Are You A Freelance Designer Superhero?
Being a freelance graphic designer is tough work! You have to keep on top of everything, from maintaining clients, chasing unpaid accounts to finding new work. Then you have to actually do the designs and make your clients happy! Here are some routines that Design Superheroes use to be more organized and efficient with their time. By following these seven essential routines of a freelance designer, you too can become a Design Superhero to your clients and make more money doing what you love!
1. Keep your Workspace Tidy
When it comes to freelance designing, getting into the routine of work is half the battle. Have a dedicated desk. This is your career, take it seriously and designate an area to be your office. As a designer you need a good chunk of space so ideally you have one desk for design work and another desk for everything else associated with your business.
Decide in advance which hours you will work. Eat, shower and dress. If later you find you are struggling to maintain a good work ethic, come back and read those three words again: Eat, shower and dress. It is very important to make the distinction to yourself that you are at work. Keep your work space clean and organised.
If you have children and you are a sole carer then your strategy depends of many, many factors. Your aim is to get a good chunk of uninterrupted work time. If the kids are old enough, teach them that you are 'working' and to only interrupt you if it's urgent. Prepare something for the kids to do while you are working. If possible work in regular time slots so they learn the drill. For example you could work or two hours after breakfast while they watch a DVD every week day.
2. Manage your Time
Time management is stress management. Use a calendar. I know everyone's mad keen about being all electronic, but nothing beats a big whiteboard wall calendar. Draw in your work and other commitments so you can see exactly how busy you are. It makes it a lot easier to turn down a social invitation if you can clearly see your deadlines. If you really do work on the road then Google Calendar will do just fine. But use something and get into the routine of maintaining it constantly. You calendar will become your best friend!
3. Control your Quality
Your reputation is everything in the freelancing world. A good reputation takes time to build up but silly mistakes can quickly spoil it. Always proof your work. If there's actual copy then proof read it. Go back and check any specifications and be confident that what you are delivering is what the client asked for. Don't allow yourself to make any significant changes at this point. You are picking up errors, not trying a whole new strategy. Get into the routine of finishing your work but then putting your self in the shoes of the client and look at it through their eyes. If you outsource, you must check the work before it goes to the client.
4. Keep Records
Keep track of the work you do for each client, how much you got paid, the essential dates, if the client was happy and any issues that arose. It is human nature to believe you will always remember the details of something that is currently in your head. You won’t. And this data is essential. This can be kept in a spreadsheet. On one sheet, maintain a list of your clients, their names and contact details. On a second sheet, keep a list of jobs done, with a reference to the respective client on the first sheet. You'll only appreciate this once you get in the routine of doing it and using it. You’re always going to want to know what work you've done for a client when it comes to quoting the next job.
5. Maintain a Rate Card
Quoting is the hardest part of freelancing. It has to be done right. It means the difference between a can of baked beans for dinner or shouting yourself a decent meal at a restaurant. A very good routine to get into that will help with quoting is to maintain a rate card for yourself. This is only for you and is not intended for client viewing. This is a list of different types of work you can do and how much you normally charge. If the client wants a break-down then you can easily give it. It also helps you maintain consistent quoting from job to job with an individual client. If you want to do a job cheaply for a client, do not reduce your rates. Quote at the full rate and then give them a discount off the total. If you want to charge more then let the client know that you are increasing your base rate.
There is one thing that really effects your reputation with a client, and that is inconsistent quoting. An up-to-date rate card is the first step towards getting this right. Get into the routine of maintaining it and using it!
6. Market Yourself
Your portfolio website is the number one element of your marketing. Prospective clients will click through to it. It needs to be updated and maintained regularly. Is the SEO all good? Are all the relevant keywords in there? Is your contact information clearly visable? Keep the site up-to-date with all your latest work!
Maintain your presence on networking sites, particularly Linked-in but also Facebook. Use Twitter too, as this is where the design scene is buzzing. Even upload some Photoshop brushes to our gallery to get you name out there and establish a presence in the design community.
Use the facilities at freelancing sites. There are freelancing forums that allow you to get known. Post comments or small articles. Start threads. You can learn a lot from doing this, like where the jobs are and what's paying good money. Maybe even what clients to avoid.
Set aside a small amount of time to do these things each day. If you’re lucky enough to be able to see your client in real life then get them to spend time with you. The more time they spend with you the more they feel committed to using you.
You have to invoice. And you really have to invoice straight away, as soon as the client accepts that the project is complete. The client has to receive the invoice when the completed project is happily in their mind. If you send it a month later then a busy client will have forgotten the warm glow of a well delivered project. Make sure the invoices are professional and reflect that they are paying for your professional work. This maintains your reputation.
You must keep a record of the invoices you send. Some great apps you can use for this are, Simply Invoices, Harvest, and Blinksale. If you send an invoice twice then it will hurt your reputation. If you are in the routine of keeping on top of your invoicing then so many other aspects of the business will fall in line. And the most important thing is that it reduces your stress.
If you get into the seven routines above, and you also produce some good designs, then you're well on your way to becoming a Design Superhero and making a real career out of freelance designing. Feel free to leave a comment below to share any additional tips you personally use to make your workflow more organized and efficient.
Good luck out there!