The Classic Rookie Mistake Many Freelance Designers Make

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I’ve had an interesting paradigm shift lately. I have had need to hire a few freelance designers to take over projects I simply don’t have time for. This means I’ve had a chance to interview them (which I wrote about here), ask quotes from them (which I’ll write about today), and work closely with them.

I recently had an encounter with a freelance designer that made me want to fire him on the spot. And I think it’s a common mistake that a lot of freelancers make. And what happens when you make this mistake? The worst:

You get fired.

It’s all about relationships

Here’s an example to illustrate my point:

Imagine yourself as a client. (I know it’s hard, but you have to take a look at design from the eyes of a non-designer every once and a while.)

You’ve been working with a designer for a few months at a particular rate when suddenly he sends you a quote for the next project and his rate has nearly doubled.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know prices go up. I know designers have to increase their rates to make a living. But it’s not about the price, guys.

It’s all about relationships.

Burning Bridges

If you’re going to raise your rates for any reason, have the courtesy to let your client know ahead of time. You could say something like, “Hey John, I just wanted to let you know that due to an increase in project demand, I had to raise my rates a little bit last month.”

But when you just raise rates without warning anyone, you burn bridges.

Clients feel betrayed.

They feel like you’re cheating them out of something.

The classic mistake

So what’s the classic rookie mistake many freelance designers make? Raising rates without warning your clients. If you think they aren’t going to notice or it isn’t going to be a big deal, think again.

You see, unfortunately, as a freelance designer, there is always going to be someone who can do it cheaper than you. And while you shouldn’t always necessarily cater to the tightest penny-pinching clients, you need to make sure you keep your steady clients around.

Steady clients means steady income, after all.

How to avoid it

So next time you feel like raising your rates, think twice about raising rates for the clients who bring you steady income. It’s not worth burning a bridge to make an extra dollar per hour. Think about it: would you rather make $1,000 on ten projects each year or $1,500 on two?

It’s a no-brainer.

What do you think?

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Oh man, so bang on… I’ll be honest and say that early in my freelancer career I made this mistake of not warning my client that I had increased my rates. Thankfully my client was gracious enough to ask and let me know that they preferred a warning and ultimately understood my intentions. From that time on I always make sure to let my clients know if and when there is ever a change.

    Additionally I’ve gotten in the habit letting my clients know when a project is about to go over budget and get approval to continue work and never surprise them with a larger invoice than the quoted one. I find clients appreciate and become more flexible and forgiving when you show them that you are conscious about their needs and have their interests in mind.

    Great post!

  2. so true, so true. I’m big on not burning bridges, especially over something as little as a few extra bucks an hour.

    This year when I raised my rates, I mentioned in the previous month’s invoice that next month, due to increase in demand, my rates would be changing to $XX/hour (this was only for my regular maintenance clients). That way, they had 30 days notice to digest the news, and weren’t hit with a surprise.

  3. This is very true. The worst thing a freelance designer could do is to get trapped in a world of bidding for jobs sites like Elance. This is bad. Low cost, large projects = low income.

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