I’ll admit, I should have been more worried when I left my full-time salaried job to venture into freelancing. Many people are. But I knew I would find clients. I knew the work would come. There were brief moments of anxiety, but I always knew that I would be alright.
I make sure, regardless of how big or small the project, and how good or bad the client, to also do certain things that make for an easier process. Here is how I always end up having clients, without any marketing involved:
1. Doing the Best of You
My man constantly encourages me of the thing I have done since I was 18 when I started working as a designer.
“Sweetie,” he says. “Just do the best of you.”
Whenever I feel tired or lazy, I ask myself, is this the best I can do? Is this the best I can make for my client? If it’s not, I keep going. I make it better. At the end of every project, I am proud, knowing that I did my best to make the project as perfect as it can be.
Yes, I can half-ass it, but how will that make me better than other designers? Why would anyone want to come back to someone that doesn’t put an effort in for them? When you work, take a moment every once in a while and ask yourself, “Is this the best I can offer them? Can I make it better?”
2. Be a Responsible Worker
I know that sounds obvious, but in the world of web development, it can be rare. I have worked with incompetent developers and lazy designers that don’t take the time to understand the project. Success is to be reliable, trustworthy, and responsive.
Answer emails in a timely manner. If you say something is going to be done by a certain time, do it. If you can’t, let them know as soon as possible (not two days past the deadline). Take the time needed to educate the client. Put as much effort in communication and client relations as you do with the design.
That’s all anyone ever wants. Take the time to understand their vision. Listen to what is said and to what is not said. Take notes. Repeat things back to them. Ask questions.
“Ok so by saying you want this… do you mean…”
Your job is to turn complex, vague ideas from someone’s mind and turn it into tangible, understandable, interesting and beautiful products. Taking the time to listen to their needs and goals actually speeds up the wireframe and comp phases.
4. Explain why you did what you did
Everyone knows the struggle between designer and client. Stubbornness on both parts leads to burnout, frustration, and probably late nights of drinking. One of the most successful tactics for getting clients to agree with me is to explain why I designed what I did. They hired you, the professional. But they have their own opinions. Going back to step 3, listen, actually take the time to understand what it is that they want. Sometimes, what they think they want isn’t the best solution. So explain to them that although they wanted such and such, you did it this way because of …. It brings them in the process and gives them a better understanding about good design, without too much butting of heads.
5. BE THOROUGH
This one is a pet peeve of mine. I can tell how good an agency or developer is by how thorough the site is. Is the design and style consistent through the site? Is everything linked up correctly? Are headlines the same, or are some all caps and some regular case? Do external sites open up in new tabs? Are all of the main pages easy to access, or are they hidden because someone forgot to add “Blogs” in the navigation? Do all videos work? Are all images loading? Is the padding, spacing, and alignment good across all screen sizes? Are there links where there people might try clicking (like on titles, images, and icons)?
At the end of every project, take one or two hours to click through EVERYTHING. It is boring, sure, but there is always be something wrong. At my old agency, we’d play “how many clicks to find something broken.” It can a depressing game, depending on how complex the site is and how tired you are of the project, but it is a vital step in making sure that your end project is as good as it can be. Plus, it avoids those uncomfortable conversations with the client later when something is obviously broken or missing.
But Lauren, you argue, that costs extra time.
Yes, yes it does. So count it into the budget. Polish and testing is just as important as strategy. You want to make sure that everything you planned on, from concept to design to code, actually works the way it should.
My clients from the last eight years know that I always the best work I can, that I try to hit the deadlines, that I communicate and explain my processes. Because of that, everyone I work with comes to me from word of mouth and stays with me for many years. A good, thorough worker is hard to find, but easy to do.
So do the best of you, and you too will always have clients.