ffecti'el5 to Design
by AnJrew lcllett
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WinsLon Churchill once said. "CriLicism may noL be agreeable, buL iL is
necessary. lL íulíills Lhe same íuncLion as pain in Lhe human body. lL
calls aLLenLion Lo an unhealLhy sLaLe oí Lhings." Regardless oí where
you work or who you work íor, being able Lo Lake criLicism is parL oí
Lhe job descripLion. WheLher you're geLLing íeedback írom your boss
or a clienL, having a proper perspecLive on criLicism and a sound
undersLanding oí how Lo use iL eííecLively is imporLanL.
UníorLunaLely, noL many people enjoy criLicism. ln íacL, many have
developed a Lhick skin and Lake pride in Lheir abiliLy Lo brush iL oíí
and move on. However, despiLe iLs negaLive connoLaLion, criLicism
oíLen presenLs an excellenL opporLuniLy Lo grow as a designer. 8eíore
you can respond eííecLively, you need Lo undersLand whaL Lhose
opporLuniLies are. LeL's look aL some imporLanL aspecLs oí geLLing
consLrucLive criLicism.
• =nco'er blin. spots
Doing your own Lhing is easy, buL your habiLs will evenLually
become deeply ingrained and hard Lo break. CriLicism gives
you a viLal ouLside perspecLive on your work, uncovering
poLenLial areas íor improvemenL LhaL you are unable Lo see by
• C!allenge 5ourself
Feedback challenges you Lo be a beLLer designer. RaLher Lhan
seLLle íor your own sLandards, you are pushed Lo Lake your
work Lo Lhe nexL level.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• De'elop communication skills
lí noLhing else, dealing wiLh a criLic can dramaLically improve
Lhe way you communicaLe - an essenLial skill íor any
successíul design career.
• 6utsi.e moti'ation
ConsLrucLive criLicism oíLen gives you Lhe kick in Lhe buLL you
need Lo learn a new design skill or Lechnique. Selí-moLivaLion
is greaL, buL everyone could use a hand írom Lime Lo Lime.
• ) lesson in !umilit5
Never underesLimaLe Lhe imporLance oí humiliLy. AlLhough
criLicism can bruise Lhe ego, iL keeps you grounded, making
you easier Lo work wiLh and more open Lo learning írom
A posiLive view oí criLicism isn'L enough. ¥ou also need Lo know how
Lo respond eííecLively when iL comes. Here are eighL Lips you can use
Lo sLarL making Lhe mosL oí criLicism Loday.
#. -a'e t!e /ig!t )ttitu.e
Design is subjecLive and, like any arL íorm, has no rulebook. No one
can Lell you whaL is "righL" and "wrong" wiLh your work, buL LhaL
doesn'L mean you can compleLely ignore your boss or clienL's opinion
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
However, by Laking criLicism and íeedback wiLh Lhe righL aLLiLude, you
can use iL Lo your advanLage and even enjoy iL.
Fveryone looks aL design Lhrough a íilLer shaped by personal
experience, and Lhis íilLer is usually very diííerenL írom your own.
While you may have a degree in design and í0 years oí experience,
noL everyone will agree wiLh your "experL" opinion, so don'L expecL
Lhem Lo.
1he imporLanL Lhing is Lo have a proper aLLiLude írom Lhe beginning.
FxpecL oLhers Lo disagree wiLh you, and be open Lo new perspecLives.
Align your expecLaLions and undersLand LhaL criLicism is parL oí Lhe
process. While harsh criLicism can cuL deep and even scar, iL can also
moLivaLe, insLrucL and do all oí Lhe good Lhings menLioned above.
LasL, buL noL leasL, Lry Lo remove yourselí írom Lhe criLicism and view
iL as a commenLary on your acLions or work and noL a personal aLLack.
While easier said Lhan done, Lhis disLincLion is key Lo responding
eííecLively. lí you can rise above Lhe criLicism and respond calmly and
eííecLively, you will noL only earn Lhe admiraLion oí your criLic buL íeel
beLLer doing iL. SeL Lhe righL expecLaLions, undersLand Lhe beneíiLs,
remove yourselí írom Lhe equaLion and, remember, aLLiLude Lruly is
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
2. =n.erstan. t!e 6b8ecti'e
Clearly idenLiíying Lhe goal oí a design beíore you share iL wiLh oLhers
is always a good idea. Are you showing iL oíí Lo mom íor some íridge
Lime¹ ls iL a clienL who's Lrying Lo solve a business challenge Lhrough
design¹ Or perhaps you're consulLing a íriend wiLh no experience or
sLake in Lhe projecL.
Regardless, a vague or coníused objecLive will always eliciL oíí-LargeL
íeedback, so make sure everyone involved "geLs iL" beíore Laking
acLion. 1o respond eííecLively Lo criLicism, you need Lo be sure LhaL Lhe
criLic undersLands your goals. 8e speciíic. PresenL your objecLive in
clear and concise Lerms, Lhe criLicism you receive will be LargeLed and
acLionable as a resulL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3. C!eck Dour First /eaction
For mosL people (me included), Lhe íirsL reacLion Lo criLicism is Lo geL
deíensive or even lash ouL. lí Lhis sounds like you, Lake Lime Lo
develop Lhe habiL oí Laking a deep breaLh and counLing Lo í0 beíore
responding. 1his simple yeL eííecLive meLhod gives you a chance Lo
regain composure and allow logic Lo prevail over emoLion. 1he lasL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lhing you wanL Lo do is geL overly emoLional and give a response LhaL
you will laLer regreL. Remember, in mosL cases, your criLic is only
Lrying Lo help you.
DespiLe Lhe iniLial sLing, you need honesL íeedback Lo become a
beLLer designer. 1his is especially imporLanL íor enLhusiasLs or
beginners in Lhe Lrade. All visual arLs have an inLrinsic reward
mechanism. Lhe more you creaLe, Lhe more you sense Lhe progression
oí your skill. lL's a loop LhaL keeps all arLisLs going, and when Lhis
euphoric momenL is crushed by accuraLe and much-needed criLicism,
recovering may be diííiculL. Keep in mind, Lhough, LhaL your skill and
percepLiveness in Lhis íield will maLure over Lime. lí you have Lhe righL
aLLiLude Lo begin wiLh, Lhe proper response will íollow.
1. Separate W!eat from t!e C!aff
UníorLunaLely, noL all criLicism is consLrucLive. Some people are in a
bad mood, biLLer or jusL plain negaLive and will Lake any chance Lo puL
oLhers down. Some are also inexperienced or unqualiíied Lo give you
valuable íeedback. While design is subjecLive, being able Lo separaLe
useíul íeedback írom cheap shoLs and misiníormaLion is imporLanL.
However, Lhis is noL an excuse Lo ignore commenLs LhaL you don'L like.
Unless you believe a criLique was given in malice or ignorance, don'L
be quick Lo dismiss iL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Here are a íew Lips Lo disLinguish beLween Lhe Lwo.
• Specific.
valuable íeedback is always speciíic. lL is clear, logical and
deíined. "1he logo is ugly" or "l don'L like Lhe color choice" are
examples oí useless criLicism (ií you geL a loL oí Lhis, see #7
• )ctionable.
ConsLrucLive criLicism should enable you Lo Lake immediaLe
acLion. ¥ou should come away wiLh a clearer idea oí how Lo
improve Lhe concepL and Lhe paLh Lo íollow.
• 6b8ecti'e.
Useíul íeedback is unbiased. lL gives you a unique perspecLive
wiLhouL an ulLerior moLive. ObjecLive criLicism will always be
even-Lempered and appropriaLe.
*. >earn from It
1his sLep is possibly Lhe hardesL one in Lhis learning experience buL by
íar Lhe mosL imporLanL. For criLicism Lo serve iLs purpose, you need Lo
acL on iL! Don'L jusL go back Lo business as usual, make an eííorL Lo
improve. 1he greaL Lhing abouL criLicism is LhaL iL uncovers our blind
spoLs, weaknesses LhaL only oLhers can see. When you're coníronLed
by criLicism, don'L leL Lhe opporLuniLy pass. wriLe iL down and do
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
whaLever iL Lakes Lo change íor Lhe beLLer. lí someone criLicizes your
copywriLing skills, sLarL wiLh baby sLeps. Read a relevanL blog once a
week. 8uy a book. PracLice wriLing headlines íor í0 minuLes each day.
Small vicLories are oíLen Lhe quickesL paLh Lo success. FvenLually you
will improve and have your criLic Lo Lhank.
6. >ook for a 0e I.ea
lí you can'L learn anyLhing new, look íor a new idea. A diííerenL
perspecLive gives you a chance Lo examine your work írom a
viewpoinL LhaL you would never have considered oLherwise. JusL as
you geL inspiraLion írom a gallery or anoLher LalenLed designer, you
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
can íind ideas and inspiraLion in consLrucLive criLicism, seeing iL jusL
requires you Lo sLep back. 8e curious, and approach Lhe criLicism
objecLively, iL could be incredibly useíul.
CriLicism is someLimes Lhe cold shower you need Lo wake up and hiL
Lhe "ReseL" buLLon on a projecL. Remember, your work is based on
your own preconceived noLions oí whaL Lhe clienL wanLs, and you
should always be open Lo Lhe possibiliLy LhaL you have missed Lhe
mark. ln Lhe evenL LhaL you do need Lo sLarL over, discuss Lhe
objecLives and expecLaLions righL away. Clariíying Lhis iníormaLion in
Lhe íirsL place could have prevenLed a re-do alLogeLher.
3. Dig Deeper W!en 0ecessar5
AL some poinL, everyone has received vague, unclear or unacLionable
íeedback. lL's a parL oí liíe. UníorLunaLely, unless you Lake Lhe
iniLiaLive, Lhis Lype oí íeedback is more or less useless Lo everyone
involved. However, ií you're willing Lo dig a liLLle deeper, you may
uncover Lhings LhaL no one else was willing Lo Lell you. SLarL by asking
open-ended quesLions LhaL geL Lo Lhe core oí Lhe issue, quesLions like,
"l wanL Lo undersLand your poinL oí view. Could you please provide
more deLail¹" or "How can l improve¹" Ask íor speciíics and, above all
else, honesLy. 1hese kinds oí quesLions will help keep communicaLion
lines open and allow you Lo walk away wiLh pracLical and concreLe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lí you íeel uncomíorLable asking your criLic íor more deLail, or ií Lhey
are unwilling Lo provide iL, approach someone you respecL or LrusL
and ask Lhem whaL Lhey Lhink. Do Lhey agree wiLh Lhe criLicism¹ Why
or why noL¹ Assuming Lhis person is honesL and knowledgeable, you
should be able Lo geL Lhe answers LhaL you need Lo move íorward.
(. T!ank t!e Critic
WheLher Lhe criLicism you receive is genuine or downrighL rude, make
a poinL oí saying "1hank you." 1hanking even your harshesL criLics can
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
creaLe a lasLing impression, keep you humble and open Lhe door Lo
addiLional íeedback in Lhe íuLure. Fxpressing graLiLude will also make
you íeel beLLer abouL Lhe experience and help you alleviaLe any innaLe
avoidance oí íeedback and criLicism you may have. lí you have
íollowed Lhe guidelines above and recognize Lhe Lrue value oí Lhe
criLicism you have received, saying "1hank you" shouldn'L be Loo
lí you respecL Lhe person and Lheir opinion, go one sLep íurLher and
develop a long-Lerm menLoring relaLionship wiLh Lhem. Much like in
Lhe old days oí craíLsman and apprenLice, an individual whose opinion
you value and hold in high esLeem can go a long way in developing
your skills and abiliLies. lí noLhing else, a menLor can keep you
accounLable Lo your work and help you conLinually improve.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Persua.e Dour =sersE Boss or Clients
by Pcul 3ccç
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WheLher you are geLLing a clienL Lo sign oíí on a websiLe's design or
persuade a user Lo compleLe a call Lo acLion, we all need Lo know how
Lo be convincing. Like many in Lhe Web design indusLry, l have a
sLrange job. l am parL salesperson, parL consulLanL and parL user
experience designer. One day l could be piLching a new idea Lo a
board oí direcLors, Lhe nexL l mighL be designing an e-commerce
purchasing process. 1here is, however, a common Lheme. l spend
mosL oí my Lime persuading people.
As Web designers, we oíLen have Lo nudge people in Lhe direcLion we
wanL Lhem Lo go. lL is a viLal skill we all have Lo learn. We're noL
Lalking abouL manipulaLion. Underhanded Lechniques, and cerLainly
lying, won'L geL you anywhere. 8uL you can presenL yourselí and your
argumenLs in ways LhaL make people more recepLive. 1he íirsL and
probably mosL imporLanL way is Lo empaLhize.
1he worsL Lhing you can do is enLer a meeLing or begin designing a
user inLeríace wiLh a personal agenda. lí your goal is Lo push Lhe oLher
parLy inLo agreeing wiLh you, iL will resisL. 8uL ií you seek Lo
undersLand Lheir needs and respond Lo Lhem, you will íind Lhe oLhers
more cooperaLive.
#. Start b5 >istening
1o achieve Lhis, you musL really lisLen. Paying lip service Lo Lhe "idea"
oí lisLening is noL enough. ¥ou have Lo hear whaL Lhey are acLually
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
saying and look íor Lhose "poinLs oí pain" LhaL your ideas mighL
acLually relieve.
Tailor Presentation of )gen.a
RaLher Lhan íorcing Lhe people in Lhe room Lo relucLanLly agree, Lailor
your presenLaLion oí ideas so LhaL Lhey see Lhe beneíiL oí Lhem. 1his
involves some creaLive Lhinking on your parL buL is possible ií you
really undersLand Lheir needs.
S!o Benefit to 6t!er Part5
Remember, explaining how your ideas will help you or oLhers is noL
enough. ¥ou have Lo demonsLraLe how Lhey help Lhe acLual people
you are speaking Lo. For example, raLher Lhan saying Lo your clienL,
"Users are going Lo love Lhis new íeaLure," you could insLead say, "1his
new íeaLure will keep users coming back, which will dramaLically
improve Lhe number oí leads you receive." Once you undersLand Lhe
oLher parLy and have LhoughL abouL Lheir needs, your nexL sLep is Lo
íorm a relaLionship wiLh Lhem.
2. Be Personable
lí you have a good relaLionship wiLh your users, boss or clienL, Lhey
will be more inclined Lo Lake your suggesLions. Oí course, Lhe kind oí
relaLionship you build depends on who Lhe oLher person is. ¥our
relaLionship wiLh websiLe users is diííerenL írom your relaLionship wiLh
your boss. However, cerLain approaches hold Lrue across Lhe board.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
2et T!em
lL's a silly liLLle Lhing, buL when l give a piLch, l Lry Lo geL people Lo
nod. Nodding is a good sign and puLs Lhem in a posiLive mood. l
normally achieve Lhis by repeaLing back Lo Lhem (in diííerenL words)
one oí Lheir own poinLs. 1hey will obviously agree wiLh whaL you're
saying, buL iL also demonsLraLes LhaL you're lisLening and are on Lhe
same wave lengLh.
1he same approach can be used online. For example ií l am wriLing a
posL aimed aL Web designers, l know LhaL beraLing lF6 will geL Lhem
nodding in agreemenL righL away. l have succeeded in making a
Be ,nt!usiastic
FnLhusiasm is so imporLanL. ClienLs wanL Lo know you care abouL Lheir
projecL. 8osses wanL Lo know you are moLivaLed Lo work, and users
wanL Lo know you care abouL Lhe service you deliver. However, so
many people lack enLhusiasm when communicaLing Lheir message.
1hey come across eiLher as deíeaLed beíore Lhey even begin or as
overly aggressive. lnsLead, Lry overwhelming enLhusiasm. lL is
iníecLious, and people geL caughL up in iL. More imporLanLly, saying
"No" Lo somebody who is oozing enLhusiasm and exciLemenL írom
every pore is noL easy. lL would be like kicking a puppy. (Well, noL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
%irror T!em
¥ou have probably heard how mirroring a person's body language
helps esLablish a posiLive connecLion. WhaLever you do, do noL do iL!
Consciously doing iL jusL comes across as creepy! lL will happen
naLurally, so don'L worry abouL iL. 1haL said, iL is a useíul indicaLion oí
wheLher a íace-Lo-íace meeLing is going well. lí Lhe oLher person is
mirroring your body language, chances are Lhey like you. WhaL you
can consciously do is mirror Lheir language or use Lhe same
lí your boss or clienL Lalks abouL "reLurn on invesLmenL" or "success
criLeria," do iL yourselí. And ií you suspecL Lhe oLher parLy is noL
íamiliar wiLh cerLain Lerminology, make sure Lo avoid iL. Our way oí
speaking associaLes us wiLh a cerLain "Lribe." lí we share Lhe same
language, we are more likely Lo build a rapporL.
%ake T!em Smile
AnoLher Lrick íor building relaLionships is Lo injecL humour inLo Lhe
proceedings. lí you can make Lhe oLher person smile, you've gone a
long way Lo breaking down any barriers. Oí course, Lhis has Lo be
done wiLh care. Overdo iL and you'll look like Lhe íool. 8uL even Lhe
mosL miserable-looking direcLors on a board are human beings, Loo,
and like Lo smile. AlLhough all oí Lhese approaches are greaL íor
building relaLionship, one Lrumps Lhem all. openness.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3. Be 6pen
¥ou may be reading Lhis Lhinking, "1his guy is mad. WhaL ií his clienLs
read Lhis sLuíí. Won'L Lhey íeel manipulaLed¹" My answer is no. l am
open and honesL abouL whaL l do. l would be enLirely íine wiLh any
one oí my clienLs reading Lhis because noLhing manipulaLive or secreL
is here. People haLe being deceived, so ií anyLhing, Lhe honesLy in Lhis
arLicle will build my relaLionship, noL undermine iL. 1wo key
componenLs help build open relaLionships and creaLe a recepLive
Disarming -onest5
Many Limes, Lhe besL way Lo diííuse a poLenLial conílicL is wiLh
disarming honesLy. For example, l regularly acknowledge in sales
siLuaLions LhaL l am Lhere Lo sell and LhaL Lhey should Lake anyLhing l
say wiLh a pinch oí salL. 1he clienL obviously knows Lhis already. 8uL
verbalizing iL shows a kind oí honesLy LhaL people rarely encounLer.
Be Willing to S!o Weakness
We can someLimes be so desperaLe Lo make a poinL LhaL we become
unwilling Lo admiL even Lhe slighLesL weakness in our argumenL.
UlLimaLely, Lhough, we come across as pig-headed and inílexible.
People respond well when you admiL you are wrong or are unsure oí
an answer. 8e willing Lo say "l don'L know" or "l've messed up" ií
necessary. People will respecL you íor iL. One oí Lhe besL examples oí
Lhis is Flickr's blog posL "SomeLimes We Suck," in which Flickr
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
apologizes íor períormance problems. 8y Laking Lhis approach, iL
demonsLraLed iLs inLegriLy and compleLely deíused Lhe anger oí Lhose
who were complaining. Oí course, being willing Lo show weakness
Lakes a loL oí coníidence, and LhaL LraiL is criLical ií you are Lo convince
1. Be Confi.ent
As humans we are drawn Lo coníidenL leaders. We íollow Lhose who
have a clear vision and walk Lhe paLh wiLh coníidence. CommunicaLing
your message wiLh coníidence, Lhereíore, is imporLanL. FsLablish
yourselí as an experL, and speak wiLh auLhoriLy.
Bet Confi.entE 0ot )rrogant
8eing coníidenL also means having Lhe sLrengLh Lo admiL when you
are wrong. A Lruly coníidenL leader does noL claim Lo have all oí Lhe
answers all oí Lhe Lime. 8eing able Lo concede poinLs and allow oLhers
Lo express Lheir views is a key aspecL oí coníidence. Only Lhose who
lack coníidence íear opposing views.
Dou Do 0ot )la5s -a'e To Win
Pick your baLLles. Conceding some poinLs Lo achieve Lhe greaLer aim is
okay. Civing ground does noL undermine your posiLion. SomeLimes
you have Lo be a liLLle submissive Lo geL people on board. Don'L allow
your ego Lo geL in Lhe way. lí someone íeels good abouL having won
an argumenL, Lhen Lhey will more likely be accommodaLing when you
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
suggesL an alLernaLive. Compromising someLimes is okay. lL is
cerLainly beLLer Lhan consLanLly being negaLive and rejecLing counLer-
*. Be Positi'e
WheLher dealing wiLh a demanding boss, diííiculL clienL or íinicky
users, you have Lo impress Lhem wiLh your aLLiLude and service.
Always be helpíul and keen Lo leave a posiLive impression. ln
cusLomer service, LhaL someLimes involves going Lhe exLra mile. WiLh
your boss, iL means seeing Lhe beneíiLs oí Lheir laLesL mad scheme.
WhaLever Lhe siLuaLion, developing a repuLaLion íor being unhelpíul
and negaLive is Lhe worsL Lhing LhaL can happen.
1here are no Jedi mind Lricks LhaL will help you Lo always convince
your clienLs LhaL you are righL. AL Lhe end oí Lhe day, Lhe secreL Lo
persuading oLhers is Lo show respecL, lisLen Lo Lheir opinions and
presenL your vision in language LhaL Lhey undersLand.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o to Create t!e Perfect Client
3y Ccmercn Chcµmcn
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Discovering whaL your clienLs really wanL is one oí Lhe mosL
íundamenLal sLeps in creaLing a good working relaLionship. lí you can
íigure ouL exacLly whaL your clienLs wanL íor Lheir websiLe up íronL, iL
will save boLh oí you Lime and írusLraLion laLer.
CreaLing a clienL quesLionnaire isn'L complicaLed, Lhough iL can be a
biL Lime-consuming ií you don'L know where Lo sLarL. ¥ou have Lo
Lhink abouL who your clienLs are and whaL iníormaLion you need írom
Lhem, and Lhen go írom Lhere. 8elow is a compleLe guide Lo creaLing
a cusLom quesLionnaire íor your design business.
W!5 Dou 0ee. a 9uestionnaire
A clienL quesLionnaire serves Lwo purposes. 1he íirsL is Lo íigure ouL
whaL Lhe new websiLe should achieve. 1he second is Lo íigure ouL
whaL Lhe clienL wanLs Lhe websiLe Lo look like.
8oLh oí Lhese Lhings are very imporLanL Lo íind ouL up íronL. 8y
íiguring ouL whaL your clienL wanLs and needs, you can avoid
delivering someLhing Lo Lhem LhaL doesn'L íiL Lhe direcLion in which
Lhey wanL Lo Lake Lheir websiLe.
WiLhouL a good clienL quesLionnaire, you could end up having Lo
repeaLedly go back Lo your clienL LhroughouL Lhe projecL Lo geL more
iníormaLion or clariíicaLion on whaL Lhey really wanL. ¥ou could also
wasLe a loL Lime designing and coding Lhings LhaL aren'L quiLe whaL
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lhe clienL is looking íor. A good quesLionnaire removes a loL oí Lhe
guesswork in designing and makes iL a beLLer experience íor boLh
Formulating Dour 9uestions
¥our quesLions should geL Lo Lhe rooL oí your clienL's needs. 1hey
should also help you assess your clienL's likes and dislikes.
1ake Lhe Lime Lo cusLomize your quesLionnaire wiLh Lhe iníormaLion
LhaL you mosL oíLen need írom clienLs. 1he Lypes oí websiLes you
usually design, Lhe indusLries you work wiLh mosL and Lhe level oí
Lechnical knowledge your clienLs Lend Lo have can all deLermine Lhe
kinds oí quesLions you will include and how Lhey are phrased.
Backgroun. an. 2eneral 9uestions
8eíore you dive inLo Lhe quesLions LhaL will suss ouL how your clienL
wanLs Lheir websiLe Lo look and whaL Lhey wanL iL Lo do, you need Lo
geL an idea oí whaL Lhe clienL is all abouL and why Lhey're looking íor
a new websiLe. 1his secLion oí your quesLionnaire can be very
revealing, especially ií Lhey're unhappy wiLh Lheir currenL websiLe.
¥ou'll also wanL Lo geL some general iníormaLion in Lhis secLion. Ask
abouL Lhe budgeL íor Lhe projecL, who you'll be working wiLh direcLly,
who Lhe decision-makers are and whaL sLaíí are going Lo be involved
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
in Lhe design process and whaL Lheir roles will be. Find ouL who Lheir
LargeL visiLor is, who Lheir cusLomers are, how Lhey're currenLly
inLeracLing wiLh Lhose cusLomers online and how Lhey'd like Lo
improve LhaL inLeracLion. And make sure Lo íind ouL wheLher Lhey
already have a domain name and hosLing package LhaL Lhey're happy
Here are some sample quesLions Lo gaLher background and general
Why cre ycu lcclinç jcr c new website Jesiçn cr reJesiçn?
Whct Jc ycu lile mcst cbcut ycur current website?
Whct Jc ycu Jislile mcst cbcut ycur current website?
Dc ycu clrecJy hcve c Jcmcin ncme cnJ hcstinç µlcn?
Function7Focuse. 9uestions
Figuring ouL whaL exacLly your clienL wanLs Lheir websiLe Lo do is key
Lo making sure you give Lhem whaL Lhey wanL. ¥ou need Lo ask Lhem
quesLions LhaL sLrike Lo Lhe hearL oí exacLly whaL Lhey wanL írom Lheir
websiLe. Sounds easy enough, righL¹ FxcepL in many cases, clienLs
don'L really know whaL Lhey wanL Lheir websiLe Lo do. ¥our
quesLionnaire can acLually help Lhem clariíy Lheir needs and wanLs.
Some example quesLions íor íiguring ouL how Lhe websiLe should
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Dc ycu wcnt tc sell µrcJucts cn ycur website?
Dc ycu wcnt c ccntcct jcrm cr cny cther jcrms cn ycur website?
Dc ycu neeJ cn imcçe çcllery, viJec cr cther multimeJic ccntent?
Dc ycu wcnt c blcç cr cther reçulcrly uµJcteJ ccntent?
Design7Focuse. 9uestions
Finally, you'll wanL some iníormaLion abouL Lhe aesLheLics oí your
clienL. Now, in an ideal world, your clienL will have perused your
porLíolio and seen Lhe kinds oí websiLes you design and will have
decided Lo work wiLh you because Lhey like ycur aesLheLic. 8uL LhaL's
noL always Lhe case. Figuring ouL Lheir design preíerences up íronL
helps you avoid designing someLhing Lhey will haLe laLer on.
¥ou have a íew diííerenL ways Lo learn Lheir LasLes. Ask your clienL
whaL colors Lhey'd like Lo use. 1hey may have a seL color scheme or
have colors associaLed wiLh Lheir brand. Or Lhey may be open Lo your
inpuL. 1he same could be done íor qualiLies LhaL Lhey wanL Lheir
websiLe Lo be associaLed wiLh (e.g. "bold," "soíL," "proíessional,"
"iníormal," eLc.).
One oí Lhe besL ways Lo geL a sense oí your clienL's design
preíerences is Lo ask Lhem Lo provide you wiLh examples oí a íew
websiLes LhaL have designs Lhey like and a íew websiLes whose
designs Lhey don'L like. Also ask Lhem whaL Lhey like or dislike abouL
each oí Lhese designs, because Lhis sheds lighL on Lheir overall LasLes.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
AnoLher, someLimes more Lelling, meLhod oí doing Lhis is Lo show
Lhem íive Lo Len websiLes and ask Lhem whaL Lhey like and dislike
abouL each. 1his is oíLen more eííecLive, because you can choose
websiLes LhaL have a wide range oí sLyles and geL a íuller picLure oí
whaL Lhey like and don'L like.
Here are some sample quesLions Lo íigure ouL Lhe clienL's design
Dc ycu hcve c cclcr scheme ycu´J lile tc use?
Whct wcrJs wculJ ycu lile µecµle tc cssccicte with ycur website?
Dc ycu hcve c sµecijic style cj Jesiçn in minJ?
W!at 0ot to )sk
l don'L know how many Limes l've seen quesLionnaires ask Lhings LhaL
are eiLher compleLely irrelevanL or Loo Lechnical íor Lhe average clienL
Lo undersLand. Remember LhaL your clienLs likely don'L know much
abouL Lhe Lechnical aspecLs oí design. 1hey probably know Lhey wanL
someLhing like an image gallery or a map, buL Lhey won'L know
wheLher Lhe Lhings Lhey wanL will require a cusLom daLabase or
JavaScripL. ln many cases, Lhey mighL noL even know basics, like
wheLher Lheir websiLe should have an RSS íeed or Flash.
Here are some examples oí unhelpíul quesLions Lo ask.
Will ycu neeJ c custcm Jctcbcse?
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Will ycu neeJ IcvcScriµt ( jQuery, Mcc1ccls, etc.)?
Will ycu neeJ cn e-ccmmerce scluticn?
Will ycu neeJ tc hcnJle uµlccJinç cnJ JcwnlccJinç?
Will ycu neeJ c secrchcble Jctcbcse?
While geLLing an idea oí whaL Lhe Lechnical speciíicaLions oí Lhe
websiLe mighL be is imporLanL, sLrucLure your quesLions around Lhe
íeaLures and beneíiLs oí Lhe websiLe, noL Lhe speciíicaLions. So insLead
oí Lhe quesLions above, ask Lhings like.
WculJ ycu lile c secrch ençine cn ycur website?
ShculJ visitcrs be cble tc JcwnlccJ jiles jrcm ycur website cr µcst their
cwn jiles?
WculJ ycu lile visitcrs tc be cble tc siçn uµ jcr ccccunts, cr wculJ ycu
lile c secure crec just jcr visitcrs whc hcve siçneJ uµ jcr ccccunts?
WculJ ycu lile tc sell µrcJucts cn ycur website?
Planning for t!e Future
Make sure Lo ask clienLs abouL Lheir íuLure needs, Loo. lí you know
Lhey mighL wanL an e-commerce soluLion six monLhs down Lhe road,
make provisions íor LhaL in Lhe iniLial websiLe design. 1he goal is Lo
build a long-Lerm relaLionship wiLh Lhe clienL, so Lhe more involved
you are in Lheir goals and plans, Lhe easier your job will be now and in
Lhe íuLure.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
¥ou'll also wanL Lo ask clienLs abouL regular updaLes and mainLenance
íor Lhe websiLe. And you'll wanL an idea oí how much updaLing and
mainLaining Lhey will wanL Lo handle in-house and how much Lhey
mighL wanL you Lo do. Some sample quesLions.
Hcw cjten Jc ycu wcnt cr will ycu neeJ tc mcle uµJctes tc ycur
Dc ycu hcve scmecne in ycur ccmµcny whc will be resµcnsible jcr
cnçcinç website uµJctes?
Dces thct µerscn hcve cny exµerience with website mcintencnce?
Whct jectures Jc ycu cnticiµcte cJJinç tc ycur website in the juture?
Tips to /efine Dour 9uestionnaire
Once you have a basic quesLionnaire mapped ouL, iL's Lime Lo make
some reíinemenLs so LhaL you geL Lhe besL resulLs írom iL. 1he goal oí
Lhe quesLionnaire is Lo improve your workílow and communicaLion, so
you wanL Lhe process Lo be as eííicienL and eííecLive as possible.
FirsL oí all, keep Lhe quesLionnaire shorL. ¥ou wanL as much
iníormaLion írom your clienLs as possible, buL ií your quesLionnaire is
Loo long, your clienLs will geL bored and may noL give iL Lhe aLLenLion
iL deserves.
1here are Lwo ways Lo keep Lhe quesLionnaire shorL. limiL Lhe number
oí quesLions and/or limiL Lhe lengLh oí quesLions. Reíine your
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
quesLions unLil Lhey are as shorL as possible (íive Lo Len words is
Don'L be aíraid Lo be creaLive wiLh some quesLions Lo geL your clienLs
Lhinking ouLside Lhe box. Ask a íew unorLhodox quesLions. Ask Lhem
Lo compare Lheir websiLe Lo someLhing unrelaLed (such as a building
or a íood). ¥ou could provide sample answers Lo guide your clienLs Lo
giving you Lhe iníormaLion you're looking íor.
ConLinue Lo reíine your quesLionnaire over Lime and as you geL clienL
íeedback. Consider adapLing Lhe quesLionnaire Lo individual clienLs Lo
geL iníormaLion LhaL is more relevanL Lo parLicular projecLs. lL's your
quesLionnaire. use iL Lhe way LhaL works besL íor you and your clienLs.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
%arketing & Con'incing Strategies
For Freelancers
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
2etting ClientsL )pproac!ing t!e Compan5
by Peter Smcrt
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
A deíining íacLor in any íreelancer or agency's success in gaining new
business is Lheir abiliLy Lo markeL Lheir skills eííecLively. ln Lhis Lhree-
parL series, we will explore ways in which designers can sLraLegically
promoLe Lhemselves Lo geL new clienLs. Securing new business by
approaching companies can be a very challenging process, íull oí
piLíalls. Here, we will look aL a couple oí sLeps Lo impressing poLenLial
clienLs and avoiding Lhe mosL common misLakes.
Step 6neL Be Focuse.
A íocused approach Lo work is paramounL íor success. Freelancers
oíLen Lake on every job opporLuniLy LhaL presenLs iLselí. AlLhough Lhis
would rapidly expand your showcase oí work, more oíLen Lhan noL iL
leaves you over-sLreLched, wiLh a porLíolio oí odds and ends insLead
oí specialized resulLs. Focus insLead on who you would like Lo work
wiLh. 1his could be based on several íacLors, such as.
• In.ustr5. 8y specializing in a parLicular indusLry, such as
healLh care or reLail, you build a porLíolio oí relevanL
experience. AlLhough Lhis could limiL your workload iniLially,
you will be acLively working Lowards idenLiíying yourselí as
someone wiLh experLise in your chosen íield.
• %e.ia. Deciding which media and plaLíorms Lo specialize in is
imporLanL íor any íirm or individual. For many, Lhe choice is
beLween specializing in prinL and digiLal communicaLion. 1his
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
disLincLion will, again, allow you Lo íocus and build relevanL
knowledge LhaL you can Lhen oííer Lo your clienLs.
• 2eograp!ical location. ¥ou may also wish Lo íocus your
eííorLs on a parLicular geographical locaLion. 1his could be a
neighborhood, ciLy or region. 8y doing so, your adverLising in
local media can be more personal and LargeLed, and you
ensure easy Lraveling beLween you and clienLs.
Step ToL Be Insig!tful
Once you have esLablished Lhe kind oí organizaLions you would like Lo
work wiLh, learn how Lheir businesses work. visiL a range oí websiLes
in Lhe íield and ask yourselí some key quesLions, such as.
• W!o .o t!e5 ork it!:
Knowing who your clienLs work wiLh will give you an indicaLion
oí how you can be oí service Lo Lhem. For example, an
insurance íirm looking Lo LargeL universiLy sLudenLs mighL
need Lo reíresh iLs ílyer and leaíleL campaign in Lime íor Lhe
beginning oí Lerm.
• W!at are t!e compan5?s et!ics:
MosL esLablished organizaLions puL a vision sLaLemenL on Lheir
websiLe. 1his will give you key insighL inLo a company's values,
hisLory, growLh and íuLure direcLion. 1his iníormaLion is
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
invaluable because iL will help you beLLer undersLand how Lhe
business operaLes and, Lhus, how you can Lailor your approach
Lo iL. For example, ií Lhe company has a progressive sLance on
susLainabiliLy and Lhe environmenL, you could approach Lhem
wiLh ideas íor paperless adverLising and communicaLion.
• Does it !a'e an a.'ertising bu.get:
AlLhough Lhis will noL be expliciLly sLaLed, by reviewing a
business' prior adverLising, you will be able Lo esLimaLe how
much capiLal iL Lypically invesLs in design per annum. Again,
Lhis allows you Lo Lailor your markeLing proposal Lo iLs budgeL.
1hese kinds oí quesLions will give you imporLanL insighL inLo Lhe
services LhaL an organizaLion requires and, Lhereíore, whaL services
you can oííer.
Step T!reeL Be Personal
1he power oí íace-Lo-íace conLacL should noL be underesLimaLed. A
common LempLaLion íor graphic designers is Lo manage Lheir small
empire írom behind a desk over Lhe lnLerneL. AlLhough work can be
íound online, Lhe relaLionship beLween clienL and designer is oíLen
8uild sLrong links wiLh your clienLs, which will increase Lhe likelihood
oí repeaL business. One oí Lhe mosL imporLanL skills Lo learn, Lhen, is
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
íace-Lo-íace meeLings. MeeLing a clienL íace Lo íace íorces Lhem Lo
give you Lheir undivided aLLenLion. ¥ou will be able Lo convey your
passion much more eííecLively and personally.
AcLively seek ouL opporLuniLies Lo meeL poLenLial clienLs íace Lo íace.
Cold-calling or emailing can be a Liring and dishearLening experience
and may give you limiLed resulLs. lnsLead, when approaching a
business íor Lhe íirsL Lime, íind ouL Lhe name and conLacL deLails oí
Lhe markeLing direcLor, which you can oíLen íind on Lhe company's
websiLe. lí iL's noL Lhere, make a quick phone call Lo Lo ask íor iL.
8eíore making your íirsL conLacL wiLh a clienL, do your research.
Familiarize yourselí wiLh Lheir business and undersLand oí whaL Lhey
do. When you're ready Lo make conLacL, have a íew shorL senLences
prepared LhaL summarize Lhe speciíic iníormaLion you wish Lo
communicaLe. 1his should include your.
• Intro.uction. Fxplain who you are and why you are calling.
AlLhough Lhis may seem obvious, esLablishing Lhese íacLs is
crucial Lo presenLing yourselí clearly and memorably. 1his
could be as simple as. "Cood aíLernoon. My name is PeLer
SmarL, and l am calling on behalí oí Roam Design."
• -ook or pitc!. Once you have esLablished who you are,
engage your poLenLial clienL. MenLioning LhaL you specialize in
Lheir parLicular indusLry and LhaL you oííer a range oí Lailored
services is an aLLracLive proposiLion and good way Lo begin.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
AlLernaLively, you could begin wiLh a hook. A hook is a one-oíí
special oííer LhaL makes your services more aLLracLive. 1his
could be oííering 50% oíí Lhe cosL oí design work in
November or a íree hour oí consulLaLion.
• Call to action. FsLablish Lhe nexL sLep your clienL should Lake.
Oííer Lo meeL Lhem and consulL in person, aL a Lime and
locaLion suiLable Lo Lhem.
Step FourL Be Prepare.
Once you have arranged your meeLing, research Lhe company more
exLensively. Make noLes on key areas oí inLeresL Lo develop laLer. For
example, you could look aL Lhe company's.
• ).'ertising
1he company's media presence is a good indicaLion oí iLs
capaciLies in communicaLion. Look aL where iL adverLises, how
iL does iL and where iL doesn'L adverLise. lí iL does noL
adverLise online, you could presenL Lhis as a possibiliLy.
• lí possible, source a varieLy oí Lhe company's
markeLing maLerial. Fxamine iL and noLe anyLhing you would
do diííerenLly.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• Website. Does Lhe company have a websiLe¹ lí noL, Lhis could
be a greaL opporLuniLy Lo expand iLs online presence. lí iL
does, look aL Lhe sLrucLure, conLenL and presenLaLion. NoLe
areas íor improvemenL and, more imporLanLly, why Lhey could
be improved.
Having an iníormed opinion on Lhe sLrengLhs and weaknesses oí Lhe
company's currenL markeLing and perceived idenLiLy allow you Lo
guide iL Lo services LhaL would beneíiL iL. ¥ou may also íind iL helpíul
Lo compare iLs adverLising Lo LhaL oí iLs compeLiLors.
Also, prepare your "elevaLor piLch," which is a brieí summary oí your
business, iLs aims and how iL helps clienLs. 8eing able Lo explain whaL
you do concisely demonsLraLes LhaL your business goals are clear and
your approach LargeLed.
Step Fi'eL Be =niBue
SLanding ouL írom Lhe crowd is diííiculL, especially ií you are an
emerging LalenL. 1o sLand ouL, come up wiLh original ideas on how Lhe
company can markeL iLselí. SuggesL opLions iL may noL have yeL
considered, such as viral markeLing, Web-based promoLion or
LargeLed leaíleLing, and demonsLraLe how Lhey would improve
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
lmpress Lhe clienL and exceed iLs expecLaLions. lí you are going Lo
propose a websiLe redesign, Lake Lime beíore your meeLing Lo
produce a íew draíLs oí whaL iL could look like. ¥ou could presenL
alongside a concise wireírame showing how Lhe iníormaLion could be
beLLer presenLed. AlLernaLively, ií you will be proposing Lo reíresh Lhe
company's branding and idenLiLy, bring some visual sLimuli Lo supporL
your argumenL. Don'L presenL a whole new idenLiLy, buL raLher
suggesL colors, layouLs, Lypeíaces and adverLising íormaLs LhaL could
guide Lhe conversaLion.
1he clienL will wanL evidence oí your skill Lo deliver on your ideas, so
bring your porLíolio along Lo impress Lhem, along wiLh reíerences and
endorsemenLs írom previous clienLs.
Step Si4L Be Professional
¥our íirsL meeLing wiLh Lhe poLenLial clienL is oí paramounL
imporLance because iL will deLermine wheLher you gain Lheir business.
1o make a good impression, be meLiculous in your preparaLion.
Research and plan you presenLaLion well so LhaL you are coníidenL in
your delivery and can supporL your proposals wiLh íacLs. 1his means
you should have a íirm grasp oí Lhe íigures and cosLs associaLed wiLh
your proposal.
For example, ií you will be proposing an inner-ciLy billboard and bus-
sLop markeLing campaign, know Lhe cosLs involved in producing
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
large-íormaL prinLing and renLing adverLising space. Find ouL Lhe
number oí people who will see Lhe adverLisemenLs daily. 1his will give
Lhe clienL a balanced appreciaLion oí boLh Lhe ouLlay and Lhe beneíiLs
oí your proposal.
Fqually imporLanL is your appearance. lnvesL in a suiL or smarL
business-wear. 1his will impress upon Lhem LhaL you are serious abouL
whaL you do, which will make Lhem Lake you seriously, Loo.
Step Se'enL Be )ttenti'e
LisLen Lo Lhe clienL. 1his sLep is oíLen missed by designers who are
overly keen Lo explain Lheir innovaLive ideas. LisLening is a poweríul
Lool. lL shows you Lruly care abouL whaL Lhe clienL has Lo say. 1ake
noLes on any iníormaLion Lhey oííer abouL Lhe company, iLs plans and
immediaLe requiremenLs.
Step ,ig!tL Be /esourceful
Fvery meeLing wiLh a clienL is an opporLuniLy and should noL be Laken
lighLly. Approach meeLings resourceíully and demonsLraLe your
proíessionalism. ¥ou could even prepare a package oí maLerials Lo
leave wiLh Lhem, including.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
• Business car.. Always have a business card on hand. lL should
have your name, conLacL deLails and, ideally, a websiLe where
Lhey can see samples oí your work.
• Samples of ork. ¥ou mighL also wanL Lo leave a mini-prinLed
porLíolio oí some oí your besL and mosL relevanL work. Fven ií
you don'L win LhaL parLicular projecL, your deLails and
experience will be in Lheir íile íor íuLure reíerence.
• Curriculum Hitae. A Cv is a useíul record oí relevanL work
experience and is a good place Lo lisL your previous clienLs and
Lechnical compeLencies.
Remember, Lhe decision abouL which íreelancer Lo hire may noL resL
wiLh one person in Lhe organizaLion. 8y adhering Lo Lhis simple sLep,
you allow oLhers who are involved in Lhe process Lo see your work aL
Lheir convenience, making your applicaLion even sLronger.
Step 0ineL Be Committe.
lí you do noL hear írom Lhe clienL immediaLely, don'L panic or give up
hope. WaiL a íew days, and Lhen send a poliLe email, Lhanking Lhem
íor Lheir Lime. ln Lhe email, reiLeraLe in brieí your proposal and
menLion how you would love Lo work wiLh Lhem. 1hen waiL. lí you
receive no response wiLhin Lhree weeks oí your meeLing, you may
wanL Lo re-inquire by Lelephone. Chances are, Lhey have noL íorgoLLen
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
abouL you, moreover, your call will demonsLraLe your enLhusiasm and
Step TenL ,'aluate
WheLher or noL your meeLing was successíul, you can learn someLhing
írom iL. FvaluaLe your períormance, whaL you did well and,
imporLanLly, whaL you could improve. Learn írom your misLakes, and
recLiíy Lhem íor your nexL venLure. ¥our abiliLy Lo do Lhis plays a viLal
role in your íuLure success.
1hese are jusL Len oí Lhe key sLeps Lo consider when approaching a
company. Remember. be bold, be proacLive and don'L be aíraid Lo
make misLakes. Fvery person has Lheir own meLhods oí íinding work,
buL learning Lhese sLeps could be Lhe diííerence beLween realizing a
dream and seLLling íor second besL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Con'erting Prospects into Clients
by Alyssc Creçcry
1he abiliLy Lo communicaLe, and communicaLe well, is one oí Lhe
biggesL íacLors in business success. ¥ou could be an excellenL
designer, buL ií you're unable Lo promoLe your services and
communicaLe eííecLively wiLh clienLs and colleagues, your poLenLial is
limiLed. 1he principal areas where communicaLion is essenLial include.
• PiLching poLenLial clienLs,
• ClienL meeLings,
• CusLomer service,
• Face-Lo-íace neLworking,
• MarkeLing your business
Pitc!ing Potential Clients
When you íreelance or own a business, your livelihood depends on
your abiliLy Lo sell your services. ¥ou need Lo be able Lo convince
prospecLs LhaL you are Lhe besL person íor Lhe job, and Lhe
communicaLion secreLs in Lhis arLicle will help you do Lhis successíully.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
#. )sk t!e /ig!t 9uestions
ParL oí selling your services is being able Lo undersLand Lhe clienL's
unique needs. ¥ou can do Lhis only by asking quesLions LhaL geL Lo
Lhe hearL oí Lhe challenges Lhey are íacing. Once you have a clear
undersLanding oí Lhe problem LhaL Lhe clienL needs Lo solve, you can
piLch your services as Lhe besL possible opLion íor Lhe clienL, ouLlining
how you will meeL Lheir needs.
For example, when l am conLacLed by a prospecLive clienL, l have Lhem
íill ouL a websiLe requiremenLs documenL LhaL poses various quesLions
Lo help me beLLer undersLand whaL Lhey are looking íor in a websiLe.
Some oí Lhe quesLions l ask are.
• Describe Lhe naLure oí your business.
• Who is your LargeL audience¹
• WhaL is Lhe background on Lhe projecL¹ (ls iL brand new¹ Has
iL already begun¹)
• WhaL are Lhe goals and objecLives oí Lhe projecL¹
• WhaL is Lhe Limeline íor Lhe projecL¹
2. Communicate Professionall5
¥our proíessionalism can win you conLracLs, and your communicaLion
skills add Lo Lhe compleLe package. 1ake Lime Lo prooíread all emails
prior Lo sending, use a business email address wiLh a proper
signaLure, answer Lhe phone proíessionally, and speak arLiculaLely and
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
compeLenLly aL all Limes.
While my email signaLure has evolved over Lime, below is Lhe general
íormaL l íollow, which has worked well íor me.
Ccmµcny | Website
lmcil | Phcne number
Client %eetings
ClienL meeLings, even Lhose LhaL Lake place over Lhe Lelephone, are an
inLegral parL oí every successíul business. Follow Lhese Lips Lo make
your meeLings as producLive as possible.
3. Sc!e.ule an. Prepare T!oroug!l5
We're all busy Lhese days, so scheduling your meeLings in advance
ensures LhaL you and your clienLs have an adequaLe amounL oí
uninLerrupLed Lime Lo speak. Once your meeLing is scheduled, Lake
Lime Lo prepare an agenda LhaL ouLlines íocus poinLs and seLs a
sLrucLure. Sharing Lhe agenda íor Lhe meeLing gives boLh you and Lhe
clienL an opporLuniLy Lo íully prepare.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
8ecause you may noL be using Lhe same calendar or scheduling
program as your clienL, coníirming Lhe daLe and Lime oí your
meeLings in an email and sending a reminder and Lhe agenda Lhe day
beíore is good pracLice. lí you are unsure how Lo íormaL an agenda,
plenLy oí LemplaLes are available íor íree online.
1. SpeakE PauseE >isten
When you have several Lopics Lo Lackle, rushing Lhrough Lhem Lo geL
all oí your ideas ouL may be LempLing. 8uL Lhis causes coníusion and
makes Lhe clienL íeel LhaL Lheir inpuL is noL imporLanL. Slow down, and
remember LhaL communicaLion is a Lwo-way sLreeL. FsLablish a give-
and-Lake LhaL allows boLh parLies Lo have Lheir say.
One way Lo become a beLLer lisLener is Lo limiL or eliminaLe
disLracLions during your conversaLions. 1haL may mean closing your
email clienL, Lurning oíí Lhe Lelevision and closing Lhe door Lo your
oííice. 8y doing Lhese small Lhings, you ensure LhaL Lhe clienL has your
íull aLLenLion, and Lhey will sense LhaL, Loo.
*. Follo =p in Writing
While you may be Laking noLes during phone or in-person meeLings,
Lhe oLher parLy mighL noL be, so íollow up aíLer Lhe meeLing wiLh a
wriLLen message, giving an overview oí Lhe discussion Lo make sure
you are boLh on Lhe same page. Summarize whaL was agreed, repeaL
quesLions LhaL were raised and ouLline Lhe nexL sLeps and
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
responsibiliLies íor boLh parLies. ln addiLion Lo sending your noLes,
inviLe Lhe oLher parLy Lo give Lheir íeedback on whaL you have senL.
1his way, iL becomes a collaboraLive documenL and noL jusL one
person's view.
Customer Ser'ice
¥our clienLs wanL Lo íeel LhaL Lhey are your prioriLy. ¥ou can make
Lhem íeel so by providing exemplary cusLomer service. 1ry Lhese
communicaLion-íocused acLions Lo improve your cusLomer service.
6. )sk for Fee.back
One way Lo mainLain long-Lerm relaLionships wiLh your clienLs is by
keeping open lines oí communicaLion. 1his means asking Lhem íor
Lheir inpuL on how Lhings are going and how Lhey íeel abouL Lhe
service you're providing. 1his can be accomplished by inquiring aL Lhe
end oí a projecL, during day-Lo-day conversaLions or Lhrough íormal
surveys. 1he íormaL maLLers less Lhan Lhe acLual acL oí iL, so work iL
inLo your business and íine Lune as you go along.
When conducLing surveys, use an online service LhaL Lracks responses
íor you. 1here are several online services LhaL should give you enough
íuncLionaliLy Lo conducL clienL surveys.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
3. )..ress Problems
lí a clienL is unhappy, don'L ignore Lheir complainLs. Ask Lhem why
Lhey are unhappy and whaL you can do Lo íix Lhe siLuaLion. 1he longer
you waiL Lo bring iL up, Lhe worse iL will geL. Addressing Lhe issue and
being accounLable when appropriaLe puLs you on Lhe paLh Lo
resoluLion. And your willingness Lo íace Lhe problem head-on Lells Lhe
clienL LhaL you care abouL Lhe projecL and Lheir saLisíacLion.
lí a clienL complains abouL your Lurnaround Lime or responsiveness,
you may need Lo creaLe a more íormal projecL plan Lo clariíy
expecLaLions. A working documenL like Lhis can also eliminaLe some oí
Lhe uncerLainLy regarding responsibiliLies and keep everyone on Lrack.
(. Tr5 a 0e Format
lí a problem wiLh your clienL sLems írom miscommunicaLion, Lry a
diííerenL meLhod oí communicaLion. lí you have been handling
everyLhing via email, schedule a phone call Lo see ií LhaL clears Lhings
AíLer Lhe call, you can summarize Lhe conversaLion in an email Lo Lhe
clienL, which will give you anoLher opporLuniLy Lo geL boLh oí you on
Lhe same page again.
1oday, so much communicaLion is done via email LhaL Lhe opporLuniLy
íor major miscommunicaLion is almosL ineviLable. A rule oí Lhumb is
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lo limiL your email Lo one screen-íull (i.e. above Lhe íold), anyLhing
LhaL requires more space Lhan LhaL should be handled by phone. 1his
should help you avoid some oí Lhe piLíalls oí relying on email alone.
Face7to7Face 0etorking
NeLworking evenLs, coníerences and oLher íace-Lo-íace opporLuniLies
can Lake your business Lo a new level. 1hese Lips íocus on helping you
geL Lhe mosL írom in-person neLworking acLiviLies.
+. Communicate Confi.entl5
8e coníidenL and use body language Lo supporL LhaL coníidence.
Shake hands íirmly, smile and make eye conLacL while communicaLing
aL live neLworking evenLs. Don'L íorgeL Lo bring business cards Lo
hand ouL Lo everyone you meeL, and remember Lo relax and be
8eíore heading ouL Lo a neLworking evenL, pracLice inLroducing
yourselí Lo new people Lo gain coníidence. Working on your
inLroducLion wiLh someone you LrusL and asking íor Lheir íeedback
also helps.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
#$. Prepare an ,le'ator Speec!
An elevaLor speech helps you make Lhe mosL oí a íirsL impression,
while making neLworking siLuaLions easier and more producLive. 8e
prepared wiLh your speech and ready Lo answer common quesLions
abouL your business and whaL you do. PracLice your elevaLor speech
ahead oí Lime so LhaL you are relaxed and comíorLable wiLh
inLroducing yourselí.
¥our elevaLor speech should lasL no longer Lhan 30 seconds and
should convey how your producL or service solves a problem íor your
LargeL audience. An elevaLor speech could go someLhing like.
Hcve ycu ever çctten ccmµletely lcst cn c website
beccuse the ncviçcticn wcs inccnsistent, ccnjusinç
cnJ JiscrçcnizeJ? Whct l Jc is reJesiçn websites jcr
smcll-business cwners whc neeJ c strcnçer, mcre
ccherent cnline µresence. 3y lecrninç cs much cs l
ccn cbcut the ccmµcny, l crecte c strcteçic µlcn jcr
reinventinç cn existinç website tc be mcre juncticncl
cnJ user-jrienJly.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
%arketing Dour Ser'ices
WheLher you markeL your business online, in person or Lhrough
LradiLional adverLising, communicaLion is key Lo brand awareness.
Here are Lwo secreLs Lo magniíy Lhe impacL oí your markeLing across
Lhe board.
##. Be /esponsi'e
A big parL oí markeLing is being available Lo your LargeL audience and
íollowing up when necessary. lí you markeL your business Lhrough
social media ouLleLs-including 1wiLLer, Facebook and blogging-
waLch íor and respond Lo commenLs, quesLions and especially
complainLs. And when you are conLacLed as a resulL oí oííline
markeLing acLiviLies, respond quickly and proíessionally.
PlenLy oí recenL examples on 1wiLLer show how cerLain brands have
been slow Lo respond Lo criLicism, hoping iL would die down, only Lo
see iL spin ouL oí conLrol. Also, when you do respond on social media
websiLes, keep iL proíessional, and avoid coníronLaLion because LhaL
would only spread Lhe íire.
#2. Write Well
¥ou can'L successíully promoLe your business ií your markeLing copy is
noL clear, concise and acLion-provoking. lí wriLing is noL your íorLe,
consider hiring someone Lo help you craíL copy LhaL aLLracLs poLenLial
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
clienLs, generaLes inLeresL in your services and moLivaLes poLenLial
clienLs Lo acLion.
1o sLrengLhen your wriLing skills, sLarL a swipe íile oí markeLing copy
LhaL you like and have íound inspiraLional. Read Lhrough iL and make
noLes oí whaL you like in parLicular and whaL pulls you in. 8y making
Lhis a írequenL exercise, you should be able Lo learn whaL makes good
copy good and bad copy bad.
Dour Turn to Weig! In
8eing a Lolerable communicaLor and an eííecLive communicaLor is Lhe
diííerence beLween being good and greaL aL whaL you do. lí your
design skills are up Lo par wiLh your compeLiLion's, Lhen sLrong
communicaLion skills can puL you ahead. SLrengLhening your
communicaLion skills is worLh Lhe Lime and eííorL, and you may be
surprised by how much you beneíiL írom more polished and
proíessional inLeracLion.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
%arketing /ules an. Principles for
3y Iejj CcrJner
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Freelancers have iL hard. l mean, really hard. ln Lheory, Lhe idea oí
working íor yourselí, oí being able Lo choose who you work wiLh and
whaL you work on, sounds like Lhe períecL job. ln pracLice Lhough, iL's
a loL more Lhan jusL working on amazing projecLs íor amazing clienLs
írom Lhe comíorL oí your own home.
1here is a Lremendous amounL oí compeLiLion ouL Lhere, and a loL oí
iL is willing Lo play dirLy, cuL-LhroaL and underhanded Lo beaL you Lo
Lhe clienLs. How are you supposed Lo geL ahead oí Lhose guys¹ ls iL
even possible Lo earn an honesL buck¹ 1hankíully, iL is possible and
can be a loL easier Lhan you Lhink.
%arketing is a bran. game
MarkeLing and iLs in-your-íace division adverLising are all abouL one
Lhing. 8uilding brand equiLy. lí you Lake away only one concepL írom
Lhis arLicle, please leL iL be Lhis one! ln Lhis inLerneL íueled economy,
brand sLrengLh is everyLhing! 8uL brand and brand equiLy are oíLen
misundersLood concepLs, Lhe easiesL way Lo Lhink abouL brand equiLy
is LhaL iL's Lhe sum LoLal oí íeelings people geL when Lhey Lhink abouL
your business or service. And iL's imporLanL Lo remember LhaL brand
equiLy can be posiLive or negaLive.
A company like Kiva has copious amounLs oí posiLive brand equiLy –
Lheir business impacLs Lhe world in a posiLive way and Lhey are nearly
universally liked because Lhey are íair and pleasanL Lo work wiLh.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
On Lhe oLher hand, negaLive brand equiLy (like Mr. Madoíí), is LhaL
horrible, sinking íeeling LhaL people geL when any menLion oí your
name is raised, which, as you can imagine, makes doing business very
8rand equiLy is one oí Lhe mosL monumenLally imporLanL parLs oí
running a successíul business. lí people associaLe your business wiLh
nice íeelings and posiLive images – Lhey will wanL Lo work wiLh you. lí
Lhey associaLe noLhing buL leL downs and suííering wiLh your brand, iL
doesn'L maLLer how good your work is, no one will ever come
>et?s take it from t!e top
From Lhe very íirsL sLep seLLing ouL as a íreelancer, you're giving up
Lhe securiLy oí a consisLenL paycheck íor Lhe íreedom Lo work wiLh
who you wanL and when you wanL. 1here are a loL oí risks, buL Lhere
are also plenLy oí rewards íor Lhose who succeed. FirsL Lime
íreelancers and Lhose jusL sLarLing ouL oíLen ask abouL íinding Lhose
iniLial clienLs. A reasonable requesL. buL one LhaL is, uníorLunaLely, very
hard Lo answer. SLarLing a business, especially a one man shop (in Lhe
way LhaL mosL íreelancers operaLe) is a very individual process.
Fveryone has Lheir own sLory and Lheir own paLh. However, aíLer
conversaLions wiLh many íreelancers and my own experiences, l've
come Lo learn LhaL Lhere are a íew common Lhemes LhaL can go a
long way Lowards helping rookie íreelancers geL up and running.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
It pa5s to !a'e a plan
ln Lhe beginning, iL's LempLing Lo Lry and Lake every job LhaL comes
your way. 8uL Laking every job is a misLake. ¥ou will end up over-
sLreLched on vasLly diííerenL projecLs, Lrying Lo work wiLh clienLs in
indusLries LhaL you know noLhing abouL. lnsLead, Lake some Lime
beíore you even sLarL Lrying Lo recruiL clienLs Lo íormulaLe a plan. Ask
yourselí whaL Lype oí work you wanL Lo do, wiLh whaL Lypes oí clienLs¹
Knowing your audience and knowing your íocus írom Lhe ouLseL will
help you Lo qualiíy prospecLs and qualiíy Lheir projecLs.
For example, imagine LhaL, aíLer much reílecLion and research, you
decide LhaL you wanL Lo íocus solely on designing and building
webpages íor 8roadway acLors. ¥ou live in New ¥ork CiLy and many oí
your íriends are acLors, plus you jusL love Lhe LheaLre. From LhaL
decision, you now have a clearly deíined markeL and a clearly deíined
producL íor LhaL markeL. Finding prospecLs and explaining your
business becomes easier íor you, and easier íor Lhose prospecLs Lo
1iµ. T!e ,le'ator Pitc!L An elevaLor piLch is a one and a halí Lo Lwo
minuLe summaLion oí whaL your business is and how iL beneíiLs your
prospecLive clienLs. lí you can'L concisely explain whaL iL is LhaL you do
and how iL helps your clienLs in LhaL shorL amounL oí Lime iL's a preLLy
good indicaLion LhaL you need Lo íocus your business goals a liLLle
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Having a clearly deíined plan also simpliíies Lhe process oí qualiíying
clienLs and poLenLial projecLs. lí iL doesn'L íiL inLo your plan – don'L
Lake Lhe work, iL's LhaL simple. lL may íeel counLer-producLive aL Lhe
sLarL Lo be Lurning prospecLive clienLs away buL, remember, you're in
Lhis íor Lhe long haul and building a brand around your work Lakes
Lime, commiLmenL and íocus. ¥ou can'L build a brand by working íor
everyone doing whaLever projecL Lhey happen Lo have.
,'er5 person 5ou kno is 5our au.ience
When you're consLrucLing your plan, iL's imporLanL Lo Lhink abouL
whaL you wanL Lo work on and where you wanL Lo be in Lhe íuLure buL
don'L íorgeL Lo include Lhe groups LhaL you are already a parL oí and
Lhe people you already know. ¥our hobbies can be a greaL source oí
business and a greaL way Lo geL your íreelancing business oíí Lhe
ground. lí you have a loL oí íriends LhaL are acLors, and you love Lhe
LheaLre – LhaL mighL be a good indusLry Lo íocus on.
lí you really love phoLography – you can íocus on serving galleries or
phoLographers. lí you already know you're passionaLe abouL Lhe
subjecL maLerial, doing Lhe work becomes LhaL much easier! And
you've already won halí Lhe baLLle wiLh Lhe people LhaL know (and
LrusL) you, so don'L be aíraid Lo ask. Family, íriends, old coworkers,
Lhey are all poLenLial clienLs. A word oí warning Lhough, mixing
business wiLh pleasure can be dangerous LerriLory and cerLainly noL
Lhe area íor hard selling LacLics. Here are a íew guidelines Lo make
sure your sales piLch remains respecLíul oí your currenL relaLionships.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
í. %ake sure 5ou?re clear about 5our intentions. lí you're
sLarLing a new business – iL should be clear LhaL you are going
Lo be charging íor your services. 8e cerLain, írom Lhe sLarL, LhaL
your poLenLial clienL (and íriend) knows LhaL you're noL giving
work away íor íree.
2. 6nl5 offer !elp !ere 5ou can make an !onestE positi'e
.ifference. 1hese people LrusL you, don'L abuse LhaL LrusL jusL
Lo build your porLíolio. ln Lhe long run, your íriendship (and
your repuLaLion) is more imporLanL Lhan your porLíolio.
3. Start small an. o'er7.eli'er. Don'L promise Lhe moon in
order Lo sell your services. lL's always beLLer Lo sLarL wiLh a
small projecL and execuLe iL períecLly. lí you have an idea on
how Lo expand Lhe projecL, discuss iL aíLer you've proven
you're a genius.
Bu5 localE Be local
AnoLher good place Lo sLarL is by íocusing locally. While iL's cerLainly
more inLimidaLing Lo walk inLo a local business and Lry Lo sell your
services íace Lo íace, iL can also be a loL more poweríul. lL is imporLanL
Lo remember LhaL noL everyone is as comíorLable wiLh doing business
over Lhe inLerneL as us web proíessionals, íor many clienLs, iL's easier
Lo puL LrusL in anoLher local business because Lhey can see and Louch
Lhe person wiLh whom Lhey are doing business. Physical meeLings
seLLle íears abouL íly-by-nighL inLerneL operaLions LhaL mighL jusL be
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lrying Lo geL Lheir check and deliver someLhing sub-sLandard.
8uL íace Lo íace selling is a loL more diííiculL Lhan sending ouL a íew
hundred emails and waiLing íor Lhe responses Lo come pouring in.
Here are a íew Lips íor successíul íace Lo íace selling.
í. Be Prepare.. lL's noL jusL íor Lhe 8oy ScouLs! Make sure you
undersLand your clienL's business beíore you walk Lhrough Lhe
door. lL's an insLanL credibiliLy boosLer when you can show LhaL
you clearly undersLand Lhe problems LhaL your prospecLive
clienL is íacing.
2. S!o 5our past successes. Have a íew anecdoLes and a íew
samples oí your work ready Lo show. NoL an enLire Lome oí
every siLe you've ever had a hand in – jusL a íew oí Lhe besL
will suííice.
3. Don?t be afrai. to ask. When you've shown LhaL you
undersLand your prospecLive clienLs issues and challenges and
you've esLablished Lhe qualiLy oí your work, iL's Lime Lo ask íor
whaL you wanL. Don'L beaL around Lhe bush, jusL Lell Lhe
prospecLive clienL whaL beneíiL you can provide Lhem and how
much iL will cosL Lhem. 8e íorLhcoming and honesL abouL whaL
you charge and, above all, don'L be embarrassed abouL Lhe
number you give Lhem, Lhis is business aíLer all.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Working locally is also a greaL way Lo build a communiLy around your
brand. A communiLy LhaL you can Louch and íeel and Lalk Lo on a
regular basis can be a gold mine íor íreelancers because smaller,
local-run businesses are generally well connecLed wiLh each oLher and
are quick Lo oííer recommendaLions (when deserved) Lo oLher local
l've heard oí íreelancers LhaL have builL websiLes íor, quiLe liLerally,
every small Lo medium sized business in Lheir Lown. 1hey sLarLed wiLh
one and, based on glowing recommendaLions and personal
connecLions, were comíorLably in work íor years Lo come.
, 5our reac!
So you've esLablished yourselí, you've goL a sLeady ílow oí business
and you're relaLively comíorLable, buL how do you Lake your business
Lo Lhe nexL level¹ How can you earn more while mainLaing Lhe same
HiLLing an earnings plaLeau is a common problem íor small
businesses, especially one-person operaLions. Sure, you could bring in
employees or sub-conLracL ouL some oí your work Lo oLher
íreelancers buL your underlying problem sLill remains. ¥ou are doing
work íor oLher small Lo medium sized businesses LhaL can only aííord
Lo pay a cerLain amounL. 1o make Lhe jump inLo a higher Lax brackeL
Lhe name oí Lhe game is brand recogniLion and diííerenLiaLion. People
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
íar and wide need Lo know your brand and Lhey need Lo have an
acuLe undersLanding oí why Lhey know your brand. ln essence, you
need Lo seL your business aparL írom, and above, Lhe compeLiLion.
Cast a i.e net
Moving írom a clienL base oí small íish Lo one oí big íish Lakes Lime
and, unless you live in one oí Lhe major corporaLe cenLers oí Lhe
world, iL Lakes geographical expansion. ¥ou cannoL source all oí your
work locally anymore – and Lhis is where adverLising comes inLo play.
ConLrary Lo whaL many web personaliLies Lhese days would have you
believe, adverLising is noL dead. No, in íacL, iL's more alive and more
helpíul Lhan you may know! 1he Lrick wiLh adverLising Lhough, is
geLLing iL righL.
í. Fa'or !ig!l5 targete.E capti'e au.iences. Place your ads
wiLhin ad neLworks who caLer only Lo your
design/developmenL niche. 8road campaigns are cosLly and
yield low conversion raLes, whereas LargeLed ads Lo people
who are acLively looking íor a web designer or developer can
cosL íar less and provide many more conversions.
2. Place t!e a.s 5ourself. 8y direcLly conLacLing small niche
blogs and oLher siLes LhaL you know Lo be írequenLed by Lhe
exacL clienLs you hope Lo aLLracL you can generally pay less íor
adverLising space. ln addiLion, íorming a relaLionship wiLh Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
people on Lhe oLher end is likely Lo allow you more conLrol
over when and how your ads are shown.
3. %aintain a consistent message. Make sure LhaL all oí your
adverLising is consisLenL wiLh your brand. And l'm noL jusL
Lalking abouL Lhe design oí your ads. ¥our message and your
Lone are jusL as imporLanL as how your ad looks. ConsisLency
across all oí Lhese areas will help Lo build a solid brand
4. Publicit5 Stunts 2.$. 8eLLer yeL, save Lhose ad dollars,
challenge yourselí Lo pull oíí someLhing incredible in a shorL
period oí Lime (build a working web app in í2 hours, eLc.) or
redesign Lhe homepage oí a poLenLial clienL's siLe and Lhen
send Lhem redesign idea wiLh your sales piLch included.
lL's imporLanL Lo noLe. ¥ou can'L jusL run a íew ads and expecL Lhe
business Lo jusL pour in. FííecLive adverLising Lakes Lime and, above
all, consLanL measuremenL Lo be successíul. SLarL small and keep good
records oí new business LhaL is a direcL resulL írom your adverLising
eííorLs. 1his way you can íocus your spendings on eííorLs LhaL pay oíí
and drop adverLising wiLh liLLle Lo no reLurn on invesLmenL.
>et t!e lo'e gro
¥ou've heard iL beíore, buL iL's so imporLanL LhaL iL's worLh menLioning
again. 1eaching Lhe world whaL you know is a Lremendously poweríul
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
meLhod oí esLablishing credibiliLy and bringing in new clienLs. lí
you've esLablished your business as Lhe experL in a given niche oí
design or developmenL you've, more Lhan likely, builL an incredible
sLore oí very speciíic knowledge and experience. While iL would seem
Lo make good sense Lo keep LhaL iníormaLion Lo yourselí (in order Lo
preserve your compeLiLive advanLage) Lhe opposiLe is acLually Lrue.
WriLe guesL posLs on iníluenLial blogs, posL írequenLly Lo your own
blog, make sure you're helping as many oLher designers or developers
LhaL you can. Fvery new place you can geL your name and your
iníormaLion only helps Lo spread your brand and solidiíy your sLaLus
as an experL. And conLrary Lo beliLLling your compeLiLive advanLage
(remember, compeLiLive advanLage is a mulLi-headed monsLer and iL
Lakes more Lhan jusL your knowledge Lo Lake your place in Lhe
markeL), iL íorLiíies your posiLion in Lhe markeL as Lhe mosL
knowledgeable and skilled pracLiLioner in your íield.
Need an example¹ 1hink abouL Lhe cheís oí high end resLauranLs.
Why do you Lhink Lhey are so happy Lo wriLe cook books íull oí Lheir
mosL prized recipes¹ l'm sure Lhe big royalLy checks help, buL iL's
because Lhey know iL Lakes more Lhan Lhe ingredienL lisL Lo make a
beauLiíul and delicious dish, and LhaL Lhose cookbooks are helping
Lhousands oí people cook beLLer íood íor Lhemselves, which only
serves Lo build Lheir posiLive brand equiLy and name recogniLion.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
C!arge %ore
¥up. Simple idea righL¹ ¥ou wanL Lo earn more¹ 1hen charge more. lí
you have a consLanL sLream oí good business, and especially ií you
have Lo Lurn clienLs away because you are Loo busy, you should be
charging more íor your services.
Working Loo many hours¹ Raise your prices and you'll cull some oí
Lhe price conscious clienLs oíí Lhe boLLom. Chances are, you'll be
earning Lhe same or more írom less hours. A wedding phoLographer
LhaL l know has been sLeadily raising her prices since abouL Lhe Lhird
clienL she ever goL and iL's only íueled her business. She is now
charging aL leasL double whaL she was originally charging and
conLinues Lo increase her clienL-base.
SomeLhing Lo remember abouL price changes Lhough. lí you are
going Lo raise your prices, give íair warning Lo your currenL and
possible íuLure clienLs wiLh an announcemenL on your blog abouL Lhe
price hike. 8eing honesL and íorLhcoming abouL whaL your prices will
be and why you are becoming more expensive will generally quell any
opposiLion írom clienLs abouL Lhe higher price Lag on your services.
Hopeíully l've given some hope Lo Lhose newbie íreelancers ouL Lhere
and some encouragemenL Lo Lhose siLLing on Lhe earnings plaLeau.
And l hope LhaL everyone has Laken away Lhe idea LhaL, more Lhan
any oLher single concepL, Lhe idea oí 8rand FquiLy should be Lhe
paramounL concern in any markeLing eííorL you decide Lo íollow!
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
-o %an5 I.eas Do Dou S!o Dour Clients:
3y Crchcm Smith
l read somewhere LhaL showing your clienL Lhe íull range oí your
creaLive ideas during a projecL is imporLanL, Lhe raLionale being LhaL
Lhe clienL is enLiLled Lo see Lhe ideas coming írom Lhe creaLive
proíessional who Lhey have hired and invesLed in. While Lhis approach
has some beneíiLs, in some cases showing Loo many ideas is counLer-
producLive Lo Lhe naLural ílow oí a projecL. Prooí oí how imaginaLive
you are can be shown in oLher ways.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Spoilt For C!oice
Scenario #
¥ou look aL your lllusLraLor pasLeboard and see halí a dozen cool logo
ideas. noL jusL cool, buL super-cool. noL jusL super-cool, acLually, buL
pracLical and appropriaLe. ¥ou have LranslaLed Lhe brieí brillianLly. ¥ou
íeel raLher pleased wiLh yourselí. However, Lhe lasL Lime you showed a
clienL all oí your ideas, you goL caughL up in a dizzying merry-go-
round, íorced Lo mash up parLs oí one logo wiLh parLs oí anoLher,
using unsuiLable and under-baked concepLs.
1haL clienL was overwhelmed wiLh ideas and unable Lo choose one or
Lhe oLher. Loo many direcLions, and Loo many good ideas. ¥ou oííered
all your super-cool ideas on a plaLLer, convinced LhaL you had nailed
all possible direcLions. ¥ou worked hard Lo pre-empL your clienLs
quesLions and suggesLions. 8uL wiLh all oí Lhis hard work, you
unwiLLingly seL in moLion a series oí evenLs LhaL many designers
beíore you have experienced.
PuLLing your clienL in Lhe posiLion oí a kid in candy sLore can lead Lo
some oí Lhe more írusLraLing experiences in design work. Are we
undermining Lhe ílow oí a projecL wiLh our need Lo have our creaLive
ego sLroked by Lhe clienL¹
Too muc! c!oice can be a ba. t!ing for clients.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Scenario 2
Again, looking aL your lllusLraLor pasLeboard, you see halí a dozen
cool logo ideas. super-cool, pracLical and appropriaLe, in íacL. ¥ou
have LranslaLed Lhe brieí brillianLly, as beíore.
1he clienL is impressed by your imaginaLion, your inLerpreLaLion oí Lhe
brieí and your abiliLy Lo Lhink ouLside Lhe box. 1hey íeel embarrassed
- even spoilL - by Lhe choice oí amazing ideas, noL whaL Lhey were
expecLing, given Lheir previous experiences. 1he clienL looks aL Lhe
ideas and realizes you were Lhe righL person íor Lhe job. 1hey go away
Lo mull over Lhe ideas.
Dou?re please.. T!e client is please.. Time for a beer.
1he clienL reLurns wiLh a decisive plan oí aLLack. 1hey have picked ouL
one or several poLenLial winners írom among your ideas and are keen
Lo walk Lhrough Lweaks and changes wiLh you. 8y showing Lhe clienL
all oí your ideas, wheLher cool or íunky, pracLical or saíe, you have
covered all bases, leíL no room íor misinLerpreLaLion and accounLed
íor LhaL noLion oí "subjecLive percepLions."
As is almosL always Lhe case, you have your own íavoriLes, buL prior
experience has shown LhaL you musLn'L assume Lhe clienL will íeel Lhe
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Feer I.easE >ess C!oice
We could alLer Lhese Lwo scenarios by changing Lhe "showing all
ideas" Lo "showing jusL a íew." 1he advanLages would be LhaL Lhe
clienL would noL be overwhelmed. you will have provided jusL a íew
promising ideas. 1his way, you are being asserLive and coníidenL in
your abiliLy Lo inLerpreL Lhe brieí. ¥ou also believe LhaL Lhe clienL
would be handicapped by more choice.
ln boLh cases, Lhe clienL mighL be pleased wiLh Lhe ideas you have
picked ouL and your abiliLy Lo geL Lhe job done. ¥ou are a creaLive
laser-guided missile. ¥ou don'L need your ego sLroked, and you don'L
need Lo show oíí your awesome imaginaLion Lo every clienL. ¥our
porLíolio does LhaL jusL íine.
¥ou have many oLher cool and pracLical ideas up your sleeve, buL
puLLing all your cards on Lhe Lable aL Lhis Lime is noL necessary. Save
Lhem. lí Lhe clienL does noL buy any oí Lhe ideas you've íilLered íor
Lhem, even aíLer you have jusLiíied Lheir suiLabiliLy, you can íall back
on Lhose. Fven ií you lose round í, you're prepared íor round 2.
Be )are
Consider Lhese poinLs beíore aLLempLing a íull-360 Lriple-duck-Lailed
high-board dive. 1his is noL a comprehensive lisL buL a good sLarLing
poinL when deciding wheLher Lo show some or all oí your ideas.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Cnoing Dour ClientL ) Ps5c!ological )ngle
UlLimaLely, your ílexibiliLy in your presenLaLion oí ideas will be
deLermined by how well you know Lhe clienL. geLLing a good sense oí
Lheir personaliLy, Lheir brieí and oLher personaliLy- and business-
relaLed issues. ¥ou will also have Lo know Lhe process LhaL your
conLacL will go Lhrough back aL Lheir base. are Lhey Lhe decider, or do
Lhey reporL back Lo a board or senior sLaíí member¹
When a group oí people is involved in making decisions, you may
wanL Lo keep a LighLer reign on Lhe creaLive process. PresenLing Loo
many ideas Lo one person can be overwhelming, buL Loo many ideas
íor a board oí six spells disasLer.
8eing able Lo read people is noL only useíul. iL can save your saniLy
over Lime. Design and creaLiviLy are one Lhing, buL ií you wanL Lo excel
aL business and aLLracL new clienLs, especially as a íreelancer, being
well versed in basic psychology goes a long way.
Co'er Dour BackL ) Soli. Brief
A LighL brieí is always essenLial and one oí Lhe íirsL Lhings Lo cover
beíore doing anyLhing creaLive. A íirm and assured hand is oíLen
required. Research Lhe company. UndersLand iLs decision-making
sLrucLure. ¥our poinL oí conLacL may noL always be Lhe decision-
maker, you don'L wanL Lo pander Lo Lhe wrong person. Pre-empL
undesirable ouLcomes by íamiliarizing yourselí as much as possible
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
wiLh your clienL and Lheir business. For example, you may have been
given a Lhorough brieí, buL ií Lhe person who prepared iL is noL
responsible íor making decisions, iL could be all íor noughL.
1he brieí can change during a projecL, and iL can change signiíicanLly
wiLhouL you being aware oí iL. 1he very naLure oí Lhe creaLive process
and your collaboraLion wiLh Lhe clienL can unearLh ideas noL
previously considered. 8e íluid and organic in your approach. When
you íeel Lhe brieí no longer reílecLs Lhe direcLion oí Lhe projecL, be
prepared Lo revise iL wiLh Lhe clienL.
1ake a Lime-ouL, and give yourselí Lime Lo breaLh and re-evaluaLe.
Don'L íeel pressured Lo commiL. Assess Lhe siLuaLion and deLermine
wheLher a realignmenL is in order. 8eLLer Lo backLrack a liLLle now,
because aL Lhe end you will jusL have íurLher Lo backLrack.
)sk a lot of Buestions. 1he more you immerse yourselí in Lhe projecL,
Lhe more íamiliar you will become wiLh Lhe subjecL maLLer. Don'L be
aíraid Lo keep asking quesLions ií you íeel Lhey are imporLanL Lo Lhe
ouLcome oí Lhe projecL.
For many íreelancers, meeLing Lhe clienL íace Lo íace is noL always
possible, and you may run inLo complicaLions ií you haven'L made
provisions. Personally, l liaise wiLh clienLs Lhrough email or Skype, buL
only when Lhe brieí and communicaLion are solid. lí Lhe responses are
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
shorL or noL íorLhcoming, Lhen l Lake iL Lo Lhe phone. Only Lhen am l
able Lo geL a sense oí whaL Lhe clienL is abouL.
ln my experience, we are geLLing lazy as communicaLors, Lrying Lo
deal wiLh all aspecLs oí liíe - business and personal - via email and
LexL messages. Some clienLs l've had have reíused Lo speak wiLh me
by phone, while Lheir wriLLen communicaLion íailed Lo inspire me wiLh
lí Lhis happens Lo you, reílecL on wheLher Lhe projecL is worLh Laking
on. lí you have problems communicaLing beíore Lhe projecL has even
sLarLed, you will likely hiL a brick wall when Lrying Lo geL íeedback on
creaLive ideas or dealing wiLh seL-backs. l have on occasion "íired"
clienLs because Lhey were noL pulling Lheir weighL, yeL expecLed me Lo
busL my guL. lL doesn'L work like LhaL.
A Lrue collaboraLion requires Lhe commiLmenL oí aL leasL Lwo people.
Lhe designer and clienL.
To Conclu.e
1here is no righL or wrong answer Lo Lhe quesLion oí wheLher Lo show
all oí your besL ideas righL away. Assess each clienL on Lheir own Lerms
and íigure ouL whaL's besL. Would Lhe clienL be overwhelmed by Loo
many choices, or would Lhey welcome Lhe varieLy¹ No one size íiLs all.
On occasion, your experience or a hunch will Lell you Lo íocus on only
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
one concepL, wiLh perhaps a íew minor variaLions. 1he work period
may be slow, and you have only one projecL on Lhe go and are happy
Lo spend Lhe exLra Lime on whaL may be a valuable repeaL clienL.
SomeLimes sLicking your neck ouL and giving more Lhan you are
being paid Lo do is worLhwhile, buL LhaL's a choice only you can make.
Don'L make iL a habiL, or your clienLs will come Lo expecL LhaL exLra
workload oí you all Lhe Lime. a quick paLh Lo íreelance burn-ouL.
8eing a good judge oí characLer, undersLanding human inLeracLion,
being able Lo see pasL Lhe here and now Lo pre-empL laLer problems,
all oí Lhis helps you keep your saniLy. Spend Lime learning and
researching noL only creaLive Lechniques buL people, Loo. ¥our job and
overall qualiLy oí liíe will improve as a resulL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Contracts " Pricing
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Freelance ContractsL Do?s )n. Don?t<s
by Rcbert 3cwen
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
ln Lhe world oí íreelancing, Lhe enLrepreneur has Lo Lake on a number
oí Lasks íor Lhemselves LhaL would normally be handled by a separaLe
deparLmenL aL a bigger company. MosL oí Lhese Lasks are noL parL oí
Lhe creaLive processes LhaL íreelance workers are used Lo, buL raLher
are more Ledious, leíL-brain paperwork. RighL-brain creaLives oíLen
shudder aL Lhe LhoughL oí Lhese íorays inLo linear domains. Such
deLail-ridden Lasks would sLrain any íreelancer who wears mulLiple
haLs, buL Lhey musL be compleLed.
One such Lask is conLracLs. DraíLing a conLracL LhaL covers you, and
doesn'L jusL enumeraLe iníormaLion, is more Lhan imporLanL. iL is a
musL. Freelancers do noL have Lhe beneíiL oí a legal deparLmenL
dedicaLed Lo proLecLing Lheir inLeresLs wiLh a waLerLighL conLracL.
NeverLheless, a íreelancer's conLracL musL be comprehensive, concise
and clear. lL should ouLline Lhe scope oí Lhe job, scheduling demands,
Lhe expecLaLions oí boLh parLies and more.
ln Lhis arLicle we'll help you idenLiíy Lhe iníormaLion LhaL should be
included in your conLracL and make sure you have a concreLe
agreemenL LhaL leaves liLLle chance oí Lhings geLLing ouL oí hand. as
can someLimes happen Lo Lhose oí us in Lhe íreelancing crowd.
1hese do's and don'Ls will hopeíully remove a loL oí Lhe headache and
guesswork LhaL comes wiLh draíLing a conLracL. 8y undersLanding Lhe
raLionale behind various conLracLual elemenLs, you will be able Lo
beLLer cusLomize your conLracLs Lo íiL Lhe speciíic job you have been
hired íor.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Basics
lnclude Lhe basic iníormaLion, obviously. 1he "who" and Lhe "whaL" oí
Lhe projecL. Who is conLracLing you Lo do whaL kind oí work¹ 1his is
sLandard sLuíí included in every conLracL LhaL deíines Lhe job as a
whole. While Lhis iníormaLion is probably well known by boLh parLies,
puL iL in Lhe conLracL anyway so LhaL everyone is on Lhe same page
abouL Lheir roles and responsibiliLies. 8ecause iL is such basic
iníormaLion, íreelancers oíLen overlook how imporLanL Lhis secLion is
íor esLablishing Lhe íramework oí Lhe projecL.
Do?s an. Don?t<s
K.l.S.S. Keep lL Simple, Simon (your name may noL be Simon, buL iL is
nicer Lhan Lhe LradiLional "S" in Lhe phrase.) Do be sure Lo clariíy your
role in Lhe projecL írom sLarL Lo íinish and exacLly whaL iL enLails, so
LhaL Lhe clienL doesn'L Lry Lo puL a haL on your head LhaL you do noL
wanL Lo wear (íor example, Lrying Lo make you swiLch írom designing
Lo providing Lech supporL once Lhe projecL has launched).
¥ou know who you are and whaL your sLrengLhs are, don'L leave room
íor Lhe clienL Lo change your role in Lhe projecL íor Lheir convenience.
8e speciíic abouL whaL roles you are and are noL willing Lo play.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Time Frame
1his simply esLablishes Lhe Lime LhaL Lhe projecL will Lake and Lhe
duraLion LhaL Lhe conLracL covers. SomeLimes a íreelancer has Lo leave
Lime open aíLer a projecL's compleLion Lo help inLegraLe Lhe producL
inLo Lhe clienL's exisLing media sLream. 8uL noL always. DeLermining
LhaL Lime írame aL Lhe beginning and íormalizing iL in Lhe Lerms and
condiLions oí Lhe conLracL will ensure you are noL Laken advanLage oí.
Do?s an. Don?t<s
Many people do noL like deadlines, and some íreelancers are no
diííerenL. WheLher you love or haLe Lhem, including deadlines in your
conLracLs is imporLanL. Don'L overlook Lhis deLail simply because oí
Lhe pressure iL may bring. Cive yourselí enough Lime Lo properly
compleLe your Lasks, while keeping Lhe clienL's LimeLable in mind.
8eing vague abouL how much Lime Lhe conLracL covers will give your
clienL room Lo íind Lhings íor you Lo improve aíLer Lhe projecL has
launched. Also, do be sure Lo include Lime írames on when Lhe clienL
needs Lo respond Lo your submissions wiLh Lheir quesLions and
concerns, so LhaL you are noL endlessly sLrung along waiLing Lo hear
back on how Lo proceed.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Deli'er5 Details
PuLLing Lhis in Lhe conLracL íurLher clariíies expecLaLions aL Lhe ouLseL.
1he clienL knows up íronL whaL Lhe íinal producL will be and how you
will be delivering iL Lo Lhem. 1his írees you írom having Lo guess laLer
on Lhings like whaL íile Lypes Lhey can access, and iL gives Lhe clienL
peace oí mind knowing LhaL you are boLh on Lhe same page.
lL also gives you an indicaLion oí Lhe depLh oí Lhe clienL's knowledge
in Lhis area oí work and how well Lhey will be able Lo work wiLh Lhe
producL once you hand iL over. And being able Lo anLicipaLe Lhe
clienL's need íor assisLance in accessing and inLegraLing your producL
will help you íormulaLe oLher parLs oí Lhe conLracL.
Do?s an. Don?t<s
Once again, keep iL simple. Once you've assessed Lhe clienL's needs,
don'L send Lhem more íiles or íile Lypes Lhan are needed Lo saLisíy Lhe
projecL's requiremenLs. Don'L Lry Lo impress Lhem wiLh a ZlP íile íull oí
exLras LhaL show how proíessional you are. 1his will overwhelm clienLs
who are noL design-savvy and encourages needless pesLering.
Keeping iL simple will move your clienL happily along Lheir way, noL
only giving you peace oí mind írom a job well done buL íreeing you
írom íuLure disLracLions as you move on Lo your nexL clienL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e Financials
For mosL design work, billing by Lhe job, raLher Lhan by Lhe hour, is
easier íor everyone. ¥ou may have already come Lo an agreemenL on
íinancial maLLers, buL include Lhem in Lhe conLracL anyway íor good
measure. JusL because you have an undersLanding abouL paymenL,
Lhe clienL could always convenienLly "íorgeL" Lhe amounL or change
Lhe Lerms.
Do?s an. Don?t<s
Agree on an iniLial deposiL (whaLever seems íair) beíore doing any
work, Lo proLecL boLh parLies ií eiLher wanLs Lo back ouL. Make sure
Lhe clienL undersLands LhaL Lhis deposiL proLecLs Lhem as well by
commiLLing you Lo Lhe projecL and keeping you írom being
sideLracked by oLher clienLs. Also include a CancellaLion Clause in Lhe
íinancial secLion oí Lhe conLracL. 1his isn'L SanLa's less íamous broLher,
iL acLually proLecLs you, Lhe íreelancer, in case your clienL backs ouL by
sLaLing Lhe íinancial obligaLions oí boLh parLies should Lhe projecL
LerminaLe beíore compleLion.
/e'isions )n. )lterations
¥ou can also proLecL yourselí by including a clause LhaL sLaLes how
many alLeraLions and revisions Lo Lhe producL are covered by Lhe íee.
¥ou can seL Lhe pricing íor changes requesLed by Lhe clienL LhaL go
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
beyond Lhe number speciíied in Lhe conLracL, Lhus prevenLing Lhe
clienL írom abusing Lheir privilege. 8e clear LhaL Lhis is noL a
commenLary on eiLher parLy, by including Lhis, you are noL implying
LhaL Lhe clienL will be hard Lo please or LhaL you will need mulLiple
aLLempLs Lo geL iL righL. lL simply recognizes LhaL we someLimes need
Lime Lo íully process someLhing beíore making a decision and LhaL we
should have Lhe íreedom Lo change our minds abouL wheLher an idea
works or noL once we acLually see iL in acLion.
Do?s an. Don?t<s
Remember LhaL proíessionalism should win ouL aL all Limes, so don'L
leL Lhis parL oí Lhe conLracL be any diííerenL. ¥es, iL can be aggravaLing
how some clienLs come back Lo you over and over wiLh requesLs as a
resulL oí every whim LhaL moves Lhem, buL do be reasonable. Don'L
punish all oí your clienLs because oí one LhaL burned you in Lhe pasL.
And don'L leL pride keep you írom accommodaLing a modesL amounL
oí revision by Lhe clienL, even ií Lhey don'L suiL your LasLe. AíLer all, Lhe
design may be yours, buL Lhey are paying you Lo creaLe iL íor Lhem.
T!e Fine Print )n. Bottom >ine
ln Lhe end, make sure Lhe conLracL is proíessional and clear
LhroughouL, and be as deLailed as possible in deíining Lhe roles oí
boLh parLies in Lhe projecL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
W!at?s In ) PriceL 2ui.elines For Pricing
Web Designs
3y 1hursJcy 3rcm
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Pricing a websiLe design can seem impossible. A good websiLe design
can cosL anywhere beLween Lhousands oí dollars and under íiíLy
dollars, depending on Lhe Lype oí siLe, how you build iL and a hundred
oLher numbers. 1hose numbers can make iL diííiculL Lo decide where
Lhe righL price poinL íor your own work is. how do you know whaL
your work is worLh when oLher designers' prices are all over Lhe
All prices are noL creaLed equal. while iL may seem Lo Lhe lay person
LhaL all websiLes are similar, diííerences like Lhe íramework Lhe siLe is
builL upon and Lhe process Lhe websiLe designer uses can require
drasLically diííerenL prices. A websiLe design LhaL doesn'L require you
Lo do much more Lhan design a new Lheme íor WordPress probably
shouldn'L be priced Lhe same way LhaL an e-commerce siLe LhaL
expecLs Lo see plenLy oí Lraííic should be. lL comes down Lo Lhe
quesLion oí whaL's in your price. ln Lhis arLicle, we'll look aL how íour
web designers seL Lheir prices - and how you can learn írom Lheir
T!e Basics of Pricing
AL Lhe mosL basic, your prices musL cover your expenses wiLh
hopeíully a liLLle exLra leíL over, unless you have anoLher source oí
income. 1he sLandard advice íor deLermining your prices is Lo
calculaLe whaL you need Lo live íor a monLh - and Lhen break LhaL
down Lo whaL you need Lo earn per hour. 1here are some nuances. iL's
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
rare íor a web designer Lo have 40 hours oí paying work every week.
lL's noL impossible íor a íreelancer Lo have only 20 billable hours a
week, especially when he's jusL sLarLing ouL. 1he resL oí Lhe week may
be spenL markeLing Lo new clienLs, handling paperwork and oLher
necessary Lasks.
1here's also Lhe danger oí underesLimaLing your expenses when you
decide on your raLes. lL's easy Lo miss one or Lwo expenses, like healLh
insurance, and wind up wiLh prices LhaL jusL won'L work. lL's imporLanL
Lo build in a buííer when esLimaLing Lhe money LhaL you need Lo
bring in. your income needs Lo be able Lo cover savings, emergencies
and even price hikes on your sLandard expenses. 1hese íacLors mean
LhaL Lhe price range you íind by esLimaLing whaL you need Lo cover
your expenses should acLually be Lhe boLLom end oí where you seL
your prices. ¥our own expenses are only a small parL oí whaL goes inLo
Lhe price you charge íor a websiLe design.
#. Beteen Per Pro8ect an. Per -our
One oí Lhe biggesL decisions you have Lo make as a web designer is
wheLher you'll charge per hour or per projecL. MosL websiLe designers
Lhink in Lerms oí how many hours a projecL will Lake Lhem Lo
compleLe, which LranslaLes easily Lo charging by Lhe hour. 1here are
some oLher beneíiLs, as well. an hourly raLe makes iL easy Lo revise an
esLimaLe ií a clienL suddenly changes a projecL or needs an exLra
round oí revisions.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
S!oul. I C!arge Per -our:
Mary-Frances Main is a web designer based in Colorado. She chooses
Lo only work on an hourly basis. As Main says.
´We cnly qucte µer hcur. very very ccccsicnclly we
will çet c bcllµcrl ccmµlete µrcject ccst, but rcrely.
We jinJ thct µrcject biJs very rcrely enJ uµ in cur
jcvcr. lt´s tcc Jijjicult tc cJjust jcr Jesiçn Jilemmcs cr
chcnçes in Jirecticn cr lccl cj crçcnizcticn jrcm c
client. We mcle uµ jcr nct çivinç whcle µrcject biJs
by cnly chcrçinç uµJctes with c bcse rcte cj c qucrter
cj cn hcur.¨
1he Lype oí clienL Main usually works wiLh is a big íacLor in her
decision Lo work on an hourly basis. She preíers clienLs LhaL need a
web designer íor Lhe long haul - Lhey need Lhe web designer Lo
handle updaLes, mainLenance and any adjusLmenLs Lhe siLe needs.
8ecause Main charges an hourly raLe, she can comíorLably handle
Lhose updaLes, while sLill making enough money Lo cover her needs.
C!arging per !our makes sense ifL
ProjecL requiremenLs may change aíLer you've already sLarLed
working, lL's hard Lo Lell exacLly how long a projecL will Lake,
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
¥ou're handling loLs oí small Lasks or projecLs as Lhey come up,
¥our clienL wanLs someLhing beyond whaL you ordinarily oííer.
S!oul. I C!arge Per Pro8ect:
While charging per hour makes sense íor some web designers, iL
doesn'L always make sense íor everyone. 1here are drawbacks Lo
pricing by Lhe hour, as well. A clienL who doesn'L really know whaL Lo
expecL in Lerms oí Lhe amounL oí work iL Lakes Lo creaLe a websiLe can
look aL an hourly raLe and quickly become concerned.
Having a raLe oí Sí00 per hour can scare oíí a clienL who Lhinks in
Lerms oí people working 40-hour workweeks. lí you say LhaL you can
have Lhe projecL done in 3 weeks, you can wind up wiLh a clienL
picLuring a bill in Lhe Lens oí Lhousands oí dollars, no maLLer how
large or small his projecL acLually is. Civing a seL raLe íor a whole
projecL can eliminaLe LhaL sorL oí pricing coníusion.
Noel Creen, a web designer based in New Mexico, Lakes a per projecL
approach Lo pricing his work.
´While we hcve c µer hcur rcte, we µrejer tc qucte µer
µrcject rcther thcn µer hcur. Ajter 8 yecrs cj Jcinç
this, we´re quite çccJ ct lncwinç, cµµrcximctely, hcw
lcnç c µrcject is çcinç tc tcle us, sc çivinç c client c
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
´jlct jee´ lets them jeel mcre ccmjcrtcble with the
Pricing per projecL has had oLher beneíiLs íor Creen, as well. He's
íound LhaL clienLs are less likely Lo add on Lo Lhe original projecL ií
Lhey know LhaL Lhey'll have Lo pay an hourly raLe íor any changes.
C!arging per pro8ect makes sense ifL
• ¥ou do Lhis Lype oí projecL oíLen enough LhaL you know how
long iL should Lake,
• ¥our clienL has a budgeL LhaL doesn'L allow íor an open-ended
number oí hours,
• ¥ou wanL Lo oííer a package deal, such as a websiLe and
hosLing íor a cerLain price,
• 1he projecL is relaLively shorL and speciíic.
Price Per Pro8ect )n. Per -our
1here is one oLher opLion, which Dixie vogel, a web designer wiLh
more Lhan í0 years oí experience, uses. ¥ou can use per hour pricing
in some siLuaLions and per projecL in oLhers.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
´lcr lcrçer µrcjects, l µrice by µrcject (cjter jiçurinç
cut c time estimcte tc multiµly cçcinst my bcse rcte).
l Jislile time trcclinç cnJ the jeelinç cj rushinç
thrcuçh wcrl tc leeµ my clients jrcm beinç
cverchcrçeJ. l´m clsc jrequently interruµteJ, which
mcJe trcclinç Jijjicult. lcr smcll, limiteJ sccµe
µrcjects, l Jc bill hcurly cs l tenJ tc unJerestimcte the
time cn simµler tcsls cnJ enJeJ uµ unJerchcrçinç.
lither wcy, hcwever, l çive my clients c rcnçe ct the
cutset cnJ sticl very clcse tc thct.¨
-o >o S!oul. I 2o:
lL can be LempLing Lo price yourselí below your compeLiLion,
especially ií you can bring in enough income Lo cover your expenses
even aL Lhose lower prices. lL seems like a lower price would geL you
more work and more clienLs. 8uL iL's a LempLaLion you should avoid.
noL all clienLs assume LhaL a low price means LhaL a parLicular web
designer is oííering a deal. lnsLead, many prospecLive clienLs will Lhink
LhaL Lhere is a reason your prices are below oLher web designers wiLh
similar porLíolios and skills. Maybe Lhere's someLhing wrong wiLh your
work or maybe you're a parLicularly slow worker - a low price could
be more easily explained by a problem Lhan by a web designer Lrying
Lo seL a price lower Lhan his or her compeLiLion.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
C!arging For )ll T!e Time Dou Spen.
1here's a more subLle version oí Lhis problem LhaL can appear
depending on jusL whaL you charge íor. Many new web designers
charge only íor Lhe Lime Lhey spend acLually creaLing and
implemenLing a websiLe. When Main íirsL sLarLed designing websiLes,
abouL nine years ago, she íell inLo Lhis Lrap. Now, her prices cover a
loL more.
´We useJ tc hcve entire emcil exchcnçes cnJ Jesiçn
µrccesses thct went unchcrçeJ, we ncw lcç cll cj thct
time cnJ chcrçe jcr it ccccrJinçly.¨
8eyond Lhe acLual Lime you spend on designing a websiLe, you can
and should bill your clienLs íor Lhe íollowing.
/e'isions. lL's rare íor a clienL Lo like a design exacLly Lhe way you
come up wiLh iL, buL you can bill Lhem íor Lhe Lime you spend revising
your designs.
,.ucation. WiLh some clienLs, you can spend hours going back and
íorLh, educaLing Lhem on whaL a websiLe design acLually includes.
1haL is Lime you've spenL on your projecL and iL's Lime you can bill Lo
your clienL.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Set up. Some designers Lake care oí seLLing up hosLing, ií noL
providing iL enLirely. 1he Lime iL Lakes Lo geL everyLhing ready on Lhe
hosLing end oí Lhings is an expense your clienL can cover.
,4plaining Dour Prices
1here may be a clienL or Lwo who quesLions your prices. lL seems Lo
happen more wiLh clienLs LhaL aren'L íamiliar wiLh Lhe work necessary
Lo creaLe a websiLe, buL iL can happen wiLh a wide varieLy oí clienL
Lypes. As long as you can explain your prices – and you remain íirm
on Lhem – lenLs are Lypically willing Lo work wiLh you. Creen has had
clienLs who Lried Lo bargain and barLer wiLh him on his raLes.
´We JiJn´t buJçe, sc they chcse scmecne else.the
client whc lejt beccuse we wculJn´t çc Jcwn in µrice
enJeJ uµ ccminç bccl tc us cjter the ccmµcny they
DlD çc with JiJn´t Jeliver whct they´J µrcmiseJ.¨
When a prospecLive clienL wanLs Lo argue prices wiLh you, iL can be
hard Lo sLand íirm, ií only because you wanL Lhe projecL even ií iL
means dropping your raLes a liLLle. 8uL Lhere are a loL oí reasons LhaL a
web designer can ask íor high prices and geL Lhem.
¥ou can compleLe a projecL signiíicanLly íasLer Lhan an amaLeur. lL's
cheaper Lo pay your hourly raLe and geL a good design quickly Lhan
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Lo leL a non-designer drag ouL Lhe process íor weeks or even monLhs.
¥ou do more Lhan jusL design - you manage Lhe projecL as a whole,
írom creaLing a design Lo coordinaLing conLenL.
¥ou're a proíessional. ¥our clienLs wouldn'L ask a vendor Lo drop Lheir
lL can be hard íor a new web designer Lo price a projecL high enough,
simply because oí a lack oí coníidence. As you build your skills and
gain coníidence, iL becomes easier Lo quoLe higher prices Lo clienLs
wiLhouL worrying LhaL Lhe price is Loo high. SLephanie Hobbs, a web
designer based in SouLh Carolina, has increased her prices along wiLh
her coníidence.
´When l stcrteJ in 200J, my jirst µcyinç website wcs
$4S0 jcr S µcçes. Once l jiçureJ cut c recscncble time
estimcte, l cjjereJ c jcur µcçe site jcr $600. As my
slill level hcs increcseJ cnJ l´ve rciseJ my hcurly rcte,
thct number hcs çcne tc $800, $1000, cnJ ncw
$1200. My hcurly rcte stcrteJ ct $40 (l thinl, it miçht
hcve been $S0) cnJ is ncw ct $7S. 3ut l´ve rciseJ my
rctes beccuse l wcs very lcw tc beçin with beccuse l
JiJn´t hcve ccnjiJence in myselj.¨
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
W!en S!oul. I Increase %5 Prices:
WhaL you charge Loday isn'L necessarily whaL you should be charging
íor iL a year írom now. As you add Lo your skills, as well as your
repuLaLion, you'll noL only be more valuable Lo your clienLs buL you'll
be able Lo demonsLraLe your worLh wiLh a larger porLíolio oí
compleLed projecLs. ¥ou'll be able Lo increase your prices - and you
vogel sLarLed íreelancing aL S25 per hour. She acLually considers
clienLs noL complaining abouL prices a bad sign. "lí no poLenLial clienL
complains, you're noL charging enough."
As she raised her prices, vogel would sLarL quoLing new projecLs aL
her higher raLes, as well as iníorming her exisLing clienLs.
For any raLe increases, l've always senL ouL noLices Lo my clienLs
explaining whaL l was doing beíorehand and giving Lhem all plenLy oí
opporLuniLy Lo opL ouL. l've never losL a single clienL raising my raLes.
Timing ) Price Increase
1iming when you're going Lo announce your raLe increase can be
Lricky, especially when you have exisLing clienLs or you've already
oííered an esLimaLe íor a new projecL. New clienLs are much easier Lo
deal wiLh. iL's jusL a maLLer oí quoLing your new raLe as you Lalk abouL
new projecLs. WiLh exisLing clienLs, however, you may íind LhaL Lhey've
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
goLLen used Lo your old raLes and aren'L prepared Lo budgeL more íor
your services. 1here are a couple oí Limes LhaL iL can be easier Lo
announce Lhose new raLes.
T!e 0e Dear. WiLh Lhe end oí Lhe year approaching, you can simply
send ouL a noLice LhaL your raLes will be going up on Lhe íirsL oí Lhe
year. 1he same approaches works wiLh Lhe beginning oí a new monLh
ií you aren'L prepared Lo waiL unLil Lhe end oí Lhe year.
0e Pro8ects. lí your clienL brings you a new projecL, iL can be an
ideal Lime Lo make Lhe swiLchover. ¥ou can explain LhaL íor íuLure
projecLs, you've increased your raLes, which provides you and your
clienL a chance Lo Lalk abouL Lhe maLLer.
Contracts. lí you have a conLracL wiLh your clienL Lo provide cerLain
services, like mainLenance, on a conLinuing basis, LhaL conLracL should
have an ending daLe. 1haL daLe gives you an opporLuniLy Lo
renegoLiaLe your raLes.
lncreasing your prices may noL always be jusL a maLLer oí making
more money. lí you wanL Lo be able Lo oííer a discounL on your work,
as Hobbs does, having higher raLes is necessary.
´l Jc cjjer c 20º Jisccunt jcr µecµle in my netwcrlinç
çrcuµ, cnJ c J0º Jisccunt tc ncnµrcjits (which is µcrt
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
cj why l rciseJ my rctes jrcm $1000. l´m cctuclly
mclinç clcser tc whct l intenJeJ tc mcle, since mcny
cj my clients cre jrcm my netwcrlinç crçcnizcticn).¨
Prices in t!e Wil.
All Lhe iníormaLion on how Lo seL prices may noL be enough Lo help
you decide whaL is a reasonable price íor your web design work.
AcLually seeing whaL oLher web designers charge is necessary Lo
decide ií your prices are comparable.
Mary-Frances Main charges S60 per hour íor mosL web design work.
For programming, her raLe is S72 per hour and íor Flash, her raLe is
S65 per hour.
Noel Creen charges beLween S2,500 and S5,000 íor a compleLe
websiLe, guaranLeeing a 4-week Lurnaround on projecLs. ProjecLs aL
Lhe upper end oí LhaL range Lypically involve more complex íeaLures,
such as shopping carLs.
Dixie vogel charges beLween S60 and S80 per hour íor mosL web
design work.
SLephanie Hobbs's raLes sLarL aL Sí,200 íor a 4-page websiLe, add Lo
her esLimaLe íor larger projecLs and siLes wiLh exLra íeaLures, like Flash.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
1hese prices diííer due Lo íacLors like Lhe designer's locaLion, Lheir
experience and even Lhe Lype oí clienLs Lhey preíer Lo work wiLh. 8uL,
in each case, Lhe web designer in quesLion has LhoughL Lhrough noL
only whaL he or she needs Lo earn buL how comparable Lhose prices
are Lo oLher designers and where Lhe prices can be increased.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
9ualit57Price7/atio in Web Design
3y Iejj CcrJner
I?m about to make a bol. statement. 1he qualiLy oí a design and
Lhe moneLary cosL oí producing or procuring LhaL design have
absoluLely no relaLionship whaLsoever. lL's a biLLer pill Lo swallow, l
know. Many oí you are crying íoul aL Lhis very momenL, buL hear me
ouL. l'll explain my radical posiLion – and hopeíully give you a íew
poinLers abouL how Lo more eííecLively price and posiLion your design
business in Lhis brave new, and uncorrelaLed, world.
9ualit57Price7/atio (or QPR as iL's commonly reíerred Lo) is a
concepL LhaL is used exLensively in Lhe wine Lrade. ln iLs essence iL's
noLhing more Lhan a measure oí perceived value, oí Lhe enjoymenL
you receive weighed againsL Lhe price you have Lo pay. Do you íeel
LhaL Lhe beneíiL your gained was worLh Lhe price you've paid¹ lí you
don'L, Lhen Lhe producL or service has a low QPR. On Lhe oLher hand,
ií you íeel like you goL away wiLh highway robbery Lhen Lhe producL
or service has a very high QPR. l'll spare you Lhe meLaphysical
comparisons beLween wine and design beyond Lhis one imporLanL
poinL. 1here is no correlaLion beLween price and qualiLy when
discussing wine or design.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e )ssumptions
2oo. .esign is sub8ecti'e
While mosL good design shares many oí Lhe same basic
characLerisLics, beyond a cerLain poinL Lhe perceived value oí all
design is subjecLive. WhaL appeals Lo me may noL appeal Lo you, in
íacL, you could go so íar as Lo say LhaL you haLe iL. 8uL, ií you were
being honesL (and Lhe work in quesLion was in íacL well done) you
would have Lo admiL LhaL iL was, aL Lhe very leasL, well puL LogeLher.
2oo. .esign is c!eap
Don'L misundersLand me. l'm noL saying LhaL good design shculJ be
cheap or LhaL iL always is cheap. l'm jusL saying LhaL, Lhese days, good
design can be íound very inexpensively. 1hink 99designs, Craphic
LeíLovers, and even some oí Lhe more repuLable sLock agencies. 1hese
services are exLraordinarily popular because Lhey bring good design
Lo people on a budgeL. 1hese services can also be exLraordinarily
diííiculL Lo compeLe againsL.
2oo. .esign !as no correlation it! price
From Lhe clienL's poinL oí view, Lhe QPR oí design íalls inLo íour, and
only íour, caLegories.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
LisLed írom lowesL QPR Lo highesL.
í. 8ad design LhaL's expensive. As a clienL, you do noL wanL Lo be
here – iL's a world oí pain.
2. 8ad design LhaL's cheap. 1his Lype oí design, l Lhink we'll all
agree, has a íairly low QPR because, well, iL sLill sucks even
Lhough you paid very liLLle íor iL.
3. Cood design LhaL's expensive. 1his is a Lough one. ¥ou've
goLLen a greaL producL, buL you've paid a heíLy price. ¥ou
normally jusL Lell yourselí LhaL you did Lhe righL Lhing because
everyone knows, "you geL whaL you pay íor".
4. Cood design LhaL's cheap. 1his caLegory has Lhe highesL QPR
because you are geLLing a greaL producL íor a small price! Who
doesn'L wanL Lo be here¹
¥our clienLs are clearly looking íor LhaL magic íourLh caLegory, while
you're Lrying Lo geL Lhem closer Lo Lhe Lhird. 1his is whaL makes
selling design so diííiculL – you're inLeresLs and Lhe clienLs inLeresLs
are clearly aL odds.
2oo. .esign is about attitu.e
A liLLle aLLiLude and a liLLle cockiness never hurL anyone. l would argue
LhaL Lhose Lwo qualiLies have acLually helped more businesses Lhan
Lhey've harmed.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Why¹ 8ecause being coníidenL in your producL or service is iníecLious.
lí you believe sLrongly in Lhe value and Lhe worLh oí whaL you're
selling, your clienLs are going Lo see LhaL – and respond in kind.
2oo. .esign is about
8rand is all abouL good will. Having high brand equiLy is noLhing
more Lhan having a sLockpile oí good emoLions and good response
reacLions írom consumers. WhaL does Lhis have Lo do wiLh good
design¹ lL doesn'L, oLher Lhan Lhe íacL LhaL consumers will give Lhe
beneíiL oí Lhe doubL Lo a design LhaL has a sLrong brand behind iL.
1hey may noL know whaL good design is, buL ií Lhey respecL your
name – chances are Lhey will respecL your design.
Pricing Strategies
LeL's íace iL, deciding how Lo price your creaLive services is hard. ¥ou
are, in essence, Lrying Lo aLLach a discreLe number Lo your creaLive
acumen, which makes iL seem very much like you are bragging ií you
charge a loL or like you have no backbone ií you charge Loo liLLle. 8uL
iL is imperaLive LhaL you geL beyond Lhese íeelings. Design, and good
design especially, is a very scarce resource and, as such, should be
priced accordingly. 8uL how Lo go abouL arriving aL a number¹
A noLe abouL premium services. "l once heard abouL a wedding
phoLographer (who charged average prices) LhaL wanLed Lo work less.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
So, she íigured LhaL ií she jusL began raising her prices Lhere would
simply be less inLeresL írom clienLs. FirsL she bumped up Lo S3,000 a
weekend, Lhen S4,000, Lhen S5,000. 1o her asLonishmenL, she acLually
began receiving more requesLs írom clienLs. 1he clienLs íigured LhaL ií
she was charging such a high sum, she musL be really good. 1ruLh
being Lold, she hadn'L goLLen any beLLer, she'd always been a good
phoLographer – buL Lhe higher price led her poLenLial clienLs Lo
believe Lhis and, in Lhe end, Lhey were never disappoinLed. Finally Lhis
phoLographer raised her prices Lo S20,000 per weekend, essenLially
pricing herselí above whaL almosL anyone could aííord. Her poLenLial
clienLs Lhen began oííering Lo íly her Lo remoLe locaLions around Lhe
world jusL íor Lhe chance Lo have her shooL Lheir exoLic weddings.
l Lhink you geL my poinL. 1he old economic adage LhaL higher price
correlaLes Lo lower demand doesn'L always hold Lrue, and Lhis is
especially Lrue oí luxury goods. Design is a premium service. A luxury
good. lL is cerLainly noL necessary Lo run a business (jusL Lake a look aL
all Lhe used car dealers oí Lhe world íor coníirmaLion), buL resulLs in a
deíiniLe advanLage Lo Lhe businesses who value good design. Don'L be
surprised Lo íind LhaL design and Lhe pricing oí design íollows a
slighLly paradoxical pricing relaLionship.
1his liLLle sLory also illusLraLes how imporLanL markeL posiLioning is Lo
luxury goods. ¥ou'd be a íool Lo Lry and compeLe on price wiLh siLes
like 99designs, so don'L Lry. CompeLe on compleLeness, your creaLive
vision and your cusLomer service."
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
WiLh our new assumpLions and Lhe idea LhaL design is a luxury good,
leL's Lake a look aL a íew Lips Lo help you íormulaLe a sensible price íor
your design services.
Don?t c!arge per !our
Design, or any oLher creaLive endeavor, should never be charged
hourly. l know, iL's an indusLry sLandard meLhod, buL l whole-hearLedly
disagree wiLh iL – and here's why.
Charging hourly works íanLasLically íor Lhings like sLamping exhausL
pipes or wriLing legal brieís – any Lype oí job LhaL is characLerized by
Laking inpuLs and Lransíorming Lhose inpuLs using a speciíic process,
iL's easy Lo see Lhe direcL correlaLion beLween hours and number oí
exhausL pipes or legal brieís.
On Lhe oLher hand, wiLh creaLive pursuiLs, and design in parLicular,
Lhere is oíLen no Lime correlaLion whaL-so-ever. SomeLimes you geL
LhaL spark and a projecL Lakes 2 hours, someLimes you have Lo baLLer
yourselí íor days beíore you íeel LhaL you have someLhing remoLely
resembling a decenL design. Should Lhe clienL in Lhe íirsL insLance
have Lo pay nearly noLhing íor Lheir design while Lhe clienL in Lhe
second pays Lhrough Lhe LeeLh¹
Hourly raLes are uníair Lo boLh Lhe designer and Lhe clienL. Well Lhen, l
can hear you asking, ií noL hourly, how are you supposed Lo íigure ouL
how Lo charge¹
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e cost of .oing business
1he íirsL sLep in coming Lo a íair and reasonable valuaLion oí your
services is Lo Lake a look aL your cosL oí doing business. CosL oí
business is simply everyLhing LhaL iL Lakes íor you Lo operaLe. 1he cosL
oí your compuLer, Lhe cosL oí all Lhe soíLware LhaL you use, ií you renL
oííice space, Lhe cosL oí your oííice space. 1hink oí every single Lhing
LhaL you use on a daily basis Lo geL your work done and wriLe Lhem all
down. 1his is your cosL oí doing business (l íind iL easiesL ií iL's wriLLen
in monLhly Lerms), and you should revisiL and revise Lhis number aL
leasL once a year. 1o esLimaLe a per projecL break even íigure you can
divide your monLhly cosL oí doing business by your average number
oí projecLs compleLed in a monLh and you will have an average
baseline projecL cosL.
¥our cosL oí doing business serves as a baseline Lo your pricing
equaLion. 1his, by Lhe way, doesn'L mean LhaL Lhe average baseline
projecL cosL is Lhe lowesL price you can ever charge íor a projecL, buL,
iL should, insLead, serve as a guide posL Lo help you mainLain
T!e creati'it5 coefficient
LeL's noL mince words, creaLiviLy is hard work. lL's noL roLe producLion,
Lransíorming inpuLs using a sLandard process. Design, as wiLh all
creaLive pursuiLs, is all abouL creaLing someLhing írom noLhing, and
because oí Lhis, creaLive work demands iL's own pricing meLhods.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Price = CreaLiviLy CoeííicienL × CosL oí doing business
1he creaLiviLy coeííicienL is noLhing more Lhan a mulLiplier LhaL you
apply Lo your base cosL oí doing business. 1his coeííicienL (or
mulLiplier) gives Lhe designer a measure oí conLrol Lo help maLch Lhe
prices Lhey charge wiLh Lhe diííiculLy and involvemenL oí Lhe projecLs
Lhey work on. 1he creaLiviLy coeííicienL should be based upon Lhree
í. Difficult5. lí Lhe projecL is diííiculL or very involved – charge
more. 1his should be clear aL Lhis poinL. lí you're producing
one Lri-íold brochure your mulLiplier may be as low as í.20, on
Lhe oLher hand ií you are compleLely rebranding and
redesigning a medium Lo large company's image your
creaLiviLy coeííicienL may go as high as í0 or í5.
2. Bran. strengt!. Simply puL, ií you have a sLrong brand behind
you – charge more. AL íirsL glance Lhis may seem uníair buL, in
realiLy, iL is Lhe simplesL and mosL eííecLive way Lo separaLe
poLenLial clienLs inLo Lhe Lwo groups LhaL maLLer. 1he ones LhaL
jusL wanL Lo work wiLh you because oí your name – buL are
going Lo be a major headache (especially over price), and Lhe
ones LhaL recognize Lhe value LhaL your brand brings and are
willing Lo pay íor LhaL value.
3. In.i'i.ualit5. lí Lhe clienL is coming Lo you because you
specialize in a cerLain Lype oí design or in a speciíic medium
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
and Lhere is no one else ouL Lhere LhaL can compeLenLly
períorm Lhe work – charge more. Niche work is imporLanL and
Lhere is value in being diííerenL, especially in Loday's hyper-
homogenized world, clienLs LhaL come looking íor someLhing
diííerenL will be expecLing Lo pay premium prices íor
someLhing LhaL Lhey cannoL geL anywhere else.
1he creaLiviLy coeííicienL gives designers a simple and eííecLive way Lo
Lry and wrangle concreLe numbers around Lhe value oí creaLiviLy. And
because you are sLarLing wiLh a baseline amounL LhaL reílecLs your
acLual cosL oí doing business you are ensuring LhaL your business will
sLay proíiLable.
T!e Take7aa5
Finding a balance in Lhe way LhaL you price your designs isn'L jusL
abouL economics and íinding Lhe highesL number LhaL you can geL
away wiLh. 1hese guidelines are jusL LhaL, guidelines. Hopeíully Lhey
have given you a new, and inspiring, lighL in which Lo view your
services and Lhe value oí Lhose services – buL in Lhe end, iL comes
down Lo íeeling LhaL you are providing a valuable service Lo your
clienLs and LhaL you are being íairly paid íor Lhose services.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!e )ut!ors
/obert Boen
An emerging auLhor, celebraLed podcasLer and poeL, co-íounder and
imaginaLive co-conLribuLor oí Lhe creaLive design and blogging duo aL
Lhe ArbenLing 8log and Dead Wings Designs.
Tim %ercer
PhoLography enLhusiasL, graphic designer, arLisL and blogger. His blog
oííers íree resources íor Lhe digiLal arLisL and graphic designer, as well
as LuLorials, arLisL inLerviews and inspiraLion.
Cameron C!apman
Proíessional Web and graphic designer wiLh over 6 years oí
experience. She wriLes íor a number oí blogs, including her own,
Cameron Chapman On WriLing. She's also Lhe auLhor oí lnLerneL
Famous. A PracLical Cuide Lo 8ecoming an Online CelebriLy.
>uke /eimer
Web projecL manager, designer, and developer currenLly operaLing
Fluid Media web design group ouL oí WaLerloo, Canada.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
Paul Boag
Founder oí UK Web design agency Headscape, auLhor oí Lhe WebsiLe
Owners Manual and hosL oí award-winning Web design podcasL
) Follett
Small-business markeLing direcLor and íounder oí ConcepL Feedback,
a communiLy oí designers and markeLers dedicaLed Lo sharing ideas
and íeedback on design projecLs.
Sam Barnes
Web ProjecL Manager aL RawneL. AlLhough a liLLle shorL íor a
SLormLrooper, he can be íound posLing arLicles aL,
a blog dedicaLed Lo Lhe subjecL oí Web ProjecL ManagemenL.
2ra!am Smit!
Freelance Logo Designer wiLh lmJusLCreaLive being his brand and
idenLiLy. C's main moLivaLion Lo wake up in Lhe morning can be
aLLribuLed Lo HelveLica, logos, Lypography, coííee and silly puLLy. ¥ou'll
also íind C pracLicing Lhe overL arL oí Social Media.
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
/5an Sc!erf
Freelance web designer, developer and enLrepreneur. When he isn'L
wasLing Lhe day away on 1wiLLer, he can be íound building his mosL
recenL venLure SixCenLral, a clienL proposal organizaLion &
managemenL applicaLion.
)urimas ).oma'icius
CreaLive lead aL Dev8ridge, a Chicago based web applicaLion
developmenL company. He is also responsible íor Lhe creaLion oí Lhe
websiLe review communiLy, ConcepL Feedback. A phoLographer, web
developer, and web designer whose opinion can be oíLen heard on
Lhe company blog and on 1wiLLer.
)n.5 /
Principal aL UniL lnLeracLive in Plano, 1exas. When noL working, road
cycling, or banging on Lhe piano, he's usually íound ranLing abouL
design or proíessionalism on his personal siLe, Design view.
/ob Smit!
DigiLal direcLor oí 8lueleaí – helping clienLs wiLh Lheir digiLal needs
írom Lheir websiLe Lo email markeLing Lo analyLics. He also wriLes in
his own blog on digiLal media and ecommerce
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
;eff 2ar.ner
8usiness nerd who loves spreadsheeLs, graphs and helping companies
íigure ouL how Lo períorm beLLer. He also enjoys wriLing, phoLography
and being ouLside.
Peter Smart
SLaring his company aL Lhe age oí í5, PeLer SmarL runs award-winning
CreaLive MarkeLing ConsulLancy, Roam Design. WiLh an impressive
porLíolio, Roam Design creaLe cuLLing-edge brand experiences íor
domesLic and inLernaLional clienLs.
)aron 2riffit!
MarkeLing projecL manager íor Air Cycle CorporaLion and
LampRecycling. 8oLh companies provide recycling and oLher green
soluLions íor businesses and large organizaLions all over Lhe world.
)l5ssa 2regor5
Owner oí averLua, LLC, a íull-service virLual assisLanL íirm. She has a
passion íor supporLing small businesses, and provides business Lips,
advice and news Lhrough her business blog, Lhe Small 8usiness ldea
Smashing e8ook Series. #2 Successíul Freelancing íor Web Designers
T!urs.a5 Bram
Full-Lime íreelancer who has been working on her own íor more Lhan
seven years. She wriLes abouL Lhe business side oí íreelancing and
mainLains her own websiLe.

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