Grasp the Business End of Your Business
New web design ventures can easily fail. The main reason isn’t because we don’t know our technical stuff, but we neglect to develop our eye for business i.e., our entrepreneurial side. Yes, we’re talking about those little pesky, but critical things like — accounting and taxes, time and project management, as well as planning and marketing.
If you need help in one or more of these areas, start by reading a book or your nook about business basics. Small business organizations and educational institutions offer a variety of free or low cost seminars; many of which you can conveniently take online. If you’re really in the dark when it comes to crunching numbers, spend a few bucks on an accountant to get you started. Take an entrepreneur’s word for it—learning business basics is well worth the investment.
Build Your Communication Skills
Communication is the lifeblood of your design business: It’s the process by which you convey information about your venture. It includes many modes from writing to speaking and listening using a variety of tools and techniques.
Good communication skills help you to understand, document and meet your client’s needs, preventing a lot of headache down the road — not to mention heading down the wrong path to begin with. Remember, many clients have no clue as to what you do, so their expectations may go well beyond your perception of the project’s scope. It’s your responsibility to communicate well by asking the right questions, and listening closely in return. Similarly, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so take advantage of a treasure trove of visual tools to communicate vividly with your customers and business associates.
From a verbal and visual power point presentation that polishes your first impression, to a well written contract that clearly defines your project’s scope, deliverables and payment terms, good communication skills will help you to excel and stand out from the crowd.
Network, Network and Network
It’s hard growing a business alone. Networking is vital, as it allows you to develop relationships with other professionals and to promote your business to prospective clients. As a freelance designer you don’t have in house resources to turn to when you encounter technical problems, or the opportunity to meet with colleagues and discuss ideas.
The good news is – You can find a network of professionals right at your fingertips. LinkedIn and Fast Pitch are popular sites to introduce yourself in the business world and meet new clients and colleagues. For general business connections you may be interested in Entrepreneur Connect or Biznik. If you’re looking for sites tuned in to techies like yourself, explore Cofoundr.
In addition, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter prove to be an excellent marketing tool. Whether you want to get the word out about your new adventure or showcase your talents, these forums enable you to reach out to your audience and boost your clientele. Power your growth through networking both online and off.
Make Your Rules
Freelancing requires discipline, which means you have to set a schedule and rules… and follow them! As a freelancer you’ll probably be working from home facing many distractions—the kids, unexpected guests and phone calls. Furthermore, you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to keep you on course. Many of us like to believe that we are fantastic multitaskers, but to the contrary, multitasking actually reduces our efficiency. Every time you stop to send a text, chat on the phone or drop in on Facebook it takes at least 15 minutes to refocus.
For those reasons, turn off the gadgets, create a separate and quiet work space, and last but not least, set a routine work schedule. You can carve out 15 minute time slots to take a break and manage sideline tasks. Consider investing in inexpensive time management software to track your hours. To increase your performance, take the leap to a project management system. The precious time you have is valuable, so devise a set of rules and a schedule to make your efforts as efficient and productive as possible.
Consider Your Cash Flow
You’ve heard it a thousand times — It takes a lot of time and hard work to build a successful business. As a result, you won’t be rolling in the dough initially. When you freelance, income is not guaranteed nor is it consistent. You will frequently need to spend valuable time just finding new clients and building a customer base. The critical point here is — gradually grow your new business before quitting your day job. A steady flow of income will smooth the bumps you’ll experience during your learning curve. Instead of stressing over finances, you’ll have the luxury of focusing on both your creative and business sides.