1. Take the time to create a detailed plan
When I meet with clients you need to be sure and convey how much time it actually takes to do web design or anything technical. Even when you have been doing IT work for 10 years, a job done well is going to take some time.
2. Gather Requirements
I’ve been freelancing for years now and only recently have I started becoming truly profitable. Often times I would spend so many hours on a project that my rate of pay was below minimum wage. As a Business Analyst for Texas Instruments I learned that it is important to spend a little bit of time gathering exactly what the clients requirements are. You have to come in with a handful of probing questions and you don’t just ask the questions once, you ask them repeatedly in varying ways and then you repeat them back to your client. “So what you just said to me is that you want a blue website with florescent green font and a red logo?”
3. Don’t Lower Your Standards
I had a client ask me to build them a website around an ugly logo. The logo as so bad that it was like asking me to take a turd and to bake a cake with it. I informed the client that they needed to update their logo and that it would be really hard for me to build something nice and visually pleasing around it. I actually attempted to make the site in three different layouts, but the font on their logo with the ugly background colors and clashing blue and green Times New Roman Font continued to limit my creativity. I finally told the client that it wasn’t possible for me to work with this logo. I have to be able to do work that I am proud of in order to do an amazing job for my clients.
4. Get the Money Up Front!
Whatever you do, do not start a project unless you get some money up front. Clients should be willing to pay 25 to 50 percent down and the rest of the money upon completion of the site. When you don’t get money up front then the client has the ability to draw out the project indefinitely. Instead, create a contract with simple terms stating the agreement, the expectations and when the site will be done. Hold up your end of the bargain and make sure they hold up theirs.
5. The client is rarely right
I’ve found that most of my clients do not even have the faintest idea about design or IT work and how much time it takes to make simple graphics look good in multiple browsers. If it looks great in IE it might not look good in Firefox or Mozilla. Also, when it comes to design they often want to pair colors and images that clash or they want the logo bigger or something animated. Beautiful web design doesn’t have to be gimmicky and a good designer knows how to highlight your product without coming across as desperate.
I don’t know everything yet and I’ve found some great sites to help me learn. One of them is smashingmagazine.com and the other is wakeuplater.com
Okay, I gotta get back to work!