Yeah I Can Do That

It took me two years to realize that I cannot be everyone’s designer.

I seriously laugh when I think back to all the ways that I learned this lesson. Of course at the time I was probably ripping my hair out and threatening to “never freelance again.” And here’s the thing. I’m just being honest. A lot of times, as a designer, I’m scared to talk about my frustrations and the lessons I’ve learned because I’m afraid a client will think I’m talking about them. I promise you this: I have had and currently have some of the world’s most wonderful and creative clients. Without clients like that, I’d be doodling in my sketchbook with crayons. Oh wait, I still do that.

So here’s how I learned my lesson:

I tried to be everyone’s designer.

And it sucks but it’s essential. I’m not sure what exactly makes a great project, a great client or great work but I know some things that make all those things go bad. Like:

  • You need some quick cash and you say a little prayer along the lines of, “God just give me a project so I can pay my parking tickets.”
  • Your client says something like, “My friend Joanna told me that I need a designer because I want to sell felt Kleenex box covers but I think I can do it all myself.”
  • When their first question is, “How much do you charge?”
  • When a potential client tells me that my little designs are cute.
  • When they assume you’ll work for free because they know your college roommate’s stepmom.

I’m not saying all those things have happened to me…but I’m not saying they haven’t. To avoid situations like this I’ve discovered a few tricks.

  1. Create a portfolio and site that really reflects your style. Don’t just display work that drops names. Clients who love your style will approach you.
  2. Compile a list of questions to send to potential clients to get a sense of what they’re looking for, what they’re passionate about, and an estimate of their budget.
  3. LIKE your client. Make sure you take time to meet with them, chat on the phone, and genuinely enjoy working with them.
  4. Take referrals. If someone approaches you as a referral, you can look back on the type of project you had with the referrer.

Okay I’m done acting like I know stuff. I usually don’t share so many of my thoughts here so I hope you can relate or learn at least one thing (one thing being… that I enjoy making lists.)

What about you? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from designers AND the clients.

Photo found here.

April 13, 2011