How can I keep a thriving freelance business not only sustainable, but growing year over year for over 15 years (except in 2009, which happened to suck for everyone on the planet.)
“Vince, how do you get anything done at home? When I’M HOME, I just like to chill, take it easy, and NOT WORK. What’s your secret?”
And my answer is always the same.
“When I tell someone I’m going to do something, I do it.”
Pretty simple, really. But it’s more than that.
It’s about rockin’ the deadline!
When I make a promise to someone for creative consulting (and get a signed contract + deposit), I can’t just blow them off just because I happen to work in my basement studio. WTF would that make me? Geographic location does not matter. It’s the promise that’s important.
Just because I am self employed and working from my home studio (which happens to completely rock, see photos below) does NOT mean I am void of responsibility.
In fact the OPPOSITE is true.
I am now 100% in charge of my own success or failure, and own destiny. This motivates me even more to fulfill my commitments.
No one else is going to do this for me. This is MY baby.
Sure, I outsource a lot of my work to other independent consultants, and I manage the creative direction of all projects and keep everyone on schedule, but in terms of client expectation management, that’s ALL ME.
I have control over my present situation and my future prospects.
I can’t blame anyone else if something goes south.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My Studio space (inside & out)
See panorama photos above of my studio and canyon view. I am fortunate enough to live on gorgeous canyon in sunny southern California. Check out the custom orange paint job!! Yeah I painted the door, too. Hey it’s my space, right? Click on the photos for more detail.
The Average Client Life is Under 3 yrs
One way I keep my clients up to 3x as long as the average client relationship in an agency, is that I like to kick ass when it comes to the relationship I have with the client.
Believe it or not, clients are human, too.
Clients need to be respected. They need to know that you have your shit together and they have to believe you believe in them.
Essentially, every interaction with your clients an opportunity to blow their minds.
You’ve heard it before, but I like to under-promise and over-deliver, every time.
My reputation is at stake. And the ongoing future business helps me pay my sizable California home mortgage, so there’s that, too.
Ok, let me get to the point…
What’s the secret?
2 Words: Deadline Management
What? Yeah, that’s right. Deadlines.
Deadlines are opportunities just waiting to happen.
An opportunity to stand out. To kick ass. To make the client ‘feel’ like you’re on top of it, even if you’re not. :))
It’s amazing to me how many young freelancers, or young to mid-level designers with full time gigs and freelancing on the side, consistently miss deadlines. Blows my mind. Why? I think it’s beyond lazy. Maybe it’s a bad habit from college that has now become routine?
Please do not blow your deadlines. No matter the reason or excuse, it actually devalues the entire industry, so it has to stop. Thanks in advance.
The Simple Trick?
Just pad your deadlines by 20%.
Yep, that’s it. Ok, it’s a bit harder to do that it sounds, but it’s a freakin’ game changer.
If something is due in 3 weeks, place it on your calendar for 2.5 weeks. Forget 3 weeks. Your deadline is 2.5 weeks. That’s how your rock the deadline.
(sure the actual creative deliverable still has to kick ass… but that’s a given. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting another freaking graphic designer in the universe, so your work needs to be strong, as well as your work ethic)
Stop bitching and get the work done. Is it done yet?
2.5 weeks go by, and you deliver the work.
In the client eyes it’s early, to you it’s on schedule. Simple, right? And wooooohooooooo, they’re giddy with delight!!!
“Did he really just deliver this mouth-watering creative 3 days BEFORE it was due? LOVE this guy!!!”
This is the thought process of the client. They eat this up. THEY LOVE IT. They feel amazing because they get credit for finding you, and now you are making them look smart to their bosses and superiors. Part of this is the secret sauce of deadline management.
The perfect recipe for a fruitful long term relationship and consistent flow of projects from someone that trusts you.
All because you changed the calendar.
And because you’re a professional that cares.
You’ve done your job if they KNOW you care about them both professional and personally.
People work with who they’d like to have a cocktail with.
But trust me on this, no matter how much they LIKE you, you’re screwed if you blow deadlines…
Yes clients work with who they like, but they need to trust you’ll get the damn work done. Deliver your work early and they’ll trust you for more and more responsibility.
Happier clients = consistent work = more independence = more smiles = better life
So get in the habit of delivering your projects early. Not the day of, not the day after. EARLY.
Your career will thank you for it. If you have any tricks or tools you use to excel at freelancing, please share in the comments below.
Secret Sauce graphics
See below some of the work that went into creating the graphics for this post.
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