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 web design 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.
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.
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Sign # 1. You Have a Plan
While there’s a whole school of thought that business plans are unnecessary for freelancers, those who set goals and work towards them tend to be more successful than those who don’t have any goals.
When many of us think of a business plan, we think of a formal document that one would turn submit to the bank in order to justify getting a loan. If you aren’t going to borrow money, your business plan doesn’t need to be extremely formal–but it’s still a good idea to have one.
If your web design business is very small, your business plan can be as simple as writing down your goals for the year and the steps you are going to take to meet those goals. At the end of the year, you can:
- Review your plan.
- Evaluate how well you did.
- Come up with a new plan for the coming year.
Sign #2. You Market Your Business
A lot of freelancers don’t like marketing. I know this because I am one of them. But marketing is a necessary part of running a business.
Marketing is what gets your information in front of your potential clients. Remember, if your potential clients don’t know about your business, they can’t hire you.
If you’re not marketing your business, here are three steps to take to get started:
- Create social media profiles and get active.
- Begin face-to-face networking. Local businesses can be a good source of new clients.
Sign #3. You Have a Portfolio
Prospective clients want to know what you can do for them. The best way for them to know what you can do is for them to see what you’ve already done. That’s why a portfolio is important to your freelance business.
An outdated portfolio won’t be an asset, though. Make sure to update your portfolio regularly. A portfolio should contain your latest and best work.
The best place to host your portfolio is on your own website because you can maintain complete control over it. However, there are also many other sites where you can create a portfolio. Here are just a few examples:
Sign #4. You Charge a Professional Rate
Believe it or not, how much you charge for your work affects how people perceive you. If you charge professional rate that is comparable to what other successful web designers charge, you will be perceived as a professional. If your rate is far lower than others who do the same work, potential clients may wonder why your rate is so low.
Think about it. You’re doing a job where quality matters. You want to attract clients who value quality. But you can’t do quality work on subsistence wages.
Sign #5. You Get Written Work Agreements
Don’t be afraid of getting your work agreement in writing (preferably in the form of a contract).
Having a written agreement protects both you and the client. It’s just too easy to forget what was discussed when there’s nothing written down to turn to. And if there is a serious disagreement later on, a contract makes it easier to resolve your differences.
In the vast majority of instances where freelancers ask me about problems with a client, there was no contract present.
Sign #6. You Work Regular Hours
It’s good to have flexible working hours–within reason. However, I’ve noticed that the freelancers who do the best are those who set a regular schedule for themselves (even if it’s a non-traditional schedule) and stick to it.
However, if you do work non-traditional hours (hours when most businesses are closed), it may be a good idea to designate a time during traditional hours when clients and potential clients can contact you.
Sign #7. You Keep Excellent Records
Sloppy record keeping is a sign that you’re not serious about your business. As a small business owner, you should keep records of every business transaction.
You need to keep a record of everything you buy for your business. You also need a record of all income your business receives.
Not keeping good records could cause problems at tax time or if you ever want to sell your business.
Sign #8. You Strengthen Client Relationships
Experienced freelancers know that client relationships are important. Client trust is the basis of your business. A client who trusts you will come back to you when they need additional work. They will also refer their friends and family to you.
If you want to attract long-term clients who use your services over and over again, get into the habit of paying attention to the relationship that you have with each client.
Sign #9. You Meet Your Deadlines
Your reputation as a professional is at stake and you may not even know it. Aside from doing a job wrong, there is nothing that irritates clients more than a freelance web designer who always misses the deadline. If you want your clients to view you as a professional, do everything in your power to meet your deadlines.
Some freelancers are afraid to tell a client when they start to fall behind. The truth is that most clients would rather know as soon as possible that you are having trouble with the project. If you think you will not be able to deliver a project on time, let your client know as soon as you realize something is wrong.
Sign #10. You Invest in Your Business
Most business owners understand that they need to invest money into their business if they want to stay competitive.
Freelancers, however, are a different breed. Many of us try to run our freelance businesses with as little investment as possible. Probably this is because many of us operate on a “shoestring” budget.
In the short-term, you may be able to get away with spending very little money on your business. However, the longer you stay in business, the more likely it is that you will need to invest some of your own money.
Here are just a few of the investments most freelance web designers eventually need to make:
- Computer equipment upgrades
- Professional software fees
- Training costs
- Web hosting services
Can you think of any other signs of a business mindset? Do you bring a business mindset to your own freelancing business?