For designers who are just starting out, smaller projects provide a tremendous opportunity. We use them to put our skills into practice, develop a workflow and make a little bit of money. Building these types of websites serves as the perfect proving ground.
Over time, though, working exclusively on small projects can become unsustainable. To make a decent living, it can take a constant flow of new and repeat business. That means more time spent on marketing and less on actual design and development. Not to mention that, as our skills improve, there is a natural desire to take on more complex challenges.
That’s when it makes sense to start aiming your sights a little higher. Just think, bringing in a few larger clients can supply you with lots of work and cash. The result is that you aren’t spending as much time searching for new projects. In theory, you’ll be able to focus more on the fun stuff.
However, moving up in the web design world brings its own challenges. Here are some tips on making the transition.
Pay Close Attention to Detail
Big or small, every project deserves your attention when it comes to the little details. But it becomes especially crucial on the larger ones.
That’s because these websites tend to have more mission-critical functionality and a lot more traffic. In other words: The stakes are higher.
Mistakes will be noticed more quickly and could result in a real financial cost for your client. This also means that you (and/or your client) could be inundated with complaints, thus touching off a panic to put things right again.
To avoid this kind of situation, it’s important to have processes in place to help. The use of a staging environment allows you test out software updates or custom code before it goes public. Keeping routine backups will enable you to restore the site if something does go wrong.
And those are just a few examples. The overarching idea is to be aware of what you’re doing and the potential consequences of your actions. Mistakes will still happen, but you’ll be in a better position to recover quickly if you have a process.
Divide Your Time Appropriately
Everyone has run into that client who seems to be “all work, no money”. That’s difficult enough to deal with when you’re working with smaller clients. But it’s even more painful once you start taking on larger ones.
These clients tend to expect you to drop everything you’re doing in order to serve them. If you’ve been accommodating their whims – you need to stop. This doesn’t mean that you refuse to help lower revenue clients. But you should politely let them know that they’ll have to get in line.
Your time is precious. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize where you’re spending it. The big projects that put food on your table should always get first priority, within reason.
In the end, it’s on us to set the right expectations for our clients, in addition to the right priorities for ourselves. While we may love all (or most) of our clients, there does need to be a distinction between what needs done now and what can wait.
This can be a difficult part of the transition to bigger projects. However, it’s also necessary for managing your schedule.
Speaking of schedules, it’s also a good idea to ensure that you have enough empty space to take on that prestigious new client. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by reducing stress and having more time to concentrate on the task in front of you.
Adjust Your Pricing
It may sound counterintuitive, but having bargain basement pricing can do more harm than good to your reputation. And it probably won’t help you book those larger gigs, either.
This is a common issue in our industry. Web designers often sell themselves short and give away services that they should be charging for. It may be a symptom of being very experienced at design, but not so much when it comes to running a business.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Dress for the job you want.” If we tweak it to fit our narrative, it becomes: “Charge for the type of clients you want.”
Larger clients are usually willing to pay more for the services of an expert (that’s you). Quite often, it’s just a matter of having enough confidence in yourself to charge what your time is really worth. If that happens to scare away some small-time projects, so be it.
Know That There Will Be Bumps in the Road
Any project, regardless of size, can have its share of struggles. But when it’s a large, high-paying venture (and your first one, to boot), it adds a whole new level of pressure to get things right.
It’s a test of strength, for sure. You may have to adapt to a new workflow or learn a new skill. There could be all manner of fits and starts as you find your way through a virtual obstacle course. If you inherited a site that has already been built by another designer, then you may as well be walking that course blindfolded.
As difficult as this all sounds, it’s also a fairly common experience. Even the “rock-star” designers and developers out there go through it.
But eventually the situation calms down. You start to figure things out and progress is made. If you’re really fortunate, you complete the project and benefit from some newfound confidence.
The best part? You’ve proven to yourself that you can indeed handle a large project. Now, you can go and book another one.
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