I’m really excited about this giveaway! Bidsketch is offering a FREE Premium Account for a full year to one lucky CMD+Shift Design Blog reader! I was first contacted by Bidsketch and asked to do a review of the service in exchange for a premium account, but you know me — I like to share the love, so I proposed a giveaway and Bidsketch jumped at it!
I wrote down everyones Twitter handle and did a drawing from a hat (old-school style!) Thank you to everyone who participated and those who shared the link on Twitter! Of course a BIG Thank you to Bidsketch.com. (If you don’t want the suspense of the video, scroll down to see the winner – or click where I tagged the name announcement!)
So what is Bidsketch? It’s proposal software made for designers. It provides a way to easily manage clients and the proposal process. More importantly, it lets designers present their services in a completely new way.
Congrats to @corinspired on receiving a full year FREE premium account from Bidsketch!
This is a video response to the Friday VidCast by Aaron at This Is Aarons Life about how you communicate with your client! It’s also related to another video that was posted today by Danny on the Outlaw Design Blog.
Leave a comment below or at one of the other posts I mentioned! OR make your own video response on this subject and post it to your blog, then share the link with us! :)
Next week I will be embarking on my first vacation in over 2 years. In fact, since starting CMD+Shift Design, I have never taken more than 1 day off and never gone a full 24 hour period without checking in on email or social networks. I really love what I do and I am actually going to miss my normal day-to-day work routine, but I do recognize that taking some time away is valuable and I am pretty excited!
If you’re a freelancer looking to go on a vacation, here are a few things you will want to take into consideration before packing those bags!
Send out a simple email announcement to all of your clients alerting them of the dates you will be unavailable. Weather you have an open project with the client or not, I suggest sending the message to all your clients about 2 months before your departure date. If you will be gone for an extended time (a month or longer) you may want to consider even more notice.
Alerting my clients early allowed everyone to think ahead to what they need from me and even ended up jump starting a few projects!
Even if you are expecting to work a bit while you are away, it is smart to prepare ahead so that a spotty hotel Wi-Fi or a last minute change in plans won’t cause a catastrophic client communication meltdown.
In the time leading up to your departure, make new clients aware of your office closure early on. You may anticipate their project to be wrapped up before you leave, but it is best to let them know anyway — That way, if circumstances cause the project to run longer than expected the client will not be caught off guard when things are put on hold while you’re gone.
Call out closure days in contracts and/or emails.With any projects you have that will overlap with your office closure, make sure it is clear that these days you are gone will not be counted as business days and therefor will effect the projects turn around time. If your project agreement states that the turnaround is “10 business days” you will want to make your client aware that this turnaround does not include the 4 business days that your office will be closed.
If you want to keep things moving while you enjoy some time off, you can outsource work to another freelancer. If you’d like to do this, it is a good idea to work with this person on a few projects ahead of time so that you get a feel for how they work and you can be sure you will feel comfortable with them taking on your projects.
If you plan to have this colleague communicating with your clients make sure your clients have been introduced to them (email, Skype, 3-way call, or face-to-face,) and feel comfortable with them taking on the job while you are away. I would suggest giving your client the choice. “We can put the project on hold until I return or I can have my colleague James finish things up with you while I am away” This way they have the option to wait if they prefer working exclusively with you.
You don’t want to leave loose ends and you don’t want to be pushing to finish a project from the airport (or airplane) Wi-Fi!
Set your due dates a day or 2 before you go so that your last day in the office can be as low stress as possible. This will also give you a smaller chance of forgetting to do something important!
In addition to planning for your departure, It is also a good idea to think ahead to your return! If you will be traveling outside of your time-zone you will most likely return jet-lagged. Consider adding an extra day to your away schedule (if you return on the 20th, tell your clients you will be back on the 21st.) This gives you some lead way if you are not ready to jump back into work the day your plane lands! If you arrive home and feel like jumping right into what you missed however, our clients will get a pleasant surprise! It’s always best to under promise and over deliver.
Even with alerting your clients and vendors of your office closure, be aware that time will march on while you are away. Emails will still come in, blog readers will visit your site, people will Google your name and the postman will bring you deliveries. Try to prepare for all of these things with automated services as much as you can.
Most all internet based services can be set to an automated mode. Turn on your E-mail Vacation Responder stating that your office is closed and the dates of the closure. Also reassure the correspondent that your normal business hours will resume on the date specified and that you will respond to them at your next earliest convenience.
It could take a little bit of extra time to set up, but using custom email Filters you could create custom messages for each of your clients. This could be helpful if you have a few clients whose projects are being outsourced while you are away. Your auto-response can remind them of the dates you are unavailable and give them the contact information for the freelancer handling their project.
Blog posts can be scheduled to post even when you are away from the computer and you can use services like SocialOomph (formerly TweetLater) if you want to schedule periodic tweets to go out.
Lastly, don’t forget real world services as well. Record a outgoing voicemail message and Set up a mail hold at your local post office. Cancel any deliveries that may be scheduled during your time off and if you have any office pets or plants, make sure they will be cared for until you return!
It’s smart to double check the due dates on any pending bills and make sure to send off your payment before you leave if the due date fall during your vacation. In addition to thinking about the money going out, what about the money coming in? Take a moment to go over any billable hours you can invoice before your trip, you may have the payment waiting for you when you return! :)
If you’re planning on traveling with your work laptop, do a full back up before you go. In the horrifying event that your laptop is lost, stolen or damaged during your travel, knowing your data is safe at home will be of some comfort.
As I prepare for my time away, I am feeling a little overwhelmed — trying to get as much stuff finished as I can before I go and making sure that my clients are tended to. One thing I need to remember is that once I set out on my adventure, I need to enjoy myself.
Vacations seem a little different since I started my own business, it’s not really about escaping my day-to-day, it’s more about enjoying life and recharging for the exciting work ahead. I will surely be talking about business while I am away because it is such a large part of me, but I will return excited to get moving on new things in the new year to come!
I recently had a chat with a prospective client, he has an upcoming business venture and is in the market to get a website designed and developed. He had the usual questions about cost and turn around and then asked about my process. He told me that all of the designers he had talked to thus far offer a project price and supply the client with 3 designs, he is then able to select which one he likes the best and they will do up to 3 rounds of revisions on that design before moving onto development. Sounds like this could be a pretty typical approach to the design process, however, this is not my process.
So then, what is my process?
I start all of my projects with a consultation. I meet with my client, usually for about 2 hours. The purpose of this meeting is to get the client talking about their goals for the design, the business and it’s needs, the audience or customer who will be using the site, the clients aesthetic tastes and preferences, the brand and how these aesthetic tastes relate to the established look of the brand, etc. I don’t give out many ideas in this meeting, its more about asking questions and encouraging my client to open up. Being a Designer is a lot like being a therapist, I spend a good amount of time just listening to my clients to hone in on what they are really looking to achieve.
After meeting with my client and getting an overall view of what they are looking to accomplish, I spend some time digging deeper into the information they have supplied me about their business, audience and goals. I check out their competitors sites and also look at other industries websites and the strategies they use to solve similar problems. I study the aesthetic elements that they client highlighted in our talk about their tastes and figure out how those can relate to the brand or if they don’t fit – I find alternatives that may also appeal to the clients sensibility while staying in vein with the brands look and feel. All of this gives me the clear calls to action, the information that needs to be included and it’s hierarchy.
From here I start sketching, whether it be on the computer or on some graph paper, I do some very rough wireframing of the main page layouts. I block how the elements will layout on the pages and how they relate to one another.
With these rough sketches and my refined analysis of our consultation, I go back to my client with my assessment of our talk. We go over the key points I pulled out and then we review my wireframes and I go over how I plan to set about addressing the issues at hand. Sometimes, at this stage there is something that a client then recalls that they feel is important that we hadn’t yet discussed – this is our time to make any directional changes on the sites overall message and adjust accordingly.
If the adjustments and/or additions are fairly minimal and we feel as if we are on the “same page” with each other, things move into the next phase….
Design to me is a very methodical process, the part where I am listening to my client or where I am researching their user base is just as important to me as when I choose that background HEX color. Once the preliminary steps are taken and I am clear on the direction to move, the design work begins. This is, my favorite part!
Once I’ve completed a design mock-up I upload it to my web server, so that I am able to present the design to the client in a way that is very close to how it will appear in its final form. I simply save out a flattened image from my PSD and put in onto an HTML page. If there are multiple layouts within the site I will use image map linking to simulate functional navigation for the client, and they can click from page to page to see the various layouts. After the clients review we go over the design again and tie up any loose ends before I move on to development.
It is important to make sure that all of your design decisions are settled in this stage before you start slicing and coding. Include in your PSD all of the text elements that may be a part of the site including numbered lists, h1 – h5 tags, blockquotes, WordPress image captions, etc. Talk with your client about how the navigation and other interactive elements will function – if you’re planning to use any jquery functions, send them an example of your plan or mock something up for them.
Taking the time to settle all these details now will make development a faster process, plus you’re client will feel more at ease talking to you about text color in the stage. Many clients feel a sense of panic when they get a functioning site back and it isn’t exactly what they expected, (even if you have explained revisions can be done.) It’s best to set clear expectations early on, so there won’t be any surprises!
I work a little different than some, putting my emphasis early on into communication with my client, research and experimentation to find the proper solution for their needs. I’m also a little different in that I don’t offer a specific number of revision rounds. I want my client to walk away thrilled, not just happy, ecstatic!
I’m sure many of your are reading this and thinking that offering unlimited revisions would set you up to be walked all over and worked to the bone, but this isn’t the case. Sure you could end up regretting this approach if not executed properly… it’s all about the approach.
For starters, you have to present yourself to the client as an expert in what you do. Show your enthusiasm and knowledge, make them feel secure with giving you the reigns. This part is tricky, because it can’t be faked. Appose to what some freelancers would spout on their blogs, clients are not stupid. Demanding, Unreasonable at times, but not stupid. If you don’t really believe you know how to take charge of this project and give their business the best solution, they will sense this – and that’s going to make then nervous.
It’s important to set boundaries early on and let your client know what they can expect. I really do believe that the great majority of nightmare client situations happen when the client gets nervous about your capability to deliver what they need. It’s in situations like that where they may feel the need to micro-manage. Before you kick off the project talk to them about your process, and what will be expected from them. Outline in your contract the specifics of what you are including in your project price (number of layout designs, functionality, features, browser support etc.)
Care. This is a big one in my eyes. Once you start looking at your client as just another paycheck, it is obvious. Remember why you are in this industry! You love design, right? Designs not fine art, it’s not about free range on personal expression. Its about lending your unique experience and skills to a client and helping them to grow their business through smart solutions. It’s creative, but it is also strategic! Part of a successful design process and creating an ongoing relationship with your client is to really care about their business and how your design solution is going to contribute to the future of that business.
Do you do multiple designs or focus on one? How do you handle revisions? Leave a comment and let me know about your process or your thoughts on all that I’ve wrote here about mine. Thanks for reading! :)
I pre-ordered this book back in July, so I was pretty excited when the postman showed up yesterday with my copy of the new book by Gary Vaynerchuck (just released on Tuesday,) Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion.
You may remember my mention of Gary in the post Ditching your 9to5 to be Freelance & Fancy Free or my interview with Niki Brown where she notes Gary as her “internet celebrity crush.” He’s a charismatic guy, who loves what he does and therefor does it well!
Crush it! is a business book unlike any I have every read —it’s a quick read, too! Having just finished it last night, I am excited to share my thoughts on it and personally recommend that each and everyone of you pick up a copy today! As I write this, it is down to $11.99 on Amazon, 8 bucks under the cover price!
There are a few things I don’t like about most business books, that I bet you don’t like either!
First, I really can’t stand the “get rich quick” angle, also closely related is the “make billions working just a few hours a day” idea. These sound too good to be true, because for 99.999% of us, it’s not true. Gary doesn’t offer any overnight success or leisure wealth, he offers a simple formula — do what you love the most, do it better and work harder at it than anyone else and you will win.
if that sounds tedious or repetitive, just close this book and go do your best to enjoy the life you’ve got because you’re not cut out for this. (page 107)
I have a hard time getting into many business books, because they seem so focused on the dollars that I can’t relate. Sure, money is nice, everyone needs it. But money is not the reason I went into business for myself! In all honestly, If I had stayed at the design firm I was at before breaking out on my own 1.5 years ago, I would probably be making a larger income there than I am taking from CMD+Shift Design right now. It’s not about that. I was working 60, 70, 80 hour work-weeks and realizing that I could do the same thing for myself and have a better investment in my future! Instead of building up someone else’s brand, I could build my own and I could do it on my own terms! Crush It acknowledges that success is not only about dollars and cents, long term success has to be fueled by passion!
If you enter a niche because you’re following the dollars, you won’t keep it up. It’s too much work, and you will get tired and frustrated and you will eventually fold. (page 93)
I came of-age very actively involved in my local independent music scene, from the ages of about 16 to 20, there wasn’t one weekend that I was not out at the local shows supporting small bands and the “do-it-yourself” culture that surrounded that. It was being a part of that culture that made me shy away from design in the first place, associating it with sleazy advertising agencies and the “evil-corporate-machine, blah blah blah.” This same anti-establishment attitude is what of course also makes me chuckle to myself when I tell people I am a business owner. Of course, I’ve grown up a lot since then, but I still have a strong appreciation for business who are really doing it RIGHT, who are honest and who don’t let big bucks turn them into heartless machines. It’s refreshing to read a business book that acknowledges money is important, but also that the legacy you leave is what really holds weight with the people who matter!
How you build your business is much more important than how much you make while doing it. (page 128)
I’m not in ka-hoots with Gary Vaynerchuk or anything, I just think he has some great things to say about business, and a lot of his attitudes line-up with mine. I know a lot of you who read this are working hard at building your personal brands, I know many of you are passionate people who are looking for some guidance or maybe a little kick-start to get you moving! Well, then you will appreciate this book!
Have you already read this book? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and tell me your point of view.
Any people dreaming of going freelance, I always suggest to them that they get their feet wet out in the industry first, you learn such valuable things about team work and client relations that you don’t get in school and that will lay a good foundation for managing your business once you go freelance.
Freelancing can be really stressful, so some times it is good to reflect on some of the things I don’t miss about my old 9to5…
Yes, I still have to answer my phone here — but unlike the old 9to5, if I’m on deadline with a project or in the groove on something — I can let it go to voice mail and get back to it in a few minutes. Often the attitude in offices is that everything is urgent and that can be extremely unproductive because it allows things that aren’t important to stop you from focusing on the real task at hand. Client calls are always important to me, but taking my eyes off an urgent client project to talk to a telemarketer is not!
My old job required employees who chose to partake in morning coffee to chip into a coffee fund. So for the $10.60 per month that was taken from my paycheck I got one 8oz cup of java each morning. Sure that is a whole heck of a lot cheaper than agrande whatchmakooky at Starbucks, but brewing a pot in my home office each day, I spend an average of $12 per month and consume 2 12oz cups each morning, plus extra cups for those random weekend workdays or burning the midnight oil.
…I suppose it may be equally fascinating that I consume twice the amount of coffee now, but that’s a whole other post. :)
A former co-worker celebrated the weeks end with a microwavable fishstick lunch, which became known in the office as “Fish Fridays.”
My boss was the one least likely to wash her own dishes and the one most likely to complain to everyone else about dirty dishes in the sink. I eventually took to using a single dish each day which I washed after use and stashed at my desk just to avoid getting duped into doing the wayward sink dishes.
It’s pretty typical when you work with a group of people that you spend some time here and there helping others out. Weather your co-worker is trying to put a name to that mystery typeface or someone drops their exacto knife behind their desk, but the stuff I don’t miss is having to do things that were a big waste of my time (and therefor the companies money) because of other peoples lack of organization or laziness. Like what, you ask? Like having to email login information for various sites and services to the same person over and over because they didn’t bother to save the emails I sent them or were too lazy to look for it.
Its true, freelancing is running a real business and this involves doing a lot of work that isn’t billable to anyone; invoicing, marketing, blogging. But working on a salary, the concept of your time being utterly worthless becomes more and more true. Sitting in an abandoned office at 9PM working on an upcoming deadline on an empty stomach and realizing that you will be rounding out a 60 hour week, meaning your hourly rate would work out to less than what you made at your mall job when you were 15.
Luckily, my former bosses were never able to commit to a regular schedule for staff meetings, but there were more of them than I care to remember. For some reason it was decided to be a good idea to have all departments of the company meet together and for each department to go over each of their projects. This resulted in time spent hearing about clients you didn’t know and had no involvement with and their projects for jobs you had no involvement with.
Now in the months before leaving my 9to5 I did finally convince the powers that be to invest in some machines built in this century. But I don’t think I would be exaggerating greatly if I said for a full year of my employ, I spent an average of 3 hours a week watching the spinny wheel churn away on my computer screen.
The first day in my home office, I almost shed a tear of joy when I realized that the light upon my face was actual sunlight.
I worked in a windowless office with a sub-par air conditioning system that allowed my bosses office to be a comfy 70 degrees in the summer months, but made my office space frosty enough I could’ve chilled a refreshing mint julip in my pencil cup. I’d often come into work on a sunny morning wearing typical summer time attire, then dawn my sweater, leggings and scarf before sitting down to work.
For some reason, it seems like most jobs that came through our office where rushed. Everything needed to be done yesterday, which meant there was no time for frivolous human needs like… eating. I’d typically run on stress and coffee till about 3pm, then realize I still didn’t have time to stop working and just power through till I could go home. Now, you would think this would make me skinny, but often led to late night binge eating, paired with my bodies seriously outta wack metabolism resulted in me going up 4 jean sizes in my 4 years on the job.
I notice in all different types of niches these days, people are embracing the things they are most nerdy about and advertising their nerdisms as part of their own personal brand.
Are you a crazy cat lady (like me)? An internet junkie? Are you a collector? An aficionado? What is YOUR nerdism and how do you use it as part of your authentic personal brand?
Like many freelancers, I work out of my home and do not have a proper meeting area to invite clients. While most clients are pleased that I am so happy to meet them at their place of business others opt for a 3rd party location — the coffee shop meeting.
When you’re getting things started, coffee shops are a great place to hold kick-off meetings with a client. Large tables, W-Fi and some tasty caffeinated beverages are all essential ingredients for getting things done and a little more personable than a conference room that you may find at your local library or co-working space. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your next coffee shop meeting!
Think about the times of day when cafes are the busiest and schedule meetings around those rushes if you can. You may work out of a particular shop already and know what to expect, but if you’re unfamiliar with the traffic trends, stop in a few days before and talk with the Barista — they’ll be able to give you an idea of when the shop will be less crowded.
Coffee shops have a limited number of plugs and tables, so show up early to claim a good spot for you and your client to talk.
Since you will be away from your office, make sure to plan before heading out the door! Bring a notepad and pen, your laptop and charger, print out any paperwork you may want your client to have such as an invoice, contract or project outline. Think about the files you may need to open while you’re meeting and have them copied to your desktop for easy access. If there are websites you’ll be looking at with your client, have those bookmarked so you are not fumbling through your browser history trying to find that link you planned to share with them!
In this day and age, a kick-off meeting is often times my first face-to-face meeting with a new client. So much communication is done through email and phone, that your new client might not even know who you are when they show up. Avoid this awkward guessing game and give them something to look for “I’ll have on a red scarf” or if you have a photo of yourself online, point them to it!
Don’t be one of those cafe dwellers who sets up shop for the entire day while never buying so much as a cup of drip. Remember that you are in a place of business, order something and tip generously! Some coffee shops have posted policies on extended visitors (especially during lunch time), if you see a sign asking “computer users, please limit your visit to 2 hours” respect this, even if no one is enforcing it or if you notice others ignoring it.
No matter where you are meeting, always wrap things up right! Offer your client your business card and make sure they know when to expect your next point of contact will be. Shake their hand and thank them for their time. On your way out, make sure you haven’t forgotten anything (including busing your table!) Lastly, give your Barista a friendly smile and say goodbye and thank you before you go.
Do you ever have client meetings at your favorite coffee shop? Share any tips you may have or the best place for meet-ups in your city!
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I was interviewed by Michelle Goodman and have a few quotes in this article about the business side of freelancing that ran in todays Sunday Edition of the Seattle Times! Pick up a copy or read it at the the Northwest Jobs Blog.
Maintaining a blog and networking with other freelancers has helped Andrade nab new work. “A lot of what pays off in marketing nowadays has less to do with the dollars you’re willing to invest and more to do with the time,” she says. Read Article
From time to time I get emails asking for advice about freelance matters. I hope that by publishing these inquiries and my response I can do a better service to my blog readers than just responding one email at a time. Plus, those of you who may have input on the matter that I didn’t think of can chime in with a comment! If there’s a question you have or a subject you’d like to get an opinion on, please contact me!
Hi Liz !
I am a 17 year old high school student who has just started my Senior Year. I think I may be interested in becoming a freelance web designer after graduation, but I’m not sure what is required. Would it be better to study computer science or programming in college or should I go to design school? Should I skip college and just learn from online tutorials? Will it be easier to start out as a freelancer or to get a job somewhere? Lastly, is your market competitive?
Sorry for so many questions! Thanks for any help you can offer!
- Future Freelancer?
There is always the option for a double-major, if you are able to bite off that cost and workload, do it. Getting an in depth education of both might reveal to you that you are more interested in one than the other (and you may be surprised at which one that is!)
Of course, a double-major is a whole lot to bite off — so if this suggestion has you nodding your head, understandable. I’m interested to hear other readers thoughts, but I think learning to design is something that is best learned in a classroom environment where you have the ability to feed off other ideas and work, collaborate, and critique. Once you get into the design world so much of the job is being able to work with others be it other designers, developer, writers, marketers, or clients – so getting used to being creative within this atmosphere is really valuable.
Of course, there are a lot of practicing web designers who did not go to college and are completely self taught. I double majored in Fine Art with a focus on Painting and Graphic Design. It wasn’t until after graduation that I really started to indulge my passion for web design and learning more about development.
Unlike something like becoming a lawyer or doctor there is no exact path you have to take to become qualified to charge people money or your web design services.
Now, in my eyes, I say – if you have the opportunity to do college, you should take it! It’s going the only time you will have to completely immerse yourself in focusing on learning, you’ll learn a lot about what interests you and you’ll be able to have some guidance in your academic journey that you won’t get by learning from online tutorials and books.
Just as I believe learning design within an academic community is valuable to prepare you for a job in the real world. I would also say that having a job at a design firm is going to prepare you to be successful at freelancing.
What will be easier? To be successful at either, you’re gonna have to work HARD. having experience in both environments I wouldn’t say that either is easy, but when getting started working for someone else is a lot simpler! Remember that freelancing is not JUST the design and development part of the job – you’re also running a business!
Am I missing something? Do you have a different perspective on this matter that you would like to share? Do you disagree with any of my thoughts? Leave a comment and tell us about it!