Kevin Airgid is a freelance web designer who wrote a free eBook about becoming a freelance designer. Chapter one is all about beginning the process. His first and most important tip is to not jump in. Make sure you have a steady income while you start doing freelance work because the jobs will come slowly at first. Another important tip is to make your website simple and easy to use. When it comes to your portfolio it is important to make sure that it includes reputable clients as well as your best work. The best way to find work is to send e-mails. Email friends and family when you start out because they could have leads that help you get work. It is important to make sure that you don't spam potential clients because no one likes spam. When it is possible, find a trade publication that will the names of potential clients. A great way to get your name out is to volunteer to do charity work. But by far the most important tip he gives is to not send emails on Fridays or the weekend. A potential client is much more likely to see your email if they receive it during business hours.
Posting links in as man places as possible can help you get placed higher in google searches. Googling yourself can be a great way to see how high your website is in the google algorithm. Creating an HTML signature with a link to your website for emails and forum posts. If you become familiar with new software or technologies make sure you tell your clients, and how you can use it for them. Most importantly if you do something cool, tell past clients, they might want something similar. Getting mail list software can greatly improve your productivity.
Yellow pages ads are a trap, you will most likely get more resumes than clients. In addition the clients you get will probably be demanding and cheap. Speaking of saving money, don't waste money on expensive office decorations and furniture. Cheap particle board desks might sound appealing at first but they are very likely to break. A more durable option is the "Amazon Desk", early on the employees at Amazon couldn't afford desks, so they bought interior doors to use as desktops. Interior doors are more durable, about the same price as particle board desks, and they are on average 32". The one piece of office furniture you should invest in is a good office chair. You can save loads of money in the long run by getting a good chair. As far as hardware goes get as much RAM as possible. Dual monitor displays are also preferred. Make sure you back up your files daily and weekly, Airgid recommends having a weekly offsite backup, so that in case something horrible happens you won't lose all of your work.
Learning from your failures is important as a freelance designer. Kevin Airgid describes his biggest failure as a designer and what he learned from it in chapter four. In this project the creative director wasn't giving much input during their original meeting, without clear creative direction Kevin had to guess what the client wanted. After they rejected his original designs Kevin should have been more assertive with the client, asking for better direction and stronger input. Another important lesson he learned was to always get a written contract signed. That is the best way to guarantee pay from a client. Also getting a percentage of the pay before any work is done guarantees that you will at least get some pay.
Sometimes the best way to get your name out is to do a speaking engagement. Not only will the audience become more familiar with you, but it will also make you more reputable as a designer. Writing articles for other websites, or writing a blog can help you share your knowledge, which is a great way to gain new clients. Airgid says that he often writes articles just to get his link at the end, and increase his placement in the google algorithm.
Starting out, an hourly rate can be an easy way to handle your pricing, however it is wise to eventually switch to flat rates. With a fixed price you can reduce stress for yourself and your client, who won't have to worry about paying more than expected. Another benefit is that it is easier to gradually increase your prices with a fixed rate plan. Kevin describes his typical process for working with a new client:
- Phone contact
- Provide an estimate
- Project questionnaire
- Client pays up front
- Kevin creates a sitemap/guide
- Finish 3 different designs
- Present designs to the client
- Receive feedback
- Get approval for the final project
- Build the final project
- Relieve approval one last time
- Get paid
Enabling your clients to update their websites is very important. Not only does it make you seem more honest to them, but it also prevents them from trying to update it and you having to go in and fix it. All that frustration can be avoided simply by teaching them how to change it themselves. It is also important that you avoid updating sites at all costs. Mainly because clients will be annoyed with having to pay an hourly rate for a 15 minute fix, and the long term profit is low.