This is intended to just be a short list of tips for web designers – old and new – to help make doing business a little less painful. In case you didn’t know in addition to my full time job I also am self-employed as a freelance Web/Graphic/Flash designer here in Idaho. You can view my personal Idaho Web Design site by clicking the link here.
Now, on with the tips:
1 – Always answer your customer – or especially your prospective customer – as soon as possible! There is nothing worse than losing a job simply because you didn’t take the 5 minutes to reply back and let them know the status of their job, or answer their questions.
2 – Take notes. Every phone call, every meeting – take notes of what the customer is telling you. These can really save your bacon when two days after a meeting you don’t remember what the customer wanted. If you take good notes you will be a step ahead.
3 – Be flexible. On price, on time, on whatever you need to be. If you are doing a site for a small company, or individual, or non-profit you might need to adjust your pricing to suit them. This doesn’t mean cut your own throat, but it does mean you need to understand Joe Average might not be able to sink $1500 into a site as easily as a large company or high-end customer. If you can’t lower your price offer to work out a payment plan, or offer a slightly dumbed down design as an option. Better to lose a little money than to lose the job completely.
4 – Understand the customer is coming to you because they can not (or do not want to) create their own website. In most cases your customers will have about all the tech savvy of a hard boiled egg. Be prepared to explain what you are offering, and how you can accomplish it, in very basic language.
5 – Get your customers full contact info at the first meeting. God forbid they decide to skip town and screw you on payment, but if they do having more than just a first name and telephone number could make all the difference in tracking them down and getting paid. Good info to get: Full Name, Address, Home and Cell phone numbers, if possible find out where they are employed or where their business is located.
6 – Create invoices. It’s as simple as opening notepad and typing in info. Any time you open their site and do work, keep track of your time and what tasks you accomplished. Also use your invoices to keep track of payment received so if there is ever any question you can find exactly what money has changed hands. I also usually start my invoices with the customer name, contact info, ANY login info (hosting, registration etc) so that I don’t have to go scrambling for post-its when that info is needed. This will save you alot of headaches down the road, and will allow you to create accurate receipts and billing statements for customers as well.
7 – Get it in writing. I realize in the first meeting with a potential customer they very likely won’t have any more idea of what they really want from their site than you do. But once that inital concept is approved and the basics have been established write up just a brief contract detailing what tasks you will accomplish, a timeline for changes to be made, how long the customer has to make changes to the initial design without incurring further charges, and other details like when payment needs to be received and what amount. (I will be adding a link to a simple example soon) This will save you endless trouble when you get those clients who want the world for free or who after the site goes live decide that they want to reinvent the wheel. Have it all laid out in black-and-white: this is what you will be getting, this is what it will cost, if you want it changed after its done it will cost you X amount. This is also a good means to establish what your hourly fees will be etc. Otherwise you can get caught making endless changes and updates either for free or end up having to find a way to tell the customer they have to shell out more cash for what they thought they already paid for.
I hope this has been of some help – I will be adding more as they come to me, or if you have some ideas you think are important to include send them along!