If you’ve been a freelance web designer for a few years, it’s likely that things are quite different from when you started. For one, you have probably learned quite a bit more about your craft. Maybe you even have a deeper understanding of how to deal with different types of clients. It’s only natural that we evolve over time.
But even as we continue to improve in a multitude of areas, that change doesn’t always reflect in our business. Because we’re often designers first and businesspeople second, we don’t always consider what our own personal growth means for our business. Therefore, we keep plugging away in same manner we always have. This could be a costly mistake.
So, instead of doing things as you’ve always done them, it may be time to make some changes in what you do and how you do it. Let’s take a look at some ways that your design business can evolve along with you.
Choose Clients More Carefully
When you’re just starting out in the design world, you often work with whoever is willing to work with you. That’s not a bad thing as we all have bills to pay. But as you gain experience, you have to become a bit more discerning.
If your business is in a place where you can start commanding a higher price for your work, it’s up to you to make it happen. A talented and busy designer should charge accordingly.
In my career, this is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. Always wanting to be the “good guy” who is willing to give breaks has undoubtedly cost me over the years. But I’ve come to realize that, if I’m going to manage piles of work, then I should at least be well paid for it.
Still, this isn’t just about money. There are other reasons to look more closely at who you work with. You should also consider the types of projects you get the most enjoyment from. Even a high-paying gig can seem worthless if you’re not having any fun.
It’s also worth looking into factors such as whether or not a client has a relatively clear vision of what they want, how a project affects your work environment and how much overall stress it’s going to put on you. If one or more of these areas isn’t to your liking – is it really worth taking on the job? Unless you’re in a truly dire financial position, then the answer is probably “no”.
Prioritize What’s Important to You
It’s difficult to build and maintain a successful business. There’s a lot of hard work and long hours involved. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with putting in maximum effort, you also need to find some balance in your life. Becoming a workaholic will only have the opposite effect.
Once you’ve reached a certain comfort level in your business, it makes sense to adjust your workload. This doesn’t mean that you stop working hard or that you get to spend all of your time at the beach. But it should mean that you cut back on those extra hours – the ones above and beyond the regular workday. The big question is how do you know when you’ve reached that sweet spot?
Earlier, we talked about increasing your prices to reflect your talent and experience. I’d say that, once you have made this type of change, you should also be in a position to take a second look at how you’re working. After all, a business should work for you just as much as you work for it.
One would think that price hikes would naturally weed out a lot of the lower-priced (yet still highly-stressful) types of projects. Surprisingly, I’ve found that raising prices over the years hasn’t necessarily led to a decrease in project opportunities. Instead, the bigger challenge has been learning how to avoid overloading my schedule.
While there aren’t any one-size-fits-all types of answers, there are some things we can do to keep our sanity. For one, learn to say “no” when you have to. If there’s no way to fit in a new project, be honest about it. Maybe there’s a way to postpone it until the future or perhaps you could send it to another trusted freelancer.
Just remember that, while you may be a design rock star, you shouldn’t try to be a superhero. We’re all human and have our limits.
Look for Opportunities to Implement Changes
Enacting major change in a business isn’t something you just wake up one morning and do. It requires some planning in order to do things the right way.
In the case of changes to rates and policies, you probably won’t want to make them effective immediately for existing clients. Instead, give them fair warning at least a month or two in advance. This will give them some time to prepare for the effect it has on their business.
When it comes to bringing on new clients, it’s often a prime opportunity to test changes out before implementing them on a broader scale. For example, if you’re looking to streamline how clients get in touch with you or provide feedback, it might be worth trying on a single project. This way, you can work out any bugs before rolling out the new system to everyone.
Another benefit of implementing changes on the micro level is that it places less of a burden on you. We’re often resistant to making changes due to our own fears of how to make it all work. Doing this on a small scale means that you’re taking less risk. Once you see what works and what doesn’t, you can make the necessary adjustments and feel more confident in the process.
Sameness = Stagnation
The beauty of a freelance design career is that you have the ability to shape your business in a way that fits your personality and style. And, just like you, a business should make positive changes over time. Otherwise you’ll find that things can stagnate – making your job less fulfilling.
Changing what you do and how you do it isn’t particularly easy, but it really is a necessary part of being successful. If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.
Take a look at how you and your skills have changed since you first started out in web design. Then, think about some changes you can implement that will keep you moving in the right direction.