Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grinders and Clients

I had dinner last night with some good friends. At one point the discussion turned to business and specifically some of our dealings with clients. 

My pal Carl who has years of experience with sales said to me "Rob, in this world we have grinders and we have clients".

Carl continued... "For a client we do anything they want... they respect what we do and they pay their bills without a complaint. Then we have the grinders. They are never happy with any quote, make changes and changes over and over again. Then they try to reduce the bill down even more."

I have clients that I will jump off a roof for. They pay their bills on time, and are reasonable with their demands. 

I have run into a grinder or two (or three) on occasion and at the end  of the day you can be real busy but not make any money trying to please folks like this.

What can you do when you run into a grinder?

This is what I do:
 I deliver my project on time and on budget. But I remind my "grinder" if you give me a brief and I do the work, then you change the brief... it's a different assignment. There will be an additional fee.

Sometimes I lose the account. 

But I suspect that the "grinders" are used to that. They go from person to person always trying to get more work done at a lower and lower cost. 

What they don't realize is that if they had a good working relationship with a designer, they could SAVE money in the long run because sometimes elements can be picked up from previous assignments or they don't have to "re-invent" the wheel every time they have a new assignment.

To be a successful freelancer, sometimes you have to say no to an account if the amount of time you are spending on them is more than what they are paying.

Bottom line... work with your clients. Deliver more than what you promise and they will always come back to work with you. And if a client turns out to be a "grinder" run for the hills... they won't be happy and neither will you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

a $350 web site?... a rant

I just got a call from a woman who wanted me to design a web site for her.

She's starting an online clothing company. Here's her brief:

500 photos of her products.
The photos all need "minor" retouching... remove backgrounds, clean up.
Needs a shopping cart.
Wants an e-mail to go to the shopper confirming the order.
E-mail to her with the specifics.


Now, I'm the first person to try to help someone out... especially if they are just starting out. But $350 doesn't even start to cover the retouching.

I've done large projects for clients at a discounted rate, because I know that when they have the budget, they let me know. Sometimes my clients will say... "hey Rob, throw another $500 on that project to cover that last job you did for us where we didn't have much money."

Now that's how I like to work... it doesn't matter how much I make on a single job with my clients, it's how much I earn over the year with them that counts.

Bottom line.. if you want to be a successful freelancer... be fair with your clients. They will be fair with you. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Generating new business- 2

Use the power of the web to generate new business. There are many free sites that allow you to post your resume, bid for projects and sites designed for freelancers to promote their talents and portfolios.

Every day, I spend about 15 minutes posting ads on various sites. 

Just this week, I got 2 assignments in.  A post card mailing piece and a logo design. These two projects brought in a little over $1,000. Not bad for not leaving my home.

Most of the work I get now is through the internet. Years ago I knocked on doors and I still have some of those clients... but the bulk of my work now is through promoting through the web. 

Another way of generating business is through the "Red Book of Advertising Agencies". Many agencies use freelancers to cover themselves when they are overloaded or if they think their people can't handle the assignment.

Go to the library to look at the Red Book of Advertising Agencies... it's a reference book. You can't take it out. So bring a pad and pencil or your laptop. Inside this reference book you will learn:
The agencies in your home town.
The name of the creative director and art directors.
The names of their accounts.
The address and phone numbers.

This is info is greatly important because if you have experience with package goods and they have a roster of package goods in your portfolio, then when you contact them you can play this up... Call the creative director up... "I've done work on similar accounts, Mr. Smith, can I come in and show you my portfolio this week?" The benefit of selling your serices to an agency is that they are professionals and will do all the "running around" for you... giving you the info and direction. They in turn will add a fee on top of your costs and sell it to the end user for a higher price.

Another way to generate business is to promote yourself to the end user... the company itself and not through the ad agency or graphic design studio. The benefit of doing it this way is that there are more companies out there that can use your help and you can come in a little less than "agency" prices and still make a reasonable profit. But be prepared to "hold hands" a lot because sometimes you will have to educate your client. Done properly, you will have a client that trust you and will be a client for life.

Bottom line... everyday you have to promote yourself... get on the web and to the library and do research.