This post is part 2 in a series of 3 posts of starting your design business.
Starting your design business – Part 1: Prepare
Starting your design business – Part 2: Get started
Starting your design business – Part 3: Keep it up
Keeping it up
Preparation, check. Get started, check. First client, check. Now how do I keep working? Ok, so you didn’t get the roller coaster ride you were hoping for. That happens to 90% of all startups, but don’t worry. There are ways to work towards a comfortable lifestyle based on your business. They all involve hard work, but that’s what you’ve prepared for.
Assuming you’ve had a few clients, and not just that one first client there are a few tricks to keep the money coming. The easiest one is the service call. A service call is a phone call to ask how your client is doing, just some small talk, chit-chat. This is where you have to activate your “possible-sale-signal-detector-hat” (for a lack of a better word). Don’t let your second question, after “how are you”, be “need anything else?”. It will be a short phone call, I can tell you right now. Ask if the client had response on the project, and if they did, what the response was. There are always comments, ranging from “cool, but I missed [fill in blank]” to “awesome!”. Absorb these comments. If it was all positive, keep doing what you’re doing, unless they were lying. If you get negative feedback or suggestions, absorb this as well! No buts! Work out a way with the client to fix the negative feedback.
Why not ask for referrals? Assuming your current clients are happy (they should be, because you did your service call), they are the ones that can give you free advertising. In my experience you need to reward your current clients for referring a new one. I guarantee you, it will not hurt to give your current client a x% discount on their next purchase for referring a new client.
I gave away cash once. $ 100 For each referral a client did. I had to add a time-limit to the promotion. I rest my case.
A full project management system doesn’t mean it will be full for the following months. Be prepared. The projects you’re working on WILL end. So, even when you’re busy with projects, keep talking to people, keep asking for referrals, keep advertising (if you were). I made the mistake once, to stop working on raking in clients because I was so busy. 2 months later, all my projects were done, and I had no new projects lined up. Good thing I had the safety net I talked about in part 1.
Find a rhythm
Being busy, doing the things you love doing is awesome, but you have to rest. I’m at the point where I decided not to read/answer any client email on weekends. I’m not designing on weekends, unless I have a really good idea for a client project, but I keep it to a minimum of something like sketching a design, so I can continue on monday. That way I have time for other things, like spending time with my wife, friends and in-laws.
I have a daily routine which starts with a shower. After that I read my rss-feeds with my breakfast-bowl. Next are emails. Emails I can answer right away get done first. The emails I have to do something for (like fixing a css, or add something to content) will be planned later in the day. After I’m done my “quick emails”, I check my project manager to see which projects need instant attention and I’ll work on that ’till lunch. I tend to watch a TV-show during lunch, to make sure I take enough time for my lunch break. When lunch is gone, I keep going on the project I started working on, until about halfway in the afternoon, when I get up to take a walk to the post office down the street to get the mail. Depending on what’s in the mail, I usually get back right away to finish up the things to do from the email in the morning, usually until supper time. Depending how much I got done during the day, I continue work in the evening, but no more client-communication.
I found other people going even further. I haven’t done it myself, but it seems tempting, and I might give it a try. Some designers have their days planned like Monday – client emails, Tuesday – Design projects, Wednesday – coding-day, etc.
By this time, you should have established a business that is able to bring in a decent money-flow and have your own ways of making your business a successful one.
Like I said in part 1, these tips are not guaranteed success. This is the way I started my business, and I’m hoping it will help you start yours.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve used these tips, or if you have tips for me (I’m always learning).