All too often we sacrifice our time and skills just to make an extra buck. While it might get us a few bucks now, is it really worth it in the long run? Not only do we as freelance designer sometimes sell ourself short to our clients, but sometimes we have a hard time understanding the true value of our time. We have the mentality of; “why pay them to do it when I could do it for free?”
Below is a list of some of the bad habits we as designers are faced with constantly and some suggestions on how to fix them.
1. Poor Use of Email
Responding to client emails can be a real burden and just plain time consuming. If you find yourself checking multiple accounts on various websites, try compiling all of them in to one program like Microsoft Outlook. You will be surprised how much time you save just by having all your ducks in one place. If you find that you are responding to the same questions time and time again, create a generic email and save it in your drafts to keep on hand. It is such a simple things to do, but so many of us over look it.
2. Doing It All
This is something I was especially guilty of until I read The 4 Hour Work Week. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to. Yes you could design a dozen online banners to promote your premium wordpress themes, but that doesn’t mean you have too. Its going to take you a whole day to create that many banners. In the time it takes you to do that, you could have been creating a new theme. Why not outsource it to a student designer for a cheaper rate? Yes you spent money on something you could have done yourself, but you just spent X amount of money to free up your entire day.
3. Not Having a Contract
Im amazed on a daily bases how many new on established designers work without a contract. Graphic design contracts and web design contracts should be one of the first things you put together when you start your design business. There is no reason not to be using one. It will save you time, money, and a lot of arguments with picky clients.
4. Charging Too Little
When starting on your path to being a freelance designer, it is easy to want to lower your rates just to get a particular job. This is a major pitfall for many designers. Avoid doing this like the plague. Not only are you losing money, but you could be losing clients that are willing to pay full price. Create a base price list for any service you provide and stick to it. If works get slow, try to find another form of passive income to help keep money coming in.
5. Working on Spec
NEVER DO SPEC WORK! I can’t stress that enough. Even if you are a student or freelance designer, don’t do spec work. If a client asks you to do something on spec, explain to them that your time and creativity is a comodity and cant be put to use without some form of compensation. I highly reccomend checking out No Spec and the resources they offer to help explain to your clients why you don’t do spec work.
6. Not Sticking to the Contract
I recently listened to a Freelance Switch Podcast on this subject and felt it needed to be on this list. I think we have all had clients who ask for additional work that is outside the scope of the initial contract. Yes, its usually easier to just do the small task they ask for without charging them for it. The problem is, after a while,the will come to expect these small chages and additions to be done for free. The best solution to this problem is to answer the clients request with an invoice/email. Simply email them saying something to the effect of; “These changes will cost an additional $$. If you would like us to add these changes, please let us know and we will add them into the contract and adjust the original price of the project accordingly.”
7. 12 Hour Work Days
Most of us became freelance designers to get away from the 40 hour work week. So why are you now working 80 hours a week at your home? Setting specific work hours and sticking to them will not only help you work better, but it will help improve the balance of work and play. Small things like setting hours and having a dedicated work space will go a long way in helping you work less.
8. Not Forking Out Money
A similar list to this on Freelance Switch brought up a good point. We as freelance designer are always trying to save a buck by using free versions of software or other services. For some, these free version will suit your needs, but if you find yourself out growing the free version, don’t look around for a free alternative. Stick to the good stuff and shell out the few bucks for the upgraded version. Odds are the free ones aren’t as good as the paid ones.
9. Getting Set in Your Ways
I have met many an “older” designer who didn’t evolve with the times. You would be surprised how many web designers out their still design with tables or how many graphic designers don’t even know how to use Illustrator. If you are reading this post, you probably aren’t heading down the road, but its something to think about.
10. What is Your Bad Habit?
What bad habit do you find yourself struggling with on a daily basis? Any ideas on how you can improve it?