It’s a tough world out there for freelance designers. You have to fight off agencies, other freelancers, and increasingly, design tools to get new clients.
Your skills and knowledge can only take you so far; to survive in this hostile, ultra-competitive environment, you need some business hustle and marketing chops.
This is where I come in. In this quick guide, I’ll share 3 tips and tactics you can use to explode your freelance career. Whether you’re a practicing freelancer or looking to start after getting inspired by ColourLovers, you’ll find these tactics more than handy:
Imagine that a client comes into an agency looking for a new website. Halfway through the project, he decides that the company’s current logo is too bland. So he asks the agency to design him a new one.
The trouble is, the agency has never offered logo design services before. But since it doesn’t want to turn away the client to a competitor, it happily agrees, even though it has no clue how it will actually deliver the logo.
This is where you can come in. As a freelance designer, you can “white label” your services to agencies.
White-labelling means that you’ll do the entire creative work, but the agency will take credit for it. In exchange, the agency will give you bulk work without having to deal with the problem of finding and serving clients.
For freelance designers, this is as good as it gets to a guaranteed income. If you can stick to the creative brief, agencies will love to offload their work to you. This is also a great way to build relationships and start creating your own agency.
Pricing services by the hour is standard practice in the creative industry. For agencies, it has its advantages – they can calculate costs easily, distribute resources across projects, and bill clients quickly.
For freelance designers, however, hourly billing isn’t always the best way to go. By exchanging your time for cash, you essentially limit your income. After all, you can only bill for a maximum of 24 hours in a day.
The solution? ‘Productize’ your services. This means moving away from hourly billing to a fixed-fee model.
In this model, you sell each service (such as logo design) for a fixed-fee. Clients also get a list of “features” with the service (such as 2 revisions or guaranteed 5-day deliver). This effectively turns your service into a ‘product’ that clients can purchase with the click of a button.
Productizing your services offers several benefits:
If you want to scale your income, productization should be high on your priority list.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed while running a project? Do you regularly lose track of key objectives? Do you struggle to juggle clients and change requests?
If yes, you might be suffering from project mismanagement syndrome.
So many freelancers fall into the trap of focusing so much on their creative craft that they completely neglect the project and business side of things. They use ad-hoc processes to break down complex projects, eyeball project estimates, and use email to keep track of open issues.
This might be fine when you’re working on tiny projects and small clients. But as your practice grows, you’ll realize that neglecting managerial best practices makes it impossible to run complex projects. In fact, you’ll even find that larger clients expect you to know the basics of project management.
While project management is a massive discipline in its own right (the PMP exam requires about 7,500+ hours of active project experience), here are a few things you should know:
Refer to this guide to project management to get started. You don’t have to know everything in it (you can skip ‘project management methodologies’, for instance), but even understanding the basics will help you stand out.
Being a freelance designer is difficult in this day and age. As much as you’d want to focus on your craft alone, you can’t ignore the importance of knowing business and project management tactics. Follow these three tips to take your freelance design business further than it’s ever gone before.