I was recently interviewed for an international design magazine but unfortunately it was not published so I’m sharing my answers here. Topics discussed include freelancing, finding clients, pricing, marketing and general advice. Enjoy!
1. What convinced you to become a freelancer?
Becoming a freelancer was a natural progression, although I did not know it at the time. All through my studies I was moonlighting, which eventually lead to a full time position in NYC. Even then I continued moonlighting until early in 2015 when I quit my job to travel the world while freelancing.
2. How did you find your first clients?
Since I started my business in 2007, I have not spent a single dollar on advertising. Nearly all of my clients come through my website which is generally found via search or social media or a personal referral. The Just Creative blog receives over 250k unique visitors a month so there is a constant flow of eyeballs on my portfolio which helps maintain the steady flow of projects. This is how I found my first clients, and still how I get my clients today. See The Art of Personal Branding.
3. Where and how do you find clients now?
The same way I did when I first started out, as above.
4. What types of clients do you like to work with?
I like working with all types of clients as this keeps things interesting and challenging, however, if I were to describe a perfect client it would be one that knows their business well. They’ve got a thorough business plan – in writing – and they are passionate about seeing their business thrive. Ideally they would have some knowledge about ‘good design’ and can clearly communicate what they want, as well provide constructive feedback throughout the collaborative process.
A selection of past clients:
5. How do you charge for your services and why?
I always charge on a project to project basis, simply because every project is unique and has its own specific set of requirements. Also, charging by the hour isn’t doing anyone any favors. If you have years of experience, you are most likely going to be able to perform your job quicker and better, so why would you want to charge hourly?
6. How do you communicate value with your clients?
Value is communicated from the moment your client meets you or visits your website so it’s important to make those first impressions count. As for me, my value is communicated via my website’s blog which has over 700 articles on it, as well as a through the about page where clients can get to know me better. Email is another surefire way to communicate your value as you can ‘sell yourself’ very directly and ensure that it gets read. I often link to articles in email, talk about my accolades, experience and reasons for selecting me as the perfect designer. See how to sell the value of design here.
7. Sometimes clients try to put a really low price tag on design services. How do you fight against that?
Personally, I would prefer to get one great paying gig VS doing ten lower paying gigs and I can imagine many would feel the same way. So if you’re after these higher paying gigs, be sure that your businesses’ positioning communicates this. It’s not about ‘fighting’ against low prices, it’s about communicating the value of what you do and why you do it better than others, and how ultimately your services will make the client more money.
As an example, I have a brand identity questionnaire on my site which asks the client for their estimated budget. If they select a certain threshold, then they receive a message saying that I can not work for that low of a price, as it would devalue the work, thus them not getting the best possible solution. This certainly helps put a barrier up against lower tier clients.
8. How do you market yourself?
Mainly through my blog, content marketing, search engine optimization and social media. I focus heavily on Twitter and Facebook but also am usually quite active on LinkedIn and Dribbble. On these social networks I provide value to others by providing resources, tips, etc and in turn, they promote my business indirectly. See my TEDx talk on Building a Personal Brand.
9. We all made mistakes when we started out. What was your biggest mistake when you started?
Being nieve. You have so much to learn, and you’re never done learning. It’s about practicing, learning from others and evolving with the ever changing market. Also, don’t be afraid to copy… not copy in the true sense of the word, but try replicate what others have created. The cruncher here is that you should not share what you have created, just treat it as a learning process and keep your copied designs in your own private library – not on the web.
10. What’s the best advice you can give to people that are just starting out?
The biggest piece of advice that I would give an upcoming designer comes in a 'package` based from the little things that I have learned over my career as a designer. These would be perfect for someone just starting out or anywhere in their career: Don`t undervalue your work. Seek criticism, not praise. Always keep learning & don`t be a static learner: do this by reading books, magazines, blogs and by practising. Collect & share things. Teach others. Never give up. Keep practising. Again, keep practising.
See more advice for students here.
If you have any further questions, just let me know!