Articles by ‘Laura Spencer’

Web Design Challenges: Hitting the Panic Button too Soon

Over the years, I’ve seen freelancers who I never thought would make it, succeed. I’ve watched other freelancers, who seemed extremely gifted to me, fail.

What was the difference? Why did some freelancers succeed while other, more talented freelancers failed?

Was my judgment of talent that bad? I don’t think so.

I’m convinced the real reason that some freelancers succeed while others fail is because many failed freelancers panic and give up on their freelancing business too soon. In other words, they panic…

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4 Tips to Keep In Person Meetings from Sucking Away Your Precious Time

Do you network with local businesses face-to-face?

Good for you. Building a strong foundation of local businesses who use your freelance web design services can only help you grow. Even getting together for a simple cup of coffee can be a good way to grow your business.

But did you know that there’s a wrong way and a right way to go about scheduling meetings?

The wrong way will take tons of time and yield practically no paying clients. The right way will help you promote your design services for a steady flow of new clients. Do you know the difference?

In this post, I’ll explain why bad networking practices can hurt your freelance business. I’ll also give you four tips to help you keep in person meetings from draining your pocketbook and sucking away your time…

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How to Stop Putting Off That Rate Increase and Double Your Income

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You know that popular story? The one about the brilliant creative genius who lives in a run-down one room apartment because he or she can’t afford anything more. That artist is starving, but never fear, the story always has a happy ending right? Once the artist dies, their work will be appreciated and they will become a household name and live forever in the art history books!

But wait a minute. There’s something very wrong with this scenario.

First of all, it’s not a happy ending if the artist has to die to succeed. Secondly, I don’t want to live like that. Do you? The story makes a good plot for a novel or a movie, but it’s not something any of us want to live. And we shouldn’t have to. Don’t live this stereotype!

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What Freelancers Absolutely Must Know about the Hot New Trends, Coworking & Hives

Does your freelancing web design future include other freelancers?

Many freelancers think dealing with coworkers became a thing of the past once they left traditional employment. But a new breed of freelancer is choosing to work closely with others, often in an office environment. And they’re thriving.

I’m talking about the new trends towards coworking and freelancing hives. As freelancers, it’s important to take note of new trends. It’s especially important when such trends seem to be working.

This article from Karsten Strauss on Forbes, Why Coworking Spaces Are Here To Stay, examines the popularity of coworking.

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Image Source: Steelcase by Cole Camplese CC by 2.0

In this post, we’ll take an even closer look at coworking and the latest freelancing trend, hives. We’ll examine some of the benefits (and drawbacks) of each.

If you liked this post, you may also like How to Transition from a Freelance Web Designer to a Lucrative Consulting Business.

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Is Your Freelance Web Design Business a Hot Mess? Five Questionable Business Practices to Avoid

You know you’re good at web design, but your freelance business just barely gets by. What could be wrong?

It could be that your freelance business is a hot mess, and you don’t even realize it.

In slang terms, a hot mess is an attractive person whose appearance is messy despite their underlying good looks. The term is often used to refer to stars and other celebrities who are spotted wearing ill-fitting clothes or who make questionable hair, makeup, and fashion choices.

Your freelancing business a hot mess if you are so disorganized that your business is failing despite your underlying design talent.

The thing about a hot mess is that they usually can’t see it in themselves. It takes someone else to point out their questionable choices and bad habits.
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Likewise, if your freelance web design business is a hot mess, you probably don’t even realize what’s wrong.

In this post, I’ll point out five questionable “hot mess” business practices that are keeping your design business from succeeding. These bad practices represent some of the worst business choices a freelancer can make. I’ll also explain how to stop being such a hot mess and get your web design business back on track.

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Be Unforgettable. Build Your Web Design Online Presence Even When You’re Busy

How do you get more clients? Build a strong online presence, of course.

If clients and prospects see you online, they are more likely to contact you about web design projects. An easy and cost-effective way to build a strong online presence is through social media.

The only problem with building an online presence through social media is that most freelancers tend to slack off when they are busy. It’s easy to participate in social media activities when your schedule is slow. It’s not so easy to participate when you are rushing to meet deadlines.

Unfortunately, when it comes to your online presence the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” often holds true. If your potential clients don’t see your name mentioned for a while, they are likely to forget about you and hire someone else.

You need a plan.

In this post, I share an easy plan for maintaining your social media presence when you are busy. Best of all, it only takes 40 minutes a day.

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Image Source: Remember me this way by basibanget CC by 2.0

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4 Ways to Wow Your Clients And Make Them Addicted To Your Services

Getting a return client can seem somewhat like finding the Fountain of Youth for most freelancers. Every freelancer wants to have them, but most freelancers have trouble getting them.

Freelance web design clients are particularly fickle. Once you’ve finished your web design work, many clients see no further need for your services. If you don’t do anything about it, they promptly forget you. When it comes time to hire a web designer again, they’ll probably use someone else.

Fortunately, It doesn’t have to be this way. You can take some steps to improve your chances of getting repeat business.

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In this post, I’ll share four steps that will keep your name in front of your clients and help them to remember you for their next web design project.

If you liked this post, you may also like 6 Very Effective Principles to Improve Your Customer Service & Make Your Clients Happy.

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44 Point Checklist to Use Before Quitting Your Day Job to Become a Freelance Web Designer

Are you thinking about quitting your job to become a freelance web designer?

Freelancers are in the news a lot lately. It’s tempting to think that freelancing is an easy way to make money. However, that’s not always the case.

Some people are just not ready to become freelancers. They may not have the right skills. They may be at a stage in their life where they would be better off doing something else. Or, they might not have the determination to succeed at freelancing.

It’s important to do some serious self-examination and soul-searching before you make the move to freelance web design. In this post I share a checklist of 44 questions to ask yourself before you decide to quit your day job.

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Image Source: quit your job by leasean CC by 2.0

If you liked this post, you may also like 10 Signs That You Are Ready for Full-Time Freelancing.

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Too Much, Too Fast. What To Do About Information Overload

Do you feel like you are drowning in a sea of information?

Blog posts, articles, ebooks, videos, podcasts, images, and more.

Like most web designers and other freelancers, you’re probably flooded with information. You probably receive newsletters and blog posts in your email inbox every single day. You also check several important industry blogs and news sites daily. In addition, you have to keep up with what’s going on with your clients and in your personal sphere. Whew!

Don’t feel bad if you’re overwhelmed. That’s a natural response to information overload.

If you tried to absorb everything that was thrown at you, you probably wouldn’t be able to do it. Even if you spent the entire day reading and listening to podcasts.
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In this post, I share a brief overview on information overload. I also share four tactics for overcoming it.

If you liked this post, you may also like 45 Design Blogs on Facebook.

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Web Designers, Are You Missing Out on Crucial Face-to-Face Networking?

When was the last time you met in person with a client or prospect? That long, huh?

Like many freelancers, web designers understand the importance of networking. And in this digital age, most of us tend to do our networking online. It’s faster. It’s easier. But it’s not always the best choice.

The Internet is filled with advice on how to network online. There’s a good reason for that. There are at least half a dozen excellent social media tools available that can help you with networking. Each social site has its own set of rules and standards, so there’s room for plenty of articles offering advice.

In the rush to join the social networking crowd, many of us have neglected an old school networking technique that still works–face-to-face networking. If you rely only on virtual networking, you may be missing out on some great opportunities.

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This post is for those freelance web designers who want more from networking. I’ll discuss the importance of face-to-face networking. I’ll even provide a few tips on how (and where) to get started with face-to-face networking.

If you liked this post, you may also like Are You Overlooking These 5 Proven Methods for Networking Online?.

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The Real Truth About Design Contests, What You Need to Know

And you just won…nothing.

That, right there, is the first truth that you need to know about design contests. Not everyone who enters a design contest will win.

Yet, it seems like contests are everywhere.

It’s easy to be enticed to enter contests with the shiny offers of exciting prizes and in some cases, cash. But if you do enter a design contest, don’t count on winning. Most entrants never place high enough to win a prize. And some contests are outright scams.

Is it worth it to enter a design contest? It depends. If you’re thinking about entering a contest, you should consider all the risks before you put serious effort into a contest entry.

In this post, I share four vital questions you should ask yourself before entering a design contest. If you liked this post, you’ll probably also like 7 Practical Ways to Gain Exposure as a Designer.

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Does Your Design Blog Need a Podcast? Plus, 8 Free Podcasting Software Tools

Blog content is important, right? If you have a web design blog for your freelance web design business, you already know how having a blog can help you attract traffic and establish yourself as an expert. (If you don’t have a blog on your freelancing website, why don’t you?)

Blogs need content, but not all content is writing. Podcasts are an important type of content that is often overlooked. Consider adding a podcast to your freelancing blog to give it more variety.

Podcasts are audio or video files that you add to your blog. You can also submit your audio file podcasts to iTunes. While some podcasts contain music, many successful bloggers present informative material with podcasts and you can too. For the purposes of this post, we’ll be discussing audio podcasts.

Podcasting is not for everyone. But adding a podcast to your blog may be just the thing you need to set your web design business apart from the rest.

In this in this introduction to podcasting, I’ll explain how podcasting can help you promote your web design business. I’ll also identify some tools to help you to get started with podcasting. Finally, I’ll include some tips and tutorials so that you can learn more about podcasting.
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Image Source: ON THE AIR by Rochelle Hartman CC by 2.0

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How to Keep Common Editing Goofs from Ruining Your Great Design

Oh no!

How did you miss it? The client’s name is misspelled on the design you turned in. How embarrassing.

You spend a lot of time your designs. As a result, your designs look great. And your clients love them.

There’s something they won’t love, though. That’s an editing goof. Yet, probably because they’re not focused on words, many designers overlook the importance of editing the copy that goes with their design.

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5 Quick Marketing Tips to Keep the Client Pipeline Flowing

Does this sound familiar?

You’re busy with web design work, so busy that you don’t have time to market your freelancing business. You have multiple projects going on at the same time,so many that you can barely get them done.

Then, when you’ve finished your last project, there’s a deadening silence. Projects aren’t coming in. You aren’t hearing from potential clients. And you’re starting to panic.

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What’s happened is simple. Your web design client pipeline has simply dried up. Seasoned freelancers refer to this as the feast or famine cycle.

The fact is that your slowdown happened because you stopped marketing your business while you were busy.

You may think that you don’t have time to market your freelancing business, but you can continue to market your business when you are busy without spending a lot of time. In this post, I’ll share five mostly quick marketing tips that you can use even when you’re very busy. By using one or several of these tips, you can keep your client pipeline flowing.

If you liked this post, you may also like Facts About Marketing for Freelance Designers.

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7 Top Tips for Balancing Multiple Web Design Clients

Being a freelance web designer can be a bit like being a juggler. By that I mean that most of the time you have more than one web design project you are working on. You have to keep all of your projects going and on schedule. The juggling act can be a real challenge.

Juggling Multiple Clients

If you come from traditional employment background, balancing multiple clients is probably new for you and it will probably require you to change your attitude and your work habits.

In traditional employment, the employer assigns projects to you based on your current project. They also tell you which projects are most critical and which are not. If they’re a good employer, they’ll also make sure that you’re not too overloaded and provide you with constructive feedback.

As a freelance web designer, things are completely different. You’re responsible for finding projects to work on. It’s very easy to accidentally overload yourself. In addition, many clients do not provide feedback. And not only do you have to keep one organization happy–it’s likely that you will deal with multiple clients, often at the same time.

If you’re having trouble balancing multiple clients, this post can help. In it I provide seven tips to help you work more effectively with multiple clients.

If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.

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10 Signs That You Bring a Business Mindset to Your Freelance Web Design Business

You have the web design skills. You have the knowledge. You have the experience. Yet, you could still be missing a critical element that is crucial to your success in running a freelance web design business.

Having a business mindset means that you treat your freelance business like, well, a business.

Freelancers who don’t take care of the business end of things often face obstacles and struggles as result. Sadly, some freelancers who lack a business mindset wind up paying for it in the long term when their web design business runs into trouble.

attitude is everything - motivational slogan on a napkin with a cup of coffee

Fortunately, there are some pretty easy signs to tell whether you bring a business mindset to your work. In this post, I’ll identify ten such signs. If you find that you lack a business mindset, it’s not too late to make a few changes.

If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Ways to Kill Your Freelance Career Before it Starts.

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How to Transition from a Freelance Web Designer to a Lucrative Consulting Business

Did you ever feel that you have more work than you can handle? Have you thought about moving your freelance web design business to a new level, but don’t want the responsibilities of owning a larger business? Do you feel boxed in, doing the same type of projects over and over again?

If you’re an experienced web designer who feels this way, you’re not alone. After a few years, many web designers look for ways to expand their business. Often, they immediately think of growing the business larger–perhaps becoming an agency. However, there are other options.

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You don’t have to grow your business larger to expand. You can escape the boxed in feeling. You can transition from doing design work to being a web design consultant. In this post, I’ll discuss how to do that.

If you liked this post, you may also like Pros and Cons of Outsourcing.

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How to Hire the Very Best Subcontractor

At some point during your freelance web design career, you may find yourself with more project work than you can handle. Whether you’ve overextended yourself or you’ve decided to expand your business to include other people, you need help. Getting the right people to work with you is important.

In fact, your reputation as a web designer is at stake. The people you hire and the work that they do represents you and your business. Your subcontractors can make or break your web design business.

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In this post, I’ll discuss some tips for finding good subcontractors. At the end of the post, you’re invited to add your own thoughts and tips. If you liked this post, you may also like 5 Common Mistakes Made When Hiring a Web Designer.

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How to Improve Your Focus and Get More Done

Did you ever wonder why you are more productive on some days than on others?

A lot of the time it’s focus. Many of us are more focused on some days than on others. When we lack focus, we tend to work more slowly.

You may think that you can’t do anything about how focused you are. You may think that you just have to live with however focused you happen to be at any given time.

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7 Vital Elements of a Good Web Design Portfolio

How do you show prospective design clients what you can do?

The best way to show clients what you can do is to show them what you’ve already done. Direct them to your online portfolio.

If you’re a new freelance web designer, creating an online portfolio is one of the very first things that you need to do. As soon as you complete a project that you can be proud of, you can start to build your portfolio.

If you’re an experienced freelance web designer hopefully you already have a portfolio. However, don’t make the mistake that many experienced freelancers make and let your portfolio sit untouched for months–or even years. Your portfolio should be a changing online document that always highlights your very best work.

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On Vandelay Design Blog we share many examples of what a good portfolio should look like. Here’s one post with 50 Awesome Portfolio Websites. Here’s another post with 25 Beautiful Portfolio Website Designs.

While looking at the portfolios of other web designers can certainly give you some good ideas, it’s also helpful to have a checklist of elements you should include on your own portfolio. That’s what this post is for. This post lists seven vital elements that every good web design portfolio should include.

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14 Online Training Sites for Web Designers and Web Developers

You’re too busy to go back to school. At least that’s the excuse you give for not pursuing additional training in your field.

Well guess what? That excuse isn’t any good any more. In fact, it hasn’t been good for some time. And it’s a good thing too, because you need stay current in your field if you want to stay competitive.

You can get additional training on web design, web development, and many other topics from the comfort of your own home. You no longer have to go somewhere to take a class.

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Many traditional colleges offer online courses. In addition to coursework available online through the colleges, a large online training industry has sprung up in the past decade.

In this post, I’ll focus on online training sites. I’ll list 14 of the best non-college online training opportunities for web designers and web developers.

If you liked this post, you will probably also like: Learning Web Design: Self Taught vs. a Formal Education.

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How to Keep Rejection from Ruining Your Happiness as a Freelance Web Designer

Freelance web design is your dream job–and now, you’re finally living the dream. You’re running your own web design business, and you’re in charge. Things should be fabulous, right?

Well, not exactly. First of all, running a freelance web design business is much harder than you thought it would be. You’re doing tasks you never realized you’d have to do to keep your web design business afloat. (I can say this with confidence even though you and I have never met because nearly every freelancer goes through this experience.)

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Then there’s rejection. You never thought it would get to you like it has. After all, criticism never bothered you when you worked in a traditional job. But now it does bother you and you wonder what is going on.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at an experience many freelancers go through–rejection. I’ll also give you some tips to help you get through it. I’ll also identify three types of rejection that freelancers are likely to face.

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What You Need to Know Before You Expose That Bad Client

If you’ve had a bad experience with a client, you may have thought about using your blog or social media to shame them.

The practice of client shaming seems to be growing. Just in the past month, I’ve seen at least four blog posts and social media complaints about companies who did everything from not paying the freelancer to using the freelancer’s work without permission. And let’s face it, it some cases making a client’s transgressions public can feel pretty good to a frustrated freelance web designer.

Of course, there’s the popular Clients from Hell website that could also be fueling the trend. While the clients are not identified on Clients from Hell and the stories are posted anonymously, I always wonder if clients ever read it and recognize themselves.

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While the decision to publicly expose a bad freelance client is a personal one, you should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of doing so before you decide to do it yourself.

In this post, I share three reasons why some freelancers choose to expose a bad client publicly and three reasons why you might not want to do it yourself. I also list five alternative to going public with your client problems.

If you liked this post, you may like How to Evaluate Prospective Clients and Choose the Best Ones.

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20 Great Google+ Web Design and Web Development Communities

Google+ Communities are a great way for freelance web designers and web developers to connect with others.

Joining a community can strengthen your freelancing business in the following ways:

  • Networking. As a member of a Google+ Community, you have a chance to interact with others with similar interests and a chance to build relationships.
  • Reputation. By providing helpful insights and tips to other members of the community, you can enhance your reputation as a professional.
  • Resource. If you have a problem or question you can’t solve, ask the community. The insights shared by peers can be very helpful.

Social network or online community concept

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How to Prepare Your Freelance Web Design Business for Change

Are you comfortable with your freelance web design business the way it is right now?

Good. Now shake yourself out of that complacency.

No matter how comfortable you are at present, change is inevitable. If you’re not ready for it, your business will suffer. You’ll lose business to the freelancers who were ready for the changes.

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Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Change doesn’t have to be painful. The fix is to be ready for it.

Prepare your freelance business for change. Become the freelancer who others turn to because you’re up to date.

Even though no one can completely know what’s going to happen in the future, you can prepare yourself for some types of change. In this post, I’ll give you some pointers to help you prepare for the three most common types of change–starting with professional change.

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How to Rock Your Business Phone Calls

As a web designer, how do you feel about business phone calls?

Your answer probably depends on your personality. Some people love to talk on the phone. Others dread phone calls.

If you’re busy, an unexpected phone call can disrupt your day. If you’re a bit on the shy side, talking to a client on the phone may make you nervous.

Love them or hate them–business phone calls are an important part of running your web design business. That’s not going to change any time soon.

business-phone-calls

Fortunately, regardless of whether you love business phone calls or hate them, there are some steps you can take to make your business phone calls go more smoothly. In this post, I share five of those steps. If you liked this post, you’ll probably also like 5 Communication Tips for Freelancers and Designers.

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Should You Use a Job Board to Find Your Next Web Design Gig, Yes or No?

Nearly every freelance web designer knows that the best jobs are those you find yourself through networking and marketing your web design business. The best jobs are never advertised.

However, networking and marketing can take a lot of time. It can take months, or even years, before your efforts pay off and results in new business. What’s a web designer to do in the meantime?

The truth is that most freelance web designers, like many other freelancers, start out looking for freelance work on the job boards. A job board is an online site dedicated to listing freelance and sometimes full-time openings.

Job boards aren’t always the best place to find work, but they are an obvious place to start looking for work and a search there can sometimes yield quick results. Some freelancers enjoy quite a bit of success in finding work through a job board. Others prefer not to use them at all.

job-board

In this post, I’ll list some positives of jobs boards and some things you should watch out for. I’ll also provide some tips for getting the most from your freelance job hunt on the job boards.

If you liked this post, you may be interested in our list of 23 Design and Development Job Boards.

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How to Deal Effectively with Drastic Deadlines

Do you have a deadline problem? No matter how much time you have to do a project, do you always feel rushed? Do you frequently deal with deadlines that seem too drastic?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone in your deadline struggles. Most freelancers have trouble with deadlines at some point in their freelancing career. Web designers and developers are no different. In fact, most of them deal with tight deadlines all the time.

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Dealing with deadlines can create a lot of stress. Nobody likes to miss a deadline.

Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to effectively deal with most deadlines–even drastic ones. In this post, I take a look at 19 of those tactics–focusing on what you can do before, during, and after your project.

If you like this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.

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Should I Charge for That? Don’t Forget About These 7 Crucial Project Tasks

The client snarled, “there’s no way I’m paying extra for that.” He was referring to the time I would need to research his rather complicated project.

Have you ever been challenged by a client for including certain tasks on your invoice?

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Pricing services is one of the most difficult tasks most freelance web designers face. Not only are there many different schools of thought on how to price web design services, clients sometimes fuss about work we bill them for.

Most freelancer web designers realize that they shouldn’t work for free or on spec. But many have questions about what activities they should bill to clients.

In this post, I list seven common project-related tasks that clients often question. For each task, I discuss whether a freelancer should bill the client.

If you liked this post, you may also like 12 Realities of Pricing Design Services or 5 Tips for Handling Pricing Objections.

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13 New Social Tools for Your Web Design Business

Is bigger always better?

Nearly every web designer knows about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. And it’s not a bad idea to have a presence on those sites.
woman in office pointing at plasma panel with social media

When it comes to social networks, the newest players are smaller and more exclusive. Some are invitation only. Others are niched–available only to members of a specified group. Most of them are mobile-friendly. They may even leverage other social media platforms.

Today’s new social media sites may become the giants of tomorrow. Witness the rise of Pinterest. For that reason alone, it’s worth checking these new tools out. But I think that you’ll agree with me that your web design business will benefit right now from the use of some of these tools.

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8 Awkward Questions Freelance Web Designers and Other Freelancers Face

We freelancers sometimes get asked the oddest things. Some of the questions are odd, and some are awkward to answer. You have to wonder what people are thinking.

The sad truth is that a lot of people don’t think. So, they blurt out awkward questions and leave us to respond.
young blond woman surprised expression close up shoot

In fact, it seems like I get odd and awkward questions nearly every week. You probably do too.

In this post, I’ll share some of those awkward questions with you. At the end of the post, feel free to share the odd things you’ve been asked, along with your response.

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How to Handle Your Unhappy Client in 5 Easy Steps

Most freelance web designers dread the unhappy client. Yet, eventually most of us will have to face one. Maybe that’s why there are so many posts out there about bad clients.

After all of your hard work and attempts to meet your client’s demands, the last thing you want to hear is that the client isn’t happy with the fruit of your hard work. You may even fear that the client won’t pay you.

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Is there anything you can do about an unhappy client?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there are some steps you should take when your client is unhappy. In this post, I share five steps that you can go through to find out whether you can “fix” your relationship with an unhappy client.

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Basic Accounting Tips for Freelance Web Designers

How do you feel about accounting? How much do you even know about what kind of accounting records you need to keep?

If you’re like most web designers, Bookkeeping isn’t your favorite part of freelancing. But keeping accurate records is an important part of running a business.

It’s so important, in fact, that keeping good accounting records sometimes means the difference between freelancing success and freelancing failure.

A large amount of bills spread all over the place

Taxes are another reason why you need to keep good accounting records. If your records are sloppy, tax time will be a nightmare. (And you could wind up owing a lot of money.)

In this post, I share basic tips that freelance web designers and other freelancers should know about accounting. I also list five accounting packages to help web designers organize their bookkeeping tasks.

(Note: This post should not be considered specific accounting advice. The post is based on common United States accounting practices. If you have a specific accounting question about your own freelancing business, be sure to contact an accounting professional.)

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10 Ways to Say “No” to Bad Clients (How to Refuse Bad Projects)

We freelancers are well aware that there are bad clients out there. There have been plenty of posts describing how to identify a bad web design client or a bad web design project. We’ve even mentioned bad projects on this blog in this post for new freelancers. There are also plenty of posts encouraging freelancers to say “no” to bad clients.

However, there aren’t too many posts that explain how to turn bad work offers down. And turning work down is harder than you might think (as any freelancer who has ever accepted a bad project will tell you).

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For one thing, we’re not used to turning work down. Everything about our business is geared towards finding clients and bringing them on board. Also, if you are accustomed to working in a traditional corporate environment, you’re probably not used to having the freedom to say “no” to a client or a project.

In this post, I provide ten ready (and truthful) responses you can give when you’re asked to do a project that’s not right for you. (Because, after all, you don’t want to spend too much time on projects you aren’t going to work on.)

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