Ask A Freelancer #9 (Lightening Round!)

For the past 3 weeks I have had a Formspring account and have been asking all sorts of anonymous questions that come into me about dealing with clients, marketing, blogging, etc. I have a backlog of questions in my inbox over there and just try to pop in and answer a few of them each week. (If you have submitted something and I haven’t got to it yet, just be patient – I am answering everything!)

This has become a bit of an “Ask A Freelancer” Lightening round, so I decided to pick a few each week that I think might be of interest to you guys and re-post them here. So here we go…

At what point in your design process do you start talking with the client in detail about their project? Before someone becomes a client or after they are under contract and are “officially” a client?

Before someone signs a contract and becomes an official “client”, we usually talk in pretty broad terms about the design end of their project. We usually discuss scale at the onset of things… how large the website they need, what print pieces need designed, how many illustrations. THAT type of stuff. After a quote – if they choose to move forward, they put down a deposit, sign off on a project agreement and then we have a “kick off meeting” or a “consult” where we go further into the philosophy of their business, their goals, their businesses aesthetic, etc. etc. If after this chat we find that the scope of what we initially discussed had widened – we adjust the project agreement to accommodate it.

Do you have a niche?

I specialize in WordPress Design and Development. That is what maybe 75% – 80% of the work i do. But, I have a background in branding and print design and lately have been doing a fair amount of that. I love print, i LOVE IT. But, i think I do love web a little more.

What do you say to tire-kickers to prevent them from wasting your time? And what do you say to red-flag clients to send them elsewhere?

A red flag for me goes off when the first correspondence from a prospective client is vague. Emails like “I’d like a quote for a website.” Usually, these people either never respond, or they really have no clue what they need or want, but they know they can;t spend much money on it. I have a collection of “canned responses” in my email to respond to emails like this. It explains that I need more info to quote and then gives some wide-range ballpark prices they might expect for different types of sites. This will weed out most of those “tire-kickers,” but if they respond with more details on the project, they will already have a general idea of where your quote might fall from the previous email, so take the time to send them a quote!

What do you tell clients who see to be “afraid” of white space?

Well, when dealing with any client who is not comfortable with a design choice I have made on their project – I would explain the reason for it framed in the language of business instead of design. Telling a client “this empty space gives balance and order to the layout and allows your eye to rest.” makes perfect sense to you and your designer friends, but a client might likely heard “Wah wah wah wah wah,” try something like. “This space is important to give your companies logo more dominance, establishing a strong sense of brand and making sure your customer doesn’t get lost in too many elements.” Try not to let your client focus too strongly on what they like, but pull it always to what the customer needs.

How do you say no to a client you don’t want to take while still keeping the door open? Or what if you have too many projects flowing in at once?

Just be honest. If you have too much on your plate, tell them you can’t accept new projects for another 3 weeks – but you would love to work with them if they’d be willing to delay the start of the project! ….If you just aren’t interested in doing the job they have for you, tell them you don’t think that the project is the right fit for your skill set or style, but that they should contact you again if they have other projects in the future that the 2 of you could work on together!