I know this topic must be around here a lot. But I am not a student or a fresh graphic designer, I am someone who studied 10 years ago but years of anxiety almost killed me.
I have been working from time to time in little projects but I would like to work full time now.
My question is… how do you contact clients?
How do you do when someone asks for a price but you have no idea what to say because the rate depends on many things!
How do you know you are charging what is fair? Sometimes I feel people take advantage of me.
What is the right price? Many, many people tells me I am too expensive. Is it too expensive to charge Frs.1’500.- for a website of 5 pages in Switzerland?
My domain name is my first and last name, is that the reason why people think I should be cheap? Should I change it to a more “agency” like name?
Of course if I was an entrepreneur, I would find my prices expensive, but at the same time, it is an investment… They don’t hesitate to buy the last iPhone every year or spend hundreds in a restaurant, but they cry with me…
I swear I am not bad at designing, but I suffer from anxiety and that doesn’t let me go for it!!! I get nervous sometimes and I am sure that doesn’t look very professional for my clients… That’s why I would like to know if there’s a way to contact them without calling them or visiting businesses.
I need the opinion of someone in the field.
Thank you in advance for your kind replies. Have a nice day!!!
Wow, okay, this may sound a little harsh, but hear me out. It sounds like you’d be better off as an employee than as a self-employed creative. I say this because, by your own admission, talking to clients (either on the phone or in person), makes you nervous, and you’re wrestling with some basic business issues. If you’re in a meeting and the client doesn’t like a design, are you capable of drilling down to find out what the core issue is or defending your work and explaining why you think it’s the best solution? If you’re a good designer, which we’ll have to take your word for it that you are, it really sounds like you’d be better off in a design position at a design studio or ad agency where the account team deals with the clients and there are others (CFO, owner, principal) that handles the estimating.
Freelance graphic design is client-facing. There is no way around that, unless you want to waste your time on crowdsource crap. If you find it difficult to face clients, the only thing I can think of to offer is to work for someone else and let them do it. Inside work like an in-house art department for a larger company. You still have to deal with people though.
We don’t discuss pricing here. Against the rules. And you’ll find that pricing will vary based on location, even within a single country, or in the US a single state. There is a book we recommend to US designers called The GAG Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, but still, you have to adjust the pricing for skill level and location.
edit: I see Steve-O and I are on the same page, LOL
I worked as the marketing director for a university college for awhile. As part of the job, I needed to work closely with the college’s development officer who was in charge of fundraising.
She was gruff, a little obnoxious, and not the slightest bit shy, but I ended up liking her. She would do research on potential donors, then just call them up, say nice things, mention any tenuous connection they might have with the university, ask if she could visit to discuss options, then flat out ask them for money. She had a knack for saying all the right things and pushing all the right buttons, while doing so with complete confidence. She raised millions of dollars doing that.
A few years ago, I was recruited by a start-up entrepreneur to be the creative director of the company he was setting up — a publishing company. He took me to lunch and promised me the moon. When it became apparent that his new company would require $10–20 million in start-up costs, I asked him where he would get the money and if he planned on financing it himself. He looked at me as though I was clueless, and said, “Seriously, getting that kind of money is the easy part.” A couple of weeks later, he called to invite me to be part of a meeting with a venture capitalist he had contacted — a guy easily worth several hundred million dollars. The meeting was informal, and I saw the guy who was recruiting me turn on the same charm with the venture capitalist. We left the meeting with a commitment for $30 million dollars. I was stunned. Back in the parking lot, he turned to me and said, “See, I told you. That’s the easy part.”
Way back at the beginning of my career, fresh out of college in the middle of a recession, I didn’t have a job and couldn’t find one. I started looking around for small businesses who were obviously doing their own advertising and, likely, not getting good success. I’d muster up the courage, show up at their place of business, ask to speak to the owner and proceed to show them my portfolio and tell them that I could increase the effectiveness of their ads. It was a long time ago, but that approach worked, maybe, a third to half the time.
Honestly, like you, I’ve always been plagued with chronic anxiety. I’m also very much an introvert, so showing up, introducing myself and making a sales pitch was extremely difficult. However, it was either that or get a job driving taxis or working in a warehouse.
That’s an open invitation to a negotiation that, if done right, will end up with the potential client making an investment of his or her time talking everything through, and, as likely or not result in work.
Don’t just blurt out a figure because you’re asked to do so. Explain the complexity of the problem, the desire to explore all the possibilities, your need to do research, then start asking questions. Every business owner I’ve ever met is eager to talk about their business, so let them do so. Express a genuine interest in all of it. Tell them you’ll get back to them in a couple of days with some options and prices to go along with it.
What’s fair is irrelevant. What is relevant is how much money you want to make and whether or not you can convince potential clients that the return on their investment will be much larger than what they’ll be paying you.
I mean, really, you know how much you need to make, so what’s fair or what someone down the street might charge is irrelevant. You have your price, and if they don’t go for it, you walk away. There’s no point in lowering your rates and ripping yourself off at a lower rate than what you need to put food on the table.
I think my previous answer is relevant here too. You charge what you need to charge to make the profit you need to make. If clients can afford more, even better, but you need to consistently charge enough from every client to earn the kind of living you want. When people tell you you’re too expensive, you walk away, forget about them and move on to someone willing to pay what you think you’re worth.
My domain name is my name too. It just evolved into that over time as I was doing freelance work on the side. If I had to do it over again, I’d probably come up with a name that sounded a little larger than just me. Then again, it probably doesn’t make much difference, and, right now, it is just me, which is exactly what I want it to be for the next few months (or years) until I finally decide to bite the bullet and be done with all this stuff.
I could write five pages on this one, but it would all boil down to your ability to show them that the benefits of what you’re offering them will far exceed the investment of whatever amount of money you’re asking.
Well, that puts some severe restrictions on things, but in today’s age of COVID, people are much more receptive to remote online contacts. Email, however, comes across as spam; it’s deleted and forgotten within five seconds.
I had some luck earlier in my career looking for work by. having some high-quality mousepads printed up. They looked pretty sharp and contained a subtle sales pitch. I carefully researched who to send them to. They were too nice to just throw away, and my thinking was they’d likely sit on an art director’s desk for a few days as a reminder to call me. It worked, I had a good, full-time job lined up within a couple of weeks.
I’m also one of the few here, in addition to @ Jakub_Trybowski, who wouldn’t dismiss UpWork. They’re better than other crowdsourcing sites since no work is done prior to a contract being negotiated with the client. You won’t get rich through UpWork, but it can (and did with me) lead to better clients and more.
Seriously, Xanax. No kidding. Situationally, for these kinds of things, it works.
It’s far easier said than done, but you need to remember that even though they’re interviewing you, you’re interviewing them. They’re likely not nervous about interviewing you, and there’s no reason you need to be nervous about interviewing them.
I completely understand, though. Anxiety is my lifelong companion, and I know that despite any logic, it rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
I’ve interviewed, literally hundreds of job applicants over my career, and interviewed with almost that many clients. None of these things cause much anxiety any longer because I’ve had so much practice. There’s always a little nervousness, but it’s manageable.
Interviews are like anything else, practice makes perfect even though the first few times might be a disaster. You said you’re a good designer. If you really believe that, carry that attitude into your interviews and know that they’d be lucky to get you. Your anxiety won’t listen, of course — at least at first. After a while, though, once the dark reaches of your subconscious gets the message that it’s safe and that nobody yells at you, makes fun of you, or threatens your life, the anxiety will calm down and crawl back into its cave.
I’ll just add a little bit of my two cents but Just-B has already offered you very valuable advice.
How do you contact clients?
How you contact clients depends largely on your current position: What’s your level as a designer, what are your achievements, are you famous in the industry (at least in your local areas), and so on and on. At first, if you are still a small-time designer, you’ll often find yourself having to directly cold contacting your potential clients, talking to them, and hearing them out about what kind of issues they might be facing and whether you could solve those issues. Once you start growing, you’ll have clients start contacting you directly with their issues and asking you for quotes and it will be your job to facilitate meetings to sit down and listen to them more closely. Once you have more recognition, clients will start sending you formal documents like RFP (Request for Proposal) and things start getting more corporate, more formal, and more… dry. And sometimes, if you remain a freelance designer, you might even have creative agencies contacting you for work and it’s another whole new story. So you see, how we contact clients varies depending on the stage of our career, and it always goes from personal and close to formal and corporate. There is no sure-fire way where one method will work for the rest of your career, just no.
When someone asks for a price, what should you do?
The first thing that I would do is to ensure that I fully understand what problems my clients are facing. Do they need just a logo or a full branding service or a full branding service and an ad campaign? How much does my service worth for my clients? Obviously, a new logo will worth much more for a large corporate like those in FAANG compared to your local moms and pops’ stores, and as such, the risk will be significantly higher for large clients compared to smaller clients. This means that larger clients will require more work and effort into the project compared to smaller clients even if the scope of the two projects are similar. Once you have all of that figured out, you can start grabbing your calculators and calculate the cost of the project based on your own equation because there is no one correct answer that could be applied universally. Some may calculate based on the number of hours needed to complete the given work, others may also include the cost of A, B, C, etc. and costs for mitigating risks with some padding added on top, etc. It’s all a part of what we called a “Pricing Strategy” and it’s definitely something you need to work out on your own if you are working as an independent business (freelancing included).
Sometimes I feel people take advantage of me
You can address this problem with a contract. Even if you are still a small-time designer, a contract will help to negate some of what we usually call a “Scope Creep” (which usually indicates when a client tries to force you to go over the initially agreed scope of work). If you follow the proper step as stated in question 2, chances are you already figured out a proper price that’s fair for both sides. A contract protects you in that the client can’t take advantage of you and forcing you to do more work and, therefore, ruining what’s fair for you. In case they want to increase the scope of work, the contract will also give you the chance to also revise the cost of the project by forcing them to pay more for any more work included. You do not have to compromise with a written agreement and rarely should you compromise.
What is the right price?
There is no “right price.” It depends on who you are, your achievements, and your clients. If your client is a small business owner who makes only 5,000 USD a month, a 2,000 USD project will seem costly for them because if you also factor in their monthly business operating cost, their bottom line will more than likely ending up on the red side. However, if your client is some companies on the scale of FAANG (funny how it used to be just GAFA a few years ago), a price of 2,000 USD will make you seem unreliable and your client would probably choose to go with another person who charges them for a hefty 6 or 7 figures price even if your works are the same. Also note that your “price” is, subconsciously, also an indicator of your confidence and reliability. An award-winning designer can’t afford to charge someone 100 USD while a new graduate can’t afford to charge someone 100,000 USD. You need to figure out your position, research your market, and research your clients.
In a certain sense, your domain name is a part of your identity. If you want to market yourself as an individual, a single freelance designer then, by all means, go with only your first and last name. If you want to market yourself as an agency and that you are ready to take on a larger body of work then, by all means, go for a more agency-like domain name. Each strategy, however, carries with them certain advantages and disadvantages, and you, as the domain owner, could elevate those to strengthen your positioning. I have two websites, one for my own and another for my team. For my personal website, which I use to market myself as a freelance designer (more of a director these days), I include personal statements and even went as far as including a whole page about my stories, who I am, my upbringing, my beliefs, etc. Many designers like that page because they get to know me as not just another name but as a person and they come to understand where my design beliefs come from. As for my team’s website, we include achievements, our visions, and business sections, showing clients that we are a serious creative team with a good underlying business foundation. As I said before, each approach has its own advantages and just because it’s your name doesn’t make you less credible than those ABC-agency.com. Also, you CAN utilize the newer domains, namely .design or .agency (I’m discussing with my team to actually purchase the more costly .agency domain soon) to also quickly tell your audience who you are. Just a quick tip.
How should I deal with my anxiety?
Let me say this first: Your anxiety is what makes you a human. Even as a seasoned veteran, every single designer out there still gets anxious as they step onto the podium to present themselves or their projects to prospective clients and hiring companies. I still get anxious whenever I have to present our designs to a board of C-class people who are ready to jump at us at every single little mistake. I also still get anxious talking to people I’ve never met before because I’m an extremely introverted person who likes reading books alone more than standing in the corner at a party. It’s OKAY to be anxious and nervous. If anything, if you don’t find yourself being nervous, your heart racing then something might be wrong.
There are, however, many different ways to cope with anxiety. You can “accept it,” “avoid it,” “delegate it,” or “control it.” (yes, it’s the same as “risk management”) By “avoiding,” you try to avoid situations that could give you anxiety, which is less than ideal because it will cost you opportunities. By “accepting,” you accept that the anxiety is there and push forward regardless. It requires you to have confidence (which, might be acquired through your vast skillsets, experience, achievements, etc.) and willpower. The trick of “imagine yourself being the only person in the room” is also a part of techniques to help you just “accept” the anxiety but it’s not ideal when you need to communicate. By “delegating,” you try to have another person stand in and take that anxiety away from you. In a corporate setting, this might be your sales department, your manager, etc. but as you climb the ladder, that person naturally disappears. By “controlling,” you try to minimize your anxiety, which is usually done through practice and proper preparation. “Controlling” is my most used method as I tend to be very careful when preparing my presentations and usually consider all possible questions before heading into a meeting. At the root, anxiety is caused by the “fear of the unknown” and by preparing thoroughly, you minimize that “unknown” and, therefore, minimize your anxiety. Confidence is also a factor that could help to minimize your anxiety even further. If you are a really good designer with a kick-ass portfolio, design awards, big achievements, and you know for sure that none of the other designers could compete with you in that aspect, then you probably don’t have to be that anxious because you know you’ll ace it anyway. Trust in your experience and trust in the obstacles that you’ve overcome until this point.
It’s gotten a little long but I hope my advice could help you out in some ways. Good luck!
That’s simple enough to say, but what is One Hour of your time worth? You really have to sit down and figure out how much money you need PER MONTH to at least get by in life. What’s your rent, what are your business operating costs ( overhead such as computer amortization and software licenses, office supplies, etc.) what are your basic living expenses (groceries, water, lights, gas for the car, Hulu subscription…PHONE…,) etc. What would you like on top of that to buy much needed toys? Divide all that by the number of hours per month that you want to work and that is your hourly rate. If you can’t cover that by doing design work for that rate, time to find a second job, or a new one altogether. Not kidding. Freelancing is a business. If you are trying to make a living at it, treat it like one and do your homework.
In addition, it’s important to consider that not all of one’s time spent in a freelance business is billable. All the time spent on miscellaneous odds and ends from record-keeping to marketing oneself to various delays and scheduling issues is generally non-billable. As an employee at a regular job, you get paid whether you’re working or discussing your latest camping trip with your co-workers.
In other words, if you make, for example, $40 per hour as an employee, you might need to charge twice that much as a freelancer (depending on all those non-billable hours and expenses) to make the same amount of money.
If I may add on the contacting clients part. My process is all about making the first move and getting your foot on the door. A method that worked for me was quite simple but effective. I do cold emails (which may sound a bit off for some but it actually works especially if you’re a starter)
Typically it goes with a “mini-deck”
Front cover (logos + title)
Page 2 - brief intro and contacts
Page 3 - X - whatever I need to showcase
Page 4 - Some examples of success stories backed up by data
(page 4-x is a bit more tricky - you’d need info from successful clients - or even testimonials)
Show off some big/small client pages - with testimonials
Show off some data that backs up info in the proposal - perhaps using an interesting infographic about the work I’ve done.
I find this way effective on my end.
When it comes to cadence here’s my timeframe:
Follow up within 3 days.
Follow up within 6 days
Follow up within 12 days
Follow up within 30 days
After that, if something does push through I just leave it and move on. But if some does push through I immediately draft the contract or service level agreement or anything you’re client agreed on. If you need tips on how to carefully craft them there are available templates online. There are different types, to be honest, so you must be clear with your clients and of course tailor the template to your advantage.
If I can remember my first client was an e-commerce fulfillment website this company hehe I’m proud of the work I’ve done for them so I’m sharing it here but feel free to remove the link if it’s not allowed. It was an easy job cause they were just creating assets for sales but I realized I kind of ripped myself off cause I wasn’t sure of how much to charge.
And since they were my first client it was kind of a giveaway on my end which was bad cause eventually I got referred by this client to another company and mentioned my rate. So when I spoke to that other company they already had their target price set. And for me, since I was a noob at negotiating I went on and on with the same rate for a year until I finally got my bragging rights since I already created a working portfolio.
So for you be wise when charging. I like what they mentioned here about non-billable hours and other expenses cause I wasn’t aware of any of those back then. All I wanted to do was to get clients and earn.