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Avoiding Mistakes as a Graphic Design Freelancer

Avoiding Mistakes as a Graphic Design Freelancer

Mike Lenhart

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes. When we get in the graphic design business and start freelancing or even working for our own firm, the potential for business mistakes can increase significantly. I’ve thought about this and want to give you 5 of the most serious mistakes, in my opinion, that can occur.

The 5 Mistakes

1. Not Communicating

This means not communicating to your colleagues and associates as well as your clients. There are many times when we think we know that the other person knows what we’re doing or thinking. That’s rarely the case, though. We need to keep in contact with our clients through the project process and even when it’s all over. We need to talk to our co-workers so they know that we’re on the same wavelength with them and that we’re doing things in synch. If you don’t communicate, you’re going to get into trouble.

2. Not Having a Plan

If we go through our day and projects without having a plan around them, then we’re really spinning our wheels. This means having a quarterly or annual marketing plan. You’ll also need to have a revenue and expense projection so you can see how you’re doing through the course of the year. It’s a pain, I hate it, but it is so important to do this. Have a plan, write it down, and check it every quarter to see if you’re keeping up with it. It’s OK to revise your plan through the year as things do change.

3. Talking About Your Rates too Much

Talking about rates with clients is one thing, but discussing the actual numbers with your friendly competitors or others in the same industry or marketplace as you can lead to problems. There is a thing called price-fixing and it’s not legal in the business world. If we all got together and decided what rate to charge all the time, competition wouldn’t exist and the way of life in American capitalism would really get messed up. So, don’t collude with others in your industry. Ask the clients about what the competition is charging. You don’t need to get actual numbers from your clients, just find out if you’re in the ballpark, or too high or low.

4. Giving Away the Store

We all get caught sometimes in a project that doesn’t ever seem to end. OK, the contract was a little vague and the client is inadvertantly taking advantage of our good graces. Instead of 3 rounds of changes you’re doing 6. Instead of 2 color palettes you’re doing 4 and then incorporating the client’s subsequent color ideas. Our time and profession are valuable and we really need to keep on top of the time spent on things. We also need to keep the contract thorough and specific and adhere to it as the project progresses. Don’t worry or be afraid to tell the client when things are getting off track. We need to keep our credibility.

5. Not Taking a Break

We can’t work all the time. We need to get away from the computer screen now and again and take care of ourselves. I guarantee, there’s going to be a burnout problem if you don’t take breaks and don’t keep track of your design time. We need to work the hours that work for us. If we’re under a tight deadline and have to work for a long stretch, so be it. Just take the time off when it’s all over to recharge your batteries and renew your spirit. There’s no worse feeling when working on a new project with burnout and not delivering our best work. We know it when it happens, so be careful.

The above 5 mistakes are not in order of importance and are not the only mistakes that can be made. There are many other things that we can screw up – especially early on in our careers. It’s OK to make these mistakes, we just need to learn from them and see how we can do things differently the next time. After all, we’re not complete idiots.

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