Not too long ago on twitter (follow me here and GDB here) I asked you what sort of freelance design questions bother you the most. You answered back with an array of questions and I have tried to sum them up below with some solid answers to help you move forward on your freelance journey. I chose the ten most common questions I have heard, but I know there are many more. So after reading through this list of answers to these common freelance questions, be sure to leave your questions in the comments. Also, if you have a useful answer to any of the questions below, feel free to enlighten us by leaving your answer in the comments as well. Here we go:
1. Should I use my personal name or create a business name?
This is one of the most common questions I hear from fellow freelance designers. It’s a difficult one to answer as well, because every designer’s situation is different. Whether you should freelance under your personal name or create a company name depends much on what you hope to do with your freelance career. If you hope to be a one-person show for the rest of your career, then I would suggest you simply use your name. But if you hope to employ other people and grow your freelance business into a thriving enterprise, then perhaps using a business name is the best option.
Of course, there are good examples of businesses that work well the other way around. For example, popular web designer and web entrepreneur Chris Spooner (@chrisspooner) is a one-man show working under the business name “Spoon Graphics”. Conversely, there are great businesses that employ many people but go by the name of one or two people (likely the founders). Take Ogilvy (@ogilvy) for example. And lastly, there are companies who find a nice balance between the two: for example Carsonified (@carsonified) named after the company founders, Ryan and Gillian Carson.
When it all comes down to it, take time to establish a vision for your freelance career. Make a decision on where you hope to go with your freelance designing and then make the decision on naming your company accordingly.
2. What legal documents and other paperwork do I need to fill out?
This is a difficult question, but definitely one of the most common questions I get from fellow freelance designers. The reason the question is so difficult to resolve is because the answer varies greatly depending on where you live and what you plan to do with your business.
The best suggestion I can offer is to research how to set up a business in your community. I live in the U.S. so here’s what I did: I visited my local chamber of commerce who explained to me the different forms of approval I would need to start a business. They sent me to City Hall where I registered my business. They also gave me the web site for my state government business approval page. Honestly, the best solution I can give for such a varied audience is to use your favourite search engine and try querying something like “Starting a small business in California” or “Starting a business in Melbourne”. You’ll find what you need.
Sorry for the vague answer, but I think that will work best for you.
3. How can I keep my client pool thriving?
This is a question I can be a little more solidified on. One of the most common questions I hear from fellow freelance designers is that they have more time than they have projects. This is usually do to the fact that, instead of having 10 or 15 clients at one time, they have 1 or 2. Subsequently, they find they have more free time than work time and have trouble paying the bills.
Here are a few suggestions I would make concerning keeping your client pool full:
Never stop looking. Even if you have more clients than you can handle, never stop looking for more. Some people are content to wait a month or two until your other projects are completed to begin work on their project. If they have a timeline that can wait, agree to meet together again in a couple months and work out the details.
Keep detailed records. I find that the better I am at keeping track of people who have contacted me for freelance design work, the more likely I am to have a thriving client pool. even if you haven’t spoken in months or it didn’t work out the last time they tried to start a project with you, give it another try. Maybe they are ready this time.
Maintain a futuristic vision. It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that you have a lot of clients now. But remember, in a few months you will be done with all those projects and you’ll need more clients. Start looking now for the clients you will have in a few more months.
Keep your clients coming back. Establish a way that you will help your clients have a desire to come back to you for more work. Try to find clients that will need constant help, not just a one-time project. As you build a relationship of trust with them, they will provide year-round work for you.
4. Should I charge an hourly rate or per project?
This is another tough one. I have always taught that you should charge per project instead of by the hour. Why? Take this situation for example: I recently gave an estimate to a potential client based on the number of hours I thought it would take me to complete it. As I began to work on the project, however, everything seemed to click, the client loved my work, and I finished the project in half the number of hours. Should I only charge the client half as much as I had originally planned?
Some of you are nodding your head “yes” while others are screaming “no way”. On the one hand, if you had claimed you were charging per the hour, you should technically get paid half of what you estimated. But when you are charging for a service like web or graphic design, keep in mind it’s not just about the technical work. It’s also about all the knowledge, expertise, and experience you have built up over the last number of years that have gotten you to where you are today. That experience made it possible for you to nail the project the first time and complete it in less time than anticipated.
Should you get paid less because you are getting better at what you do? No.
When you charge by the hour, you are depriving yourself of the motivation to complete a project on time. When you charge by project, you are motivated to complete the project on time (or early) and do the best you possibly can.
5. How can I find my first freelance design clients?
Yet another extremely common question for freelance designers. Finding your first clients can be difficult, especially if you are caught in the vicious cycle of “I need a portfolio to get clients, but I need clients to get a portfolio”. Instead of rambling on about how I think you should go about finding new design clients, I would like to send you to a few articles here at GDB where I and other freelance designers have offered expert, proven techniques for finding new freelance design clients:
What other questions do you have? + Stay Tuned!
These are just a few of the most common freelance design questions I have encountered as I have interacted with you here at the blog, on twitter, on facebook, and more. I am interested to know what other questions you have and what answers you can also add to the questions above. Take a minute to leave a comment and join in the conversation.
Plus if you liked this article, stay tuned this week, because I’m working on “5 MORE anwers to common freelance design questions”. You won’t want to miss it. You can stay connected and updated via RSS, email, twitter, or facebook. We’ll chat again soon!