Category Archives: Freelancing

Thoughts on Personal vs Business banking for freelancers?

I have recently decided that I am going to close my business bank account, for more than one reason:

  • My business bank account has a minimum of charge of £10 a month, and even more if I make lots of transfers, so it has a minimum cost of £120 per year. On top of that, I have a business credit card, that comes with my account as standard, which costs £30 per year. So the account in whole comes to £150+ per year just to keep it open.
  • The only reason I really have this account open is to save my for my tax – I get paid into my personal account (as most of my clients know me as “Callum Chapman” and not “Circlebox Creative”. I then pay a percentage of that into my business account, which is saved until the end of the tax year – I don’t earn any interest on this – instead it is costing me every year.
  • I took out a business loan, paid it all off every month, and use my credit card for big purchases and pay them off within 1-2 months. My business has a perfect credit rating; but when I apply for credit on a personal level, it is hard to get it. As a freelancer I feel I should be making these purchases from my personal account, credit card etc so it improves my own credit rating, especially as I’m planning on buying a house next year.
  • It’s a massive pain in the ass having a completely different login (which is hard to remember as it’s just a bunch of random numbers) to check my business account – I want to be able to check it all in one login and make instant transfers between my personal and business accounts.
I have ultimately decided I am going to opt for an e-Savings account which is only accessible online (no debit cards etc) which is attached to my standard savings account. Pros to this are:
  • You get interest on the money in the account, and it is fee-free, no matter how much you save or how many transfers you make.
  • My bank can see that I have more money in the bank, and therefore are more likely to lend me money in the future (again, thinking of my future house purchase here).
  • All accessible from one login, rather than 2 (actually, 3, if you include the business card login which for some reason is separate to my actual business account).
Obviously there are pros and cons depending on the individual, such as being able to accept cheques written out for your company name rather than your own name, but in my situation, I’m finding it’s just a waste of £150 a year – might not seem like much but it is in fact 50% of my annual phone bill – every penny counts, right? Some claim that it is also easier to distinguish the difference between personal and business expenditure, but I’m always so on top of this it really makes no difference to me.
What are you opinions on this, and as a freelancer, how do you manage your accounts? Do you separate your personal and business spendings? Do you get paid into your personal account and then pay a percentage into your tax savings, or do you get paid into your business account and pay yourself a set wage per month? I’m very interested to hear what others do!

Six Steps to a Super Happy Client

Catching attention and bringing in new clients is easier than it seems. A lot of it is down to keeping your existing clients happy, offering a fantastic customer service, and generally doing things to keep your clients in a positive mood about whatever it is you do for them, whether you’re a graphic or web designer, web developer, or even a photographer. This article outlines eight great tips to help keep your clients super happy, ultimately resulting in long-term clients and even a longer client list!

Step 1: Keep A Positive Attitude

Some clients know a lot about the creative industry, and can sometimes surprise to just how much they actually know, especially if they’ve been in the same job or running the same business for a long time. These clients are usually generally easy to keep hold of, so long as you get the work done to a good standard. Others, however, are amateurs, and either think they know more than you about your professional field but actually don’t know much at all (these are the bad clients – you can usually tell instantly if a bad client has approached you if they something along the lines of “I have made a proof of the design I want in Microsoft Office”, or just generally don’t know much about design and are happy to let you get on with it (these are the good clients, who leave almost everything up to you).

Mainly because of the several types of clients I listed above, it’s not always easy to keep a positive attitude whilst working for them – some know exactly what they want and won’t stop harrassing you until it’s perfect, others don’t know what they want at all and don’t stop harrassing you until you’ve made thirty-odd-thousand revisions, and then there are some that are fine and just let you get on with it. So, what can you do to keep a positive attitude?

Listen To Your Client

However much they annoy you and make you feel like your blood cells are about to burst from your veins and splatter all over the ceiling, try your hardest to listen and to pay attention to what they’re saying. Wait until after they’ve finished talking to make your own suggestions, instead of interupting them, otherwise they may also get annoyed, resulting in a bad relationship on both ends and probably leaving you without some work, which definitely isn’t worth it just because you couldn’t bare to listen for any longer!

Show Your Client Examples Of Work

Show them examples of your ideas, whether existing work from your portfolio, or work of other creatives – you could print some examples of work that have a relation to their company or project (i.e. if your client wants a brochure designed for their clothing company, look for some great examples of brochures related to apparel design or fashion) and show them when at a meeting, or send it via email. This could be a great opportunity to show off your technology, too – why not upload the photos to your iPhone or iPad (when it has been released, of course!) and flick through some examples this way? This way your client can interact, keeping them happy and possibly making another conversation about the device, which helps to build up a happy working relationship. Discuss what you like about the shown examples, and what they like, and come up with your own (rough) ideas whilst you are still with the client.

Discuss The Ideas

Discuss the ideas and try to repeat some of their ideas in their inital brief/speech to keep them happy, and to make sure they know you were listening to them when you first spoke about the particular project.

Step 2: Keep Your Client Up-To-Date

Clients like to be kept up-to-date; afterall, they are paying you for their services! There are a few ways to keep them up-to-date, some old fashioned, some modern, and some in between.

Electronic Mail (Email)

Probably the most used piece of “technology” to keep your clients up-to-date. Send them the odd email to let them know how the project is going – you can also send them screenshots of the work in progress, although I would avoid this if you’re client isn’t too tech-savvy. Screenshots can confuse some people, and you’ll get silly questions back asking things such as: “Why is there a border?”, “Why is the design in a browser?” and “Where is the rest of the text?”. If you send screenshots, make sure your client is 100% sure they know it’s a screenshot of the work in progress, not a draft!

Google Wave

A lot of people don’t yet have Google Wave, but if you do, you’ll probably find you can invite clients, friends and family to join. Ask your client if they would like an invitation to join Google Wave (something else which will probably make them happy, just because you asked them!), and tell them that it is a great way for you to keep them up-to-date with the latest going-ons regarding their project. It’s much easier than email, and you can look back over your discussions and ideas without going through thousands of emails in your inbox and/or trash can.

Social Networking

Most people have at least one social networking account – it may be Facebook, Twitter, or even the old school MySpace. Search for your clients, and if they have an account send them a friend request and keep them up-to-date this way.

Phone Calls

Call your client (make sure it’s within sensible hours, 9am to 7pm is usually good, although it’s always best to ask when the best time to call is!) and discuss where you are with the project and when it is you expect to show them your progress.

Text Messaging

A quick and simple way to let them know when you’re expecting to send them an email or document regarding their project. A simple text such as “Hi Client, just to let you know that I’m going to be sending the inital draft your way via email later on this evening!” will keep them reassured that you are working hard on their project, and will earn your a few brownie points.

Snail Mail

If the project is huge, why not send them some drafts via traditional post (now more commonly referred to as “Snail Mail”!). This will surprise them, and will bring joy to their day to see your great work, especially if you didn’t tell them you were going to send drafts via post.

Step 3: Send Completed Projects In Several Ways

This is a good one. There’s nothing better than receiving a finished file in various different and stylish ways. Don’t just send the files via email – be creative, afterall that is the field you’re working in! Try some of the following ideas…

Electronic Mail (Email)

Always send a copy of the files via email, whether as an attachment or an email with a link to download for XX amount of days or months, or even forever if you have a good host or server. Email is a quick way for your clients to download and view the files, and access them from whereever they are at the current moment in time: at work, at home, or even on a business trip or a luxurious holiday.

Compact Disc or Digital Versatile Disc

Burn your completed files to CD or DVD (depending on their final size) and pack it (or them) in a smart disc holder that you personally designed. Include your email, web address, your clients name, the project ID/number/name and the web address to where they can download the back up copy of the files. This is a great way to hand the files over to your client, as it is a secure back-up aswell as something solid, meaning every time they see it they will think of your company and (hopefully) of the good service you provided them with.

USB Pen/Flash Drive

These things have hundreds of names, but I’m sure you know what I mean! They can be picked up at incredibly low prices now, and there are several places out there offering to print your logos on them – a great way to impress your client, and to remind them about your company incase they ever need more creative work or would like to recommend a friend or family member! Giving something to your client will always help to keep them happy, even if it isn’t much. Afterall, it has always been the thought that counts, right?

Step 4: Be Generous

This isn’t always a good idea if you need to make a living, which most of us do unless you’re already a millionaire (in which case I doubt you’re reading this – if I’m wrong, please feel free to stick around and make a donation!). But, being kind and generous will more than likely put you into a better position with your client.

Offer To Buy Them A Coffee

When at a meeting with your client, offer to buy them a coffee (or similar). In most cases, they’ll probably refuse and offer to buy you one, but the thought is still there. Afterall, if they’re a good client and have a good project, they’re more than likely paying you enough to buy a coffee every couple of minutes!

Give Away Customized Pens etc.

Buying a bulk lot of customized pens, mugs, rubbers, rulers (the list goes on…) is a cheap solution to giving away something for nothing to your clients. Make sure your email or telephone number is on the pen so they can easily get in contact with you where ever they are (assuming they have a internet connection of phone!). Just the fact that you’re giving your client something for free of charge will bring a smile to their face.

Offer A Free Print

If you design for fun (i.e. posters) why not offer them a free A4 print? You can probably get a good quality print from your home printer and it’ll cost you next to nothing. If your client likes your style of work, they’ll probably be overjoyed with this!

Step 5: Set Them Up A FTP Account

You can set your client up with a FTP account on your server with no cost. Why?

Easy File Sharing

Using a FTP account for a particular project is a super easy way to allow both you and your client access to the projects files wherever you are at any time of the day. If you have a good host or server, this will probably cost you, well… nothing! If your hosting account doesn’t offer you unlimited FTP accounts, you should check out HostGator, who offer unlimited space, bandwidth, domains, email accounts and FTP accounts for under $10 a month – your client will probably be happy if you refer them, too, as they are a great company.

File Storing

Let them know that for as long as they use you as their primary designer that they’re free to use their FTP account on your server for as long as they want to store files such as office documents, creative files and images up to a quoted amount – this shouldn’t have any effect on your server so long as it is used sensibly and will make for a super happy client, as this alone is a service people pay a lot for!

Step 6: Refer Your Client To Good Companies

When it comes to your client actually getting their work printed or on the web, they can sometimes get lost. Offer to set up accounts for them for a small price, or refer them to companies that you trust and know are good.

Hosting

Refer them to your trusted hosting company. I personally use HostGator (as I mentioned earlier). A lot of hosting companies also have referral links, and if you’ve kept your client happy, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to use that link when registering to get you a few extra quid or dollars.

Domains

Let them know what you think the best place to register their domain is. Provide them information on where to find reliable and trusted multiple domain web hosting as well. Some places are better than others depending on what domain it is you’re looking for. My domains are registered with HostGator, although one is registered with GoDaddy as it offered a better price for the particular domain.

Printers

Refer your client to a good digital or lithography printers. Depending on the project size, a local press might be better, but be sure to check out online firms such as JamJar Print and UPrinting.

Living With A Freelance Designer

The life of a freelance designer can be pretty hectic. A lot of people assume that because you work for yourself you can set your own work hours and have plenty of scope to make life easier. Any freelancer reading this will know that it isn’t the case. In most cases when you make the decision to work for yourself you find that you must put a lot more hours into your job than you would if you were being employed. This can place added pressure on your nearest and dearest.

I’ve read a lot of articles about striking that all important work/life balance. It’s a challenge that never ends, the fact of the matter is this: If you are self-employed the chances are that you love what you do for a living, which means the line between work and life can get blurred. How does this affect the people that make up your life outside of work?

In an effort to understand how my job affects my personal life I asked my fiancee to write a short letter, highlighting some of the problems that my job creates for her personally and us as a couple.

What follows is that letter. I’m not going to offer any sort of rebuttal or defend any of the points raised, as it contains her opinions on what it’s like living with me. To give you a bit of context there are a few things you need to know. I’m a graphic designer working full-time, as well as undertaking freelance projects outside of work. As part of my freelance activities I also maintain a graphic design blog. I have lived with my fiancee, Claire, for over two years now, in that time my freelance activities have grown and begun to take up more and more of my personal time.

Here is what Claire has to say about living with a freelance designer…

“When Ken asked me to write this article I have to admit that I cringed. He wanted me to be honest about what life is like living with a designer. To sum it up, it’s very different and at times can be a bit difficult.”

“If you’re in a relationship then there has to be a life style change for the both of you. When Ken and I started living together it was hard for me to adjust to his work life. I guess in the same respect it was hard for him to change his work habits around me.”

“If you live with a designer then your life can, at times, revolve around them. Let me explain what I mean. A designer has deadlines to meet, whether they’re freelance or not, they will always have deadlines to meet and depending on the client, it can take up a lot of time to meet their needs. This can mean that they don’t have time for anything other than work. Don’t expect much in the way of house chores to get done, as their attention is all focused on the job. The one thing Ken did do, when we started living together, was the cooking, purely because I couldn’t cook to save my life. So he taught me and now I cook more often. The thing is you have to let them do their thing and at the same time help them where you can.”

“I have a lot of patience and understanding now. More so than I did, but there are still times when I wish Ken would just walk away from that God damned computer for a while and spend time with me!”

“If you’re living with a designer then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say, you can tell when they’re pushing themselves too far. You’ll also know how you can sometimes feel a little neglected.”

“It’s important to understand that none of this is done on purpose. Try to learn to be patient with them and talk to them on occasions. Don’t do what I did, which was burst into tears and start yelling “You ignore me, all the time!”. Apart from looking like a tit and making you both feel bad, it gets you nowhere.”

“Work is work and it needs to be done. My advice to designers is this: Don’t push yourselves so hard. Like Ken you’ll work yourself to the point where you just can’t work anymore and you’ll have no energy to do much else. Leaving someone else to do the things you’ve forgotten about. Learn to take a break and I don’t mean a five minute break, I mean a day off. Use that day off to spend time with that special someone in your life. They need you more than your clients.”

“When Ken and I first moved in together it took us months to settle down and balance our lives together. It’s to be expected. I’d say that right now we have almost the perfect balance. I say almost because let’s face it, no one’s perfect. There are still times where he works his ass off and there are still times when I wish he would just stop, but it’s a lot less now than it used to be.”

“To sum all this up into one sentence for both the designer and the person living with them, all I have to say to you both is this: All work and no play makes you both stressed, so try to be understanding and patient with one-another.”

Conclusion…

I’d like to say thank you to Claire for being so open and honest in her statement, as well as letting me share a part of our lives with you, the reader. I’m extremely lucky to have a partner that is so understanding and supportive. The main thing that has helped us to find our work/life balance is good communication. A skill that all designers have. In essence design is all about communication, it’s our job to define and transmit the correct messages on behalf of our clients.

My advice to all freelance designers is to make sure you use your communication skills in your personal life as much as you do while working. This is one occasion where having a part of your work life bleeding into your personal life will benefit you.

Have you ever stopped to ask how your busy schedule effects your loved ones? Has your job ever effected your personal relationships? Can you offer any insights into striking that all important work/life balance?

15 Tips to Stay Productive in a Permanently Connected World

Staying focused on your work has always been difficult, especially when you’re working from home. In the past, distractions have tended to come from outside the office, bedroom or wherever it is that you work in the form of screaming kids, noisy neighbours or the sudden urge to start vacuuming the house for no apparent reason. These days, the biggest distractions of all stare you right in the face. They’re “inside” the computer that you sit in front of for hours each day.

I’m talking about the constant disruptive force that is the internet. Social networking sites, particularly Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, provide a constant distraction when working from home, not to mention all the websites and blogs that you check on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve got people emailing you comical YouTube videos and trying to Skype you while you’re hard at it.

We know that being productive can be very tricky, especially when you’re not being paid by the hour. That’s why we’ve come up with 15 tips to keep you immersed in your work, improve your productivity and get you paid more in the process.

1. Create a Good Schedule

Image: Peter Kaminski

If you want to stay organised and productive, having a tight schedule is an absolute must. Make sure you include everything or it’ll soon break down as you try to catch up with tasks you’ve forgotten. Remember, a schedule is more than simply a to-do list. As well as specifying each task you have to carry out, it sets you a specific time slot (and time limit) in which to do it in.

Arrange your schedule so that the most important and pressing tasks are carried out first, stay focused on targets and always include deadlines. Importantly, you mustn’t forget to set aside time in your schedule for rest and relaxation, which includes checking social networking sites, doing a spot of online shopping, reading blogs, listening to music and whatever else you normally do online.

2. Write To-do Lists

Image: Jayel Aheram

In addition to a schedule, write regular to-do lists to ensure you keep on top of all your commitments. Make a new to-do list each day, which outlines everything you want to achieve. Put the most important tasks at the top of the list and don’t rest until everything has been crossed off. Make to-do lists the old fashioned way, on a scrap piece of paper, or make them online for free using browser based to-do list apps like Remember the Milk or Ta-Da Lists. This way, you’ll never lose a list again!

3. Limit Email Checking

Image: Source

Allocate time slots throughout the day for checking your emails. Don’t check and respond to each email you receive individually or you’ll never get anything done. Check your emails first thing in the morning, once during the day (perhaps after lunch) if necessary, and once at the end of the day too.

4. Get a Workspace

Image: Risager

Designate yourself a workspace. If you’re renting a space in an office this isn’t going to be a problem, but if you’re working from home, the temptation to set up camp for the day on the living room sofa can be very high. Once on the sofa, watching videos on YouTube is going to be preferable to getting some serious work done. If you’ve got a spare room in your house then use it as an office. Otherwise, clear a space for yourself in your bedroom or living room and surround yourself with any equipment and paperwork you might need.

For those with limited space (which happens to be a lot of us) it can be hard to separate our home social life with our working day life, especially if you’re trying to relax on the sofa in the evening with what is typically your “workplace” only meters away from you. Try rearranging your room to make the most of the space, and use double-sided bookshelves and separators to separate the working side of the room from the relaxing side of the room. It’s hard, but with a little bit of commitment it can be done.

5. Establish a Daily Routine

Image: ARendle

Get yourself into a daily routine and stick to it. This means going to bed, waking up, starting work and finishing work at roughly the same time each day. Work out when you’re going to be least distracted by phone calls, friends, kids or anything else, and make this your normal working day. For the vast majority of people, this is going to be roughly 9am to 5pm. Try to stick to a good amount of working hours; 7-9 hours, 5 days a week is usually a good amount of time.

6. Make the Most of Any Free Time

Image: gregoryjameswalsh

On some days, you’re just not going to be very busy and on others you’re going to finish a task with a few hours to spare, leaving you time with nothing to do. Rather than finish work for the day, stay productive. There’s always something useful you could be doing. Check on your bank accounts, invoices and expenses, organise your paperwork or simply give your workspace a bit of a clean and dust. You’re certainly not going to want to do these things when it’s hectic!

7. Ban Social Networking

Image: mollybob

Social networking sites are the bane of a freelancer’s existence. Most people have a love/hate relationship with them at the best of times, but freelancers will find them particularly damaging to their bottom line. Unless your work is tied to Myspace, Facebook or Twitter, ban yourself from checking them altogether while you’re working. As I said earlier, set aside time in your schedule for them or reward yourself with 20 minutes of social networking for completion of a professional task.

If you need to check a social networking site on a regular basis (blogs owners for example tend to do this on a regular basis) then this is fine – but don’t get distracted! Go onto the site (or open the application), do what you had to do and exit. Avoid getting distracted by things that you won’t help you get professional tasks completed – if you see something that you would like to read in your personal rewarded time, go back and visit it later.

8. Take Regular Breaks

Image: Thomas Hawk

Don’t forget to rest and take regular breaks throughout the day, especially if you’re working on a computer. Forgoing breaks can lead to RSI and low mood. Taking a break, however, means getting away from the computer altogether, not having a 5 minute glance at Facebook. Treat yourself to a tasty, healthy lunch – it’s one of the benefits of working from home – and try to get outside for at least half an hour each day. If you can fill this half hour with a run/jog/walk then you’ll feel all the better for it and your productivity will improve too.

9. Get a Business Phone Line

Image: splorp

If you regularly use the phone for work, I strongly suggest getting a line that’s solely for business use. Not only will it remove distractions and improve productivity, it’ll help you keep tabs on your business expenses. It can be costly to have a proper phone line installed, but getting a Skype phone number is really cheap. If you’re going to be on the computer most of the day anyway, then using Skype might actually be preferable.

Alternatively you could buy a cheap mobile phone for business use – you don’t need an expensive one, as it’s primary purpose is to replace a traditional office phone – that means you don’t need to be able to check your emails or social networking sites on it. You can have an expensive personal phone for that!

10. When You Finish Work, Stop Working

Image: -nathan

Once you’ve come to the end of your schedule and crossed off everything on your to-do list, it’s time to relax. Stave off the temptation to check your emails every hour throughout the evening and take business calls- you don’t want to over-exert yourself. Get away from the computer and take your mind off work to be at your most productive the following day.

11. Do Your Research

Image: kerfern

You need to stay abreast of the latest developments in your line of work. Make sure you know exactly what’s happening in your industry – you’ll feel more of an accomplished professional and this will really shine through when you’re meeting clients and applying for jobs. Everything you could possibly need to know, you can find online, by reading online journals and following industry-specific blogs and forums.

12. Use the Best Apps Available

Image: LevelTen Interactive

There are tons of online tools and apps designed to make your working life that little bit easier, boosting your productivity. Many of these apps are browser-based and free, meaning that you can access them from any computer without installing or downloading anything. Try Dimdim for web meetings, 30 Boxes for a calendar, 280 Slides for presentations, MindMeister for brainstorming, and Dropbox for storage.

13. Network and Collaborate

Image: D’Arcy Norman

Most self-employed freelancers are self-motivated and enjoy working alone. This doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t benefit from the help and advice of others. It’s important that you get out there and meet people who are doing similar things to yourself, so you can share tips, collaborate on projects and get more work. You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your executive chair to do this. There are hundreds of online communities and forums brimming with people in the same situation as you.

14. Critique Yourself

Image: jurvetson

Even if you’re completely satisfied with the work you’re producing, there’s always room to improve. Nobody is going to analyse your performance but you, so take time to look back each month and find ways of improving your productivity. If you’ve been distracted too heavily by social networking, for instance, make sure it doesn’t happen again the following month. Although you should give yourself praise for a job well done, you should constantly be striving to increase efficiency.

15. Invest in Good Office Furniture

Image: jnyemb

While largely unrelated to a “Permanently Connected World”, this last tip is vitally important. Working from home is a rather sedentary pursuit and if you spend most of your day at a desk, you must invest in a good quality chair. There’s nothing worse than chronic back pain at ruining your productivity. Executive chairs can be stupidly expensive and often unnecessary. Just make sure that you’re sitting comfortably in a proper chair and not slouching all day.

 

You’ll probably be interested in the following:

Sign up for testking 642-972 training to make your career in web designing and learn how to excel in your field using testking PW0-104 tools and other testking E20-501 resources.

6 Tips for Finding, Filtering and Maintaining Online Clients

The best service businesses aren’t always those that do the best work. They might be loved and treasured by their clients, but without effective marketing it’s unlikely they’ll ever become the most profitable or most effective. Log onto any webmaster forum and you’ll see hundreds of designers – some highly talented and able – working for peanuts because they don’t know how to find good clients.

The best design businesses know how to market themselves. Whether it’s a lone freelancer establishing their personal brand and value or a multi-employee design firm looking to improve their bottom line and increase their client base, it all comes down to effective marketing. In the design world, that means establishing new relationships with clients, building a more powerful business brand, and reaching out to more people.

These six tips can help you grow your design business from a five-client operation to a highly profitable company. While success doesn’t always come with size – some of the most profitable businesses are also the smallest – it can certainly contribute to it. If you’re beginning to see your client total flatten out slightly, put these tips into practice and expand your client base, bring in new business, and maintain long-term low-maintenance client relationships.

Pick your marketplace carefully.

If you’re actively seeking clients by yourself, the factor that has the most influence on your professional relationship is where you find them. There are thousands of online forums, communities, and marketplaces that allow designers to search for clients. Some are worthwhile for professional designers, while others are typically home to low rates and poor working conditions.

When you’re out looking for clients yourself, keep in mind the setting when you approach and pitch people. You’re not going to find million-dollar design contracts on a web forum populated by beginner webmasters and small business owners, but you may pick up a couple of small sub-thousand dollar jobs. If you’re trying to hook big fish, go to where they swim. Investing time in poor marketplaces is a waste, but selectively marketing on high quality online marketplaces can be worth the time.

When you can, find clients on your terms.

We’ve all heard design horror stories about clients approaching designers with their own ‘revolutionary’ ideas, design concepts drawn by their 13-year-old nephew, and creepy desires for 5-minute Flash website introductions. Most major designers have experienced a few of their own, and smart designers quickly build up a shield for deflecting them and a strategy for driving them away.

There are always going to be clients out there that simply aren’t worth your time. Sometimes they’ll have unrealistic expectations; sometimes they’ll have budgets that are insulting and demands that are absurd, and sometimes they’ll have an attitude that makes you want to close shop forever. The most effective designers don’t just build a method for turning them away – they build a method for keeping them from even contacting them.

The best clients you’ll find will let you work on your terms. They’ll have clear project requirements, but they’ll let you manage things yourself. They won’t micro-manage and treat you like an infant. They won’t change their mind halfway through a project and demand free revisions. Once you find one of these clients, do whatever you can to keep them on long-term. Sometimes it’s worth turning away short-term clients if it means retaining the ones that let you work as you want to.

The best clients are the ones that can find you.

Why? Because when they come through your sources, they’re going to order according to how you work. Think of it this way – when a client advertises that a project’s available for designers, they get at least twenty quotes and resumes sitting in their in inbox, waiting for them to make the call on which one’s the best. When a designer advertises that they’re available, they’ve got twenty client emails in their inbox, waiting for them to pick out whichever ones they’d like to work on.

Whenever you can, get clients to come to you. Chasing after projects is a good short-term strategy – it gives you income, brings in potential long-term work, and keeps you busy – but it’s not a good strategy for building lucrative long-term client connections. When clients come to you, you’re in control. With the right degree of control, creating a highly profitable design business is much easier.

When communication stalls, reach out to clients.

If you run a successful design business already, you’ll know that a small portion of your clients will quickly make up the bulk of your orders. Generally, they’re long-term clients that order large projects at once, saving you the trouble of actively marketing or aiming to take on more work.

Unfortunately, there will be times when communications with ultra-valuable clients stall and you’re left with little work to do. Call it an over-reliance on a small group of clients, but as a short-term business strategy it’s sometimes very successful. While it’s not a good idea to base your long-term business projections on a small sample, sometimes you need to patch things up with long-term clients and get your business back on track.

If you haven’t heard from a major client in a while, send them a quick email and ask how they’re doing. For clients that you work with frequently, a personal phone call is often worth the time. Sometimes all it takes is a quick nod in their direction to put orders and projects back on track. When in doubt, don’t panic; communicate.

Offer discounted rates for ongoing work

Offering discounted rates for long-term work is common practice amongst service businesses, but it’s often done in a thoroughly non-scientific manner. There are two elements to establishing long-term prices – balancing the reduced cost of marketing, and ensuring that you’re providing a rate that keeps long-term clients coming back.

Remember, by keeping your business inundated with work, the long-term clients are minimizing the amount of time – and therefore the amount of money – that you have to spend on marketing your business and services. You’re not just providing a discount rate out of convenience and care for them, but because of the optimization that they’re providing for your business’s marketing methods.

Be honest, open, and clear about what you can and can’t do.

A lot of designers are quick to complain about the business hell that their clients can put them through, but quite often the blame rests on the other side of the table. While most web design clients are pretty switched on to what they want and need, you’re always going to find clients that simply have no idea what their business needs in a website.

If you’re dealing with a client that really doesn’t know what they need, don’t cushion them from reality and convince them of something that isn’t right for them. Be clear, incredibly clear, about what you can do for them, and be even clearer about what you can’t do. Keeping things specific at the start of a project will save you hours, sometimes even days, of potential confusion later on.

Now it’s your turn…

Have you discovered any client strategies that keep work simple? If you’re a successful designer, don’t keep quiet – speak up and let us know what works for you when it comes to managing clients, workloads, and multiple projects.