Well look at several aspects. Clients, Pricing, and Finding Work.
Everything I know about clients can be summed up with this – “They are all different.”
However, here are a few tips that might help with any client.
- Figure out what their needs/wants are. Someone might come and tell you “I want a web site.” so ask them, “What do you want the site to do?” or “30 days after the site is completed, what is different about your business?” If they don’t know, you can’t make them happy, because they don’t know what it will take to be happy.
- Get a list of requirements. Try to be as specific as possible. This is more likely to guarantee success.
- Know your limitations. Know what you can and cannot do. There is nothing wrong with not being able to do everything.
- Network with others. In fact, not knowing everything is ok, not knowing someone else who can help is bad however. Work with other people, and use each other’s strengths to be better overall.
- Use a contract to help both you and your client. Contracts should be beneficial to both parties, allowing each other to know what is required of them, and how it affects the overall plan (them getting you information late, changes the due date, you not being ready when specified causes X to happen, and my favorite, additional changes beyond initial scope of work are billed at X dollars an hour.
- Give yourself, even if the client doesn’t require it, several mid-term due dates. By adopting several due dates to keep along the way, it increases the chances of you getting your project done on time by eliminating slippage from “its not due for 3 weeks” mentality.
- Make things simple for your client. Too many choices can confuse a client. Offer them one or two choices, but no more if possible. Just make sure your choices are good. This way they don’t waste time trying to choose between them.
- Assign them “homework”. Have them tell you about sites they like/don’t like, parts of pages they like, want to incorporate into their own site. Also have them point out things they definitely don’t want to see in their site.
- Know when to walk away. Some clients should be “fired”. I hate doing it, but it is right when you cannot work with each other anymore for any number or reasons.
- Be friendly, but not a friend. It is always good to have a good working relationship with your clients, but don’t be “too friendly” as it can cause strains on the business relationship by asking for “personal favors”. “Could you do this for me?”
Pricing is always a “sticky” subject. Someone who holds another job to “pay the bills and have insurance” doesn’t have to charge the same as someone who has this as there only source of income.
There are lots of factors involved in what you should charge. But here are some simple steps.
- Develop a personal budget. You must do this first to know what it takes to live. (Food, transportation, communication, housing, clothing, etc. Everything you need to live should be in here!) If you don’t know what you are spending (more common than not, write down everything you spend money on in a month, then add it up. You’ll be surprised!) Also, don’t forget to add in things which you don’t pay every month (car/house insurance which may be paid semi-annually or annually, holiday and birthday gifts, doctor visits.)
- Develop a business budget. What will you need to spend in order to be in business. Business license, taxes (don’t forget self-employed tax), business insurance, additional computer and communication cost?
- Determine how many hours you need to work. There is no such thing as a 40 hour freelance work week. Sometimes you work 60, sometimes you work none. If you work 40 hours a week, you will spend 10-20% as non-billable (invoicing, writing proposals, etc.), possibly more as you are starting out looking for work.
- Determine if you can charge what you need to, in order to work the number of hours required. i.e. $4k/month, 50 hours a week (@ 85% billable) would equate to.
50*.85 = 42.5 hours billable
42.5*4 (weeks/month) = 170 billable hours per month
$4000 / 170 hours = $23.5 / hour
- Add a little extra to save for when the computer breaks, you need new software, etc.
- Add extra so you can afford some down time (self imposed i.e. vacations or otherwise when it is just dry).
- Learn about residual income.
(Are you worth that much? Can you guarantee 50 hours work a week on average? How many weeks/months can you go lean?) These are tough questions no one wants to answer, but you have to.
I have personally chosen to work other places to provide “stable” income and insurance, and freelanced to provide variety, and additional income.
There is work all over, you just have to know where to look.
I’ve not had a lot of luck with sites like elance, do to oversees competition. When someone can live nicely on $1000 US a month I can’t compete on their rates, and I’ve found most of those posting on site like that, are looking for price only.
Determine what “extra” you bring to the table to justify your price, and use that to your advantage. i.e. They need a website, you offer to do that, with the added bonus of __________ (print layout, SEO, Flash, banner ads, SEM, etc).
- Always be looking for work, or partial work. If you see a site that needs to be redone, offer to do it.
- Do some work with non-profits. But treat them like a regular client with proposals, time schedules, etc. Also show them what it would have cost, even if you don’t charge them. This gives value to your work.
- Build other “dummy” sites, to keep in practice and expand your skills. I like to (re)build/modify one every-so-often just to learn something new. (I’m currently working on redoing my wife’s site so it makes use of the 980 CSS grid system.)
- Keep and up to date portfolio, but show how it worked for the client. Other people may like how your site looks, but companies want to know how it will help them.