If you didn’t already know – I build websites. My work has allowed me to grow professionally, personally and it’s inspired me in a lot of different areas of design, marketing and creativity. But websites were my first love.
That love brought me to my second WordCamp ever this year, and I am filled with new inspiration because of it. There were so many talented people, networking opportunities, advice, great sessions (there were a few times I wished I could’ve been in two sessions at once!), etc. I even had the chance to meet a couple of the speakers, like Jayvie Canono, who recently made the courageous leap into full-time freelancing; Jonathan Stephens, who is about to embark on an amazing new career endeavor overseas; and a handful of new Twitter buddies – all of whom are super impressive Web designers, however they wear many hats.
At first I found myself falling into the usual self-doubt trap of, “I don’t belong here with these people, just look at what they can do!” But that’s that kind of thinking I need to stop. In fact, I attended a talk by Nina East who really drove the point home about valuing your work.
Here are a few other takeaways from WordCamp that really spoke to me.
Get known for good work
Seems simple enough, right? Just make sure you are living that mindset every day. Value your work/time. Some other really good ones:
- Set boundaries for you and your client. I have a client now that gets to be very chatty when she calls me up. I don’t like to be rude so this may be a hard one to break, but it’s important to realize (and for your clients to realize) that you’re not on-call. Which leads me to..
- You don’t want your clients running your business for you. Business owners have a life just like everyone else. We eat, sleep, have families.. Create a work day, and stick to it. Make sure your clients stick to it. Schedule calls if need be. Everything is not an emergency.
- Shut down the computer at the end of your work day. When your work day is over, shut that computer down and walk away.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about money. And stick to your fee.
- Communication. This is sort of an, “of course,” but it’s worth repeating – Be clear on what the client wants. Be clear about what you can do. (Know your strengths and be honest with yourself!)
Jay also mentioned checking out your local Small Business Administration (SBA) which I am grateful to, because I’ve actually gotten referrals through ours, and I met one of my sweetest clients that way. I was also glad to know that even a very skilled designer like Jay still uses pen and paper for taking project notes. I like my tools, but sometimes I just like rocking a fine-point pen and a cute notebook.
Wanna know the key to being awesome? Here it is: Keep evolving. If you don’t have something you’re working on or fine-tuning, you’re doing it wrong. This is one of the biggest takeaways I got from this year’s WordCamp. Some others:
- Be transparent. This goes for Web design, and life in general. If you can’t do something, don’t say you can. It’s okay to take on clients where you’re not 100% sure on some things, but be up front about it, and make sure they’re okay with working through the struggles with you.
- Be awesome, every time. This reminds me of that Abraham Lincoln quote, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Remember that your work is something you are putting your name on, so under promise, over deliver, but always be awesome.
- Don’t deliver goods until you are paid in FULL. Oh, how I wish I had practiced this before I started taking on freelance work. I’ve had a couple of shady clients where I made the mistake of doing a ton of work for them, and never got paid for it. Contracts and deposits are now my best friends.
- Unplug. OFTEN. You have to take some time to relax, refocus, etc. Take the time to go for a ride. Map out your projects, and don’t overload yourself.
- Friends, not competitors. If you’re not collaborating with others in your field, you’re not growing. You may even get work through other designers, I mean, how many people are there in this country? Yeah, pretty sure there’s enough work to go around.. and give back to the design community whenever you can.
You are a business owner
“What’s the #1 thing that gets in the way of business owners? Their mindset.” – Nina East
This session is just what I needed. I’ve been wanting to raise my Web work fees for awhile now, but I stood in my own way. What I needed to own is this simple fact – I’m a business owner, I pay my extra taxes for it, and I have a lot to offer. I’m “more than just some person who builds websites for people.”
- The more you do it, the faster you get.. people should pay more for that, not less. Plus, it seems almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy, that when you charge more, you’ve accepted the challenge to “show up” more powerfully, and deliver awesome work. I mean, people are paying you – you better show up!
- Don’t trade time for dollars. This is a habit that’s going to be hard to break, but it’s necessary. Time isn’t what matters, it’s the value I provide my clients, all of my experience, training, etc.
- Give clients a framework. Design packages so that clients will already know the range you charge in, which makes money conversations easier.
- Work out a payment timeline. Do this ahead of starting a project, and make it so clients must pay on schedule whether they have given you material or not.
- Reach clients on an emotional level. It’s not about what’s important to you – find out what’s important to them.
This talk, Jayvie’s, and Drew’s talk made me realize that I may need to draft a new client contract with an attorney in the near future. Oh, and to always just remain calm. People are people.
Start with Typography
Jonathan’s talk gave me a new perspective on design as well, and it was just one of those, “of course!” moments where I could kick myself for not already having this practice down. Basically when you’re designing a website, start with typography. Then move on to the design – grid, layout, etc.
Well, thanks for the memories WordCamp Raleigh! See you next year, hopefully!