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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

VIDEO: The importance of clarifying assumptions

by Leif

When you assume something, you become an asshole. Or so the famous saying claims.

Avoid problems with your clients by talking about every detail of your contract. Are you expecting them to provide draft material, or are they expecting you to do everything unaided? Save yourself headaches by having these conversations at the start.

 

 

Freelance contracts and resources (contract template)

by Leif

 

Brilliant Freelancer shows a sample freelance contract and you can now get this contract electronically (for a small fee):

This contract was compiled by freelance designer Evie Milo with help from a solicitor. Her e-book explains how to use the contract template and how using contracts can improve your client relationships.

As discussed in Brilliant Freelancer, contracts are implicit in the agreements we make with clients, but you can’t beat a contract for showing a client that you’re serious. So if you don’t have a contract template yet, I highly recommend you download Evie’s template. It comes in a range of formats and is a bargain!

 

Paying for design skills: a freelance designer’s view

by Leif

This post was contributed by Mike Hadfield, a designer who wanted to highlight the value of professional design skills, particularly in light of my post about making your own website with WordPress. So here it is:

 

Picasso Principle title
In the digital age there are so many opportunities for us to go DIY when it comes to promoting ourselves, our work and what we do. From brand to blog, we can do it all ourselves. So…

 

why pay a professional?

As a junior designer at my first agency I was sent to brief a photographer on location. The photos were for the website of a retail complex and during the shoot I noticed the photographer had a digital camera. I asked if he felt there was still a need for a skilled photographer given the ease of modern equipment.

He smiled and passed me the camera saying “Let’s see. Have a shot.”

Of course, his images were vastly superior to mine, although I would have struggled to explain precisely why. But I understood his point: there is value in experience.

Time equals money graphic

There are many versions of the following story, which may be apocryphal…

Pablo Picasso sits outside a small cafe. He sketches, enjoying his espresso, the Parisian atmosphere and the way the sunlight filters geometrically through the leaves.

A young girl approaches shyly and asks if he might sketch her. Of course, she’d gladly pay the right price for his work.
Picasso is happy to oblige. As she poses he quickly converts her form into three simple but beautifully weighted, curved lines on the paper.

The girl’s eyes shine as Picasso slides the sketch over. Then he asks for ten thousand francs. The shine fades.

“But monsieur, it is only 3 lines, and took only a moment” exclaims the girl.

“No madam” says Picasso “It took me a lifetime”.

How important is design?

Is design important to people? Well, humans are visual creatures. We’ve been expressing our skills and achievements since cave people first forged tools and scratched symbols into stones.

Simple symbols

This simple form of visual language is hard-wired into us and we still use these basic ideas today. We use our eyes not just to see, but to experience and understand the world around us.

So having a corporate identity which expresses a business correctly is vital. Your logo, your brand, your business cards, your blog and your website are all communicating to people (and potential clients).

So it makes sense to send the right message.

Often the fear of high costs and unknown factors can force people to feel they have no option but to do things themselves.  Professionals can be expensive – this is true, but expertise should be seen as a commodity, an investment for years to come.

Cheap work can be a false economy, as it often requires additional work to correct it. Evolution and iteration aren’t necessarily a bad thing but getting it right first time guarantees a greater initial impact and less expense in the long term.

The corporate identity for American Airlines has not changed since it was designed in 1966. It’s designer (Massimo Vignelli) said “There is no need to change it. How can they improve it? They got the best already.

American Airlines logo

Consider hiring someone to do the job well, once.

Few businesses have the resources of American Airlines, or access to designers like Vignelli. But there are ways to work modestly, with talented local designers and creative agencies.

Disclosure: Mike designed and built www.brilliantfreelancer.com

Just f*cking do it Britain – an inspiring approach to starting new ventures

by Leif

Friend and fellow Brightonian Jon Markwell has launched JFDI (just freaking do it) Britain – a website dedicated to the idea that budding entrepreneurs are better to just get started than to spend too long dithering, or writing business plans.

Jon’s lovely little website is a response to the widely derided government initiative Startup Britain.

Jon’s sentiment applies equally to freelancers. If you want to go freelance, you’re going to have start.

How to deal with freelance clients who want discounts

by Leif

Many of your clients will accept your rates, without asking for any discounts. But some clients will be very price-conscious, or just plain cheap. You can either haggle over prices and work for less than your usual rates, or you can stand firm. This short video shows a polite approach to standing your ground and denying discounts.

Key points:

  1. Stay positive when possible. Be friendly and try to emphasise what you can offer, rather than what you can’t. So even if you need to say no to something, try to follow this up with an alternative offer – something to sweeten the bitter pill of disappointment!
  2. Offer to reduce your costs by doing less work. You and your client may be able to achieve the desired result in less time, or by using a different process. Be willing to discuss different options for meeting the client’s needs.
  3. Try to remind your clients that your costs relate to your experience. If they want to pay peanuts they can look forward to working with a monkey, or a student.
  4. Clients who demonstrate a negative or rude attitude in the early stages of the project are likely to be a right royal pain in the ass for the duration of the project. So if a client views your price as a barrier, you may be wise to let that barrier stand, and run the hell away.
  5. Consider a discount if there is a genuinely good reason for it (charities, payment-in-kind etc). And even then, resist agreeing to a discount on the spot. Ask for a day to consider if you can afford to accept the reduced price.

And that’s about it. The best thing about being freelance is the ‘free’ in freelance. The ‘lance’ just makes me think of boils. Because you’re freelance you can work for pennies if you please – or you can lock down your prices to maintain premium profit margins. You can work for magic beans if it makes you happy. So when you’re faced with a client who wants to haggle, just make sure the deal you agree is good for you.

Build your own website (with WordPress)

by Leif

WordPress Pumpkin

As a freelancer, your chances of success improve greatly when you get online. By having a website you can reach a wider audience and be discovered by all kinds of fantastic new clients. Websites are amazingly useful for freelancers, so you should have one and maintain it as though your career depends on it (it actually does).

But if you’re just starting out, and can’t afford to pay a web designer to create your website, what do you do? Well, thanks to WordPress.com, building a website is easy.

Here’s how to create a website with WordPress

  1. Go to wordpress.com
  2. Click the big ‘Sign up now’ button
  3. Choose your web address (choose wisely; something descriptive but short is good. Or your name.)
  4. Enter a username, password and your email address.
  5. Click ‘Sign up’.
  6. You will now have a website.

Look more professional with your own domain

After following the steps above you will have a website with an address like ‘www.cheesemonger.wordpress.com’ or ‘www.philmcpants.wordpress.com’. That’s great (thank-you WordPress!) but you may prefer to look more professional and like a serious business by having your own domain.

For $17 per year you can, with just a few clicks, move your website over to your own domain. This will give you a shorter web address, without the ‘wordpress.com’ bit. So you might now have, ‘www.philmcpants.com’ or www.cheesemonger.com’.

You can make a website in one hour

Actually, you can do it in less time. I recently created a new blog in 30 minutes. You can change the appearance and all of the content, and WordPress is a phenomenal piece of open-source software. So you aren’t trusting your website to software owned and licensed by a profit-driven company.