Learning That It's Ok To Say No

Hello and Happy New Year! It's been a while since I've had the time to write on here, but this week I made sure that writing a blog post went on my to-do list. Today's topic has been on my mind for quite some time now and I wanted to share my feelings about it.

As most of you know, in addition to freelancing, I also work as an in-house Graphic Designer full-time. And as you can probably imagine, this can often put a strain on my time, how many clients I can take on at once and which kinds of clients and businesses I can work with. I can name a few times this year when I've had to say no to potential clients because I felt like the projects didn't reflect my work or because I just didn't have the time for such large projects. I've always been the type to be extremely accommodating to everyone and I've always tried my best to make my clients feel like they're my number one priority, but lately I've been finding myself having to suck it up and say no. 

Today I'd like to share with you a blogpost written by my new designer friend, Aimee Guzman of Little Trailer Studio called: Learning to Say No. 6 Tips for Why Saying No can Actually Help Your Business. I've been through many of the same situations and it was reassuring to know she'd been there before and the ways in which she handled them. A little background: I had been following Aimee's freelance / entrepreneur journey for a while and decided one day to reach out to her regarding my freelance career troubles. We set up a Skype meeting and in short, she assured me that no two journeys are the same. She also reminded me that I shouldn't lose sight of my personal goals. I say this to say that sometimes, in the midst of hustling, working hard and often, it's easy to lose sight of your wants and needs. It's important step back every so often, take a breather and consider what it is you really want at the end of the day. After all, you should be your number one priority. Remember that it's okay to be a little selfish; the money isn't worth it if it ends up making you feel terrible in the end.  

Here are Aimee's tips:

Listen Carefully

If you listen carefully the client will tell you exactly how the client is going to act throughout the project. If the client is rude in emails they are going to be rude throughout the project. If the client is trying to get more out of you without payment then you can expect them to not pay your invoice on time. If the client does not respond to emails for 5 days this is exactly how they are going to behave when the project gets started. I had a potential client who was so confusing in her email communication that I had to turn her down. I offered several times to take the conversation to a phone conversation, thinking this would make it easier to communicate, but she ignored my request in each email. She also was not clear in answering my questions. After the first few email interactions I finally had to let her know I was not available for the project. Here’s what would have happened if I would have taken on the project. Her art direction would have been completely unclear as well as her feedback. I would have been guessing and grasping to understand what the objective of the project was. She also wasn’t good about emailing me back right away so the project would have gone on much longer than needed.

Early on in my freelancing career I would take phone calls from any potential clients. I spent a lot of time on phone calls that didn’t lead anywhere and that could have been streamlined if I had a more solid process for client inquiries or explained my services more clearly on my website. One of those phone calls lasted for an hour with a woman who needed branding and marketing help for her boutique shop. I didn’t mind giving her suggestions such as putting her shop on yelp or creating a Facebook page for her business. Almost every suggestion I had about using social media she would respond by saying that her 17 year old daughters didn’t agree and that according to them no one was on Facebook anymore. According to them people were only on Instagram and Snapchat. Sure, tell that to Mark Zuckerberg. This hour-long conversation told me the following things: Any decision that would be made would have to go through her 17 year old daughters first, she would not trust my expertise no matter what data I showed her and she wasn’t ready to make real changes in order to successfully grow her business. Needless to say I ended up saying no to the project.

The Email

I touched upon this a bit already but pay close attention to how they communicate in email. If it’s obvious that they haven’t even taken a look at your website then that should be a red flag. You want clients that have seen your work, read your services and policies, and like what they see. Just like in dating. You don’t want a partner who is willing to become anyone’s boyfriend or girlfriend without getting to know them first. If you have a potential client reaching out for web design but you don’t provide that service then clearly they didn’t do their research.

Trust Your Gut

Your gut will often tell you when something doesn’t feel right. If something feels off about a client then listen to what your gut is telling you.

Know Your Limits

It is so important to have your process clearly defined and laid out. This will give you control of how the project goes rather than the other way around. Be sure to include this in the contract. This will help you in situations such as the client wanting too many revisions. If you have it clearly stated in the contract that after 3 revisions you have to charge extra then you and the client are both on the same page and boundaries have been set ahead of time. Also know your worth. When I first started out I would accept lower rates because I thought at least it’s better than nothing. That is so not the case at all. Sure every now and then a project comes your way that really excites you and you are willing to do it for a lower rate or even pro-bono. I recently did some pro-bono work for a great non-profit that works with domestic abuse victims and it was such a great experience. But this should be your choice. If the client is trying to short-change you then it might not be a good fit.

Sometimes It’s Just Not a Good Fit and That’s Okay

Change the way you look at clients. Each project should be a good fit for you as well as the client. You should be on the same page, similar to a partnership. When a client comes along and they have a need that isn’t quite in your scope or they don’t quite have the budget, it’s okay to walk away and acknowledge that it’s simply not a good fit. When you phrase it in this way then no party is to blame and it helps take out the emotion. You have a certain type of client you want to work with and within a certain niche. Not everyone that comes your way is going to fit that. If you are up for the challenge of something new then totally go for it. But if it feels like you’re doing something inauthentic to who you are as a creative then walk away.

Saying No Frees You Up to Say Yes to Someone Else

I was approached not to long ago by a company that wanted me to do some in-house work. I recently left my job as a full-time in-house graphic designer in order to do something different. The services I provide now are brand identities for creative entrepreneurs and girls bosses like yourselves. I no longer do in-house work. I contemplated saying yes because a paycheck is a paycheck after all. But in the end I decided against it. I also had some background knowledge about the company and knew how chaotic it would be to work with them. I was a little bummed out and didn’t know if I made the right decision especially because I knew I could have made some money. But a few days after that I received an inquiry from a client who was totally in my niche. If I would have said yes to that company who knows if I would have been able to take on the other project. Maybe I could have done both but I’m glad I didn’t test it.

“I can’t afford to say no.”

I know what you’re thinking. Because I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve often thought to myself that I can’t afford to say no. Since I don’t know your personal situation I can’t straight out tell you that you can afford to say no. But this point is similar to the one above. At some point saying no is going to be more beneficial to your business. At some point you’re going to have to stop saying yes to clients that are not in your niche or clients that cannot afford you or clients that make you hate your work. If you don’t start saying no to these clients you will get stuck there. So whatever your situation is, take baby steps to saying no to clients that aren’t ideal. This will help you to slowly make the transition to working with the clients you do want to work with.

I hope this helped! Check out more of Aimee's awesome work here!

Freshbooks: Cloud-based Accounting for Small Businesses

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Hi guys! I know it's been a while since I've written a blog post BUT, I thought now would be a good time to introduce this topic. With the busy Christmas season approaching and the new year closer than ever, many of us freelancers are finding our client work increasing and current client base expanding with the introduction of new clients.

I've recently been receiving requests from many clients, both old and new, who over these past few months have been looking to make significant design changes to their businesses just in time for 2017. Due to increased requests, I've been trying to stay on top of keeping organized with emails, expenses, invoices, deposits, project work and project timelines with the help of my handy dandy planner and my abundant laptop folders.

That's all changed now and I'm going to tell you why! One word...FRESHBOOKS. I discovered this software only recently through Being Boss; a podcast by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon for creative entrepreneurs. In one of their minisodes called Being a Billable Boss, Emily and Kathleen speak to Mike McDerment, CEO and Co-Founder of Freshbooks Cloud Accounting. They discuss billing for creatives, the fears around talking about money and getting paid, like a boss.

So "what is Freshbooks anyways" you ask? Well, it's a cloud-based invoicing and accounting program designed for freelancers juggling work for multiple clients. Whether you're using their software on your computer or through their app on your phone or tablet, Freshbooks has many cool features that make business accounting easy as pie. For example with the time tracking feature, Freshbooks' users can track time spent on projects and log billable hours which can then be input into invoices.

Invoicing your clients is easy too! You can invoice your clients either at once, or on a recurring schedule with Freshbooks' nicely designed and customizable invoice templates. What made me fall in love with Freshbooks' invoicing feature most is that it does the math for you! You can input expenses, add discounts, ask for deposit percentages and lots more based on your freelance hourly or flat rate. You can even see when your client has viewed your invoice. If that's not genius, I don't know what is!

With the Freshbooks projects feature, my clients are able to view updates on the progress of their projects through my posts and back and forth communications; almost like an instant chat room. With being able to upload work files to the projects folder, I don't have to worry about declined email messages due to files being too large to send, Wetransfer links that expire or Dropbox folders that are low on storage space. (No one ever really wants to pay for the extra storage space). 

Freshbooks claims that switching to their software saves business owners TWO DAYS worth of administrative task time a month. Wow! Their mission?... 

To reshape the world to suit the needs of self-employed professionals
— www.freshbooks.com

I hope I've given you enough incentive to give Freshbooks a try. And believe me, since using the software, I've seen a huge difference in my time management and organization skills. One of my clients even said to me the other day that she's really happy I've started using it. Happy clients = happy life! Start your free trial today, you can thank me later. :)

 

 

Let Your Work Do the Talking, Not Your Postal Code

In a book I've been reading entitled "Popular Lies About Graphic Design" by Craig Ward, one of the lies the book attempts to debunk is that "You Gotta Get to New York" to make it as a successful Graphic Designer. 

Throughout my university years, I've constantly been told the best Graphic Design internships and job opportunities are found in the Big Apple. It didn't help that all the women Graphic Designers I looked up to and sought out for inspiration were all based in New York as well; Lotta Nieminen, Roanne Adams, Jessica Walsh and Verena Michelitschi to name a few.

After graduating, I tried so hard to obtain a big name job in the Graphic Design industry. Not only did I apply to jobs in New York, but I applied to jobs in metropolises around the world like London, Los Angeles and Toronto. Although I was so ready to pack up shop and move to a big city, I started to understand that landing a successful design studio / agency job takes lots of experience. I also started to realize that many of my university peers were applying for the same jobs as me, and at the same time. So in the end, I traded the big city for a little island in the Atlantic ocean. 

It used to be the case that you had to go where the work was, and in the past that meant moving to your nearest large city where commercial opportunities for designers were more plentiful
— Craig Ward, Popular Lies About Graphic Design

I now live in Bermuda; a 21 square mile island with a population of a little over 65,000. Majority, if not all of my freelance design projects come in from all over the world via email, social media or over the phone. I could technically design and work wherever I like. Yes, Bermuda is small; there aren't many design studios or agencies to work for if you're looking to make a name for yourself here. And although the bigger agencies tend to set up in larger cities, that doesn't mean they produce the best work. 

I think what I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, you can still make a name for yourself if you let your work do the talking. I've received so many design opportunities with popular brands, businesses and influencers from all over the globe just by connecting with them online. Sure, the big cities bring larger art galleries and more people to network with, but you can find inspiration right outside your door. "What you take from your surroundings and put back into your work differs from everyone." 

Dare to step outside of what tends to be expected; the internet has made that possible, so embrace it. Let your work do the talking, not your postal code.
— Craig Ward, Popular Lies About Graphic Design

How to Calculate Your Freelance Hourly Rate

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first blog post. I've never been a fan of writing but I figured starting a blog would help me categorize my thoughts, encourage me to learn new things and push me to work on more personal projects. Although I won't be posting everyday, I will try to blog as often as I can to give those of you reading insight into this design world of mine. 

This leads me into today's topic: How to Calculate Your Freelance Hourly Rate. Now, since graduating from university in June of last year, this has been a struggling subject for me. Although I had been freelancing for clients throughout university, I still felt like a newbie in the game. This made me question what my talent and time was worth.

The thing was, during university my freelance clients were basically picking a rate to charge me, so when I graduated, I thought it would be easy just to continue on with that same rate. It's when I arrived back home that something clicked and I thought to myself, "Hey! I just graduated, I've got a Bachelor of Design degree in Graphic Design and I've got quite a few clients under my belt. I should probably be charging more." As I started to get settled back home, my freelance design career started taking off. My client list started to increase, I was receiving more notable clients, and I upgraded from designing an ordinary church flyer to things like branding sneaker lines and designing packaging for fashion and cosmetic brands. I say all this to say, I truly believe that as your experience in design increases, so should your worth. This all depends how good you are, and if people are willing to pay top dollar for your work of course.

Don't get me wrong, your growth in talent and experience should play a large role in what you charge for your freelance design work, but there are also a number of things you should be factoring in before making that decision; the cost of doing business and the cost of living for example.

If you were like me and you're currently struggling with what to charge your clients, I'm here to help! I came across this article which provides a clear infographic outlining the things you should factor in when considering your design rate. You can find the link here.

When you charge enough not only to survive but thrive, you find better prospects and clients!
— Sue Bryce, Photographer

 

The article also suggests starting your freelance career while you're still working a day job full-time. This is what I am currently doing. By day I am the sole Graphic Designer at Bermuda's largest department store, and by night I am a freelance designer working for local and overseas clients from the comfort of my bed. The benefits of working a full-time job and freelancing is that you have an opportunity to make money on the side and build your clientele. It may be tough, however this will help build the basis for an easy transition into the self-employment world when you are ready.

This article helped me confirm that my freelance rate was just fine, and I hope it will do the same for you and more. Happy pricing!