Guest post by Jess Walter
If you love the idea of freelance work and helping clientele to showcase their products or services, then design and development may be the perfect career move for you. Whether you’re on the cusp of retirement or a recent college grad trying to find the right path, design and development has no age restrictions; all you need is passion, motivation, patience, and organization.
Here are some important steps to take when setting up your own design or development firm:
Before you jump right in and get set up, it’s smart to do some brainstorming and answer the following questions:
- What kind of budget do you have?
- Do you plan to work from home or rent out an office space?
- What’s the local competition like?
- How will you stand out from others like you?
- How do you plan to market yourself or engage in networking?
- Will you focus on a specialty?
Your answers may change as your business evolves. They may also vary depending on your age. If you are older, then you may already have built up a large amount of professional contacts, in comparison to a recent graduate who may lack but will be recently trained. Don’t worry if your initial plan needs to be modified, it’s just there to help you get started.
Work from Home or Rent an Office
Even if you have a small handful of clients, you will need to plan where to base your office. While many clients are happy to communicate via email, phone calls, and video conferencing, sometimes it’s important to meet face-to-face, so an office might be a necessity for your business.
Working from a home office will save you a lot of money and works well as long as you use your time wisely. Renting an office can give you more of a public presence, but will obviously cost you more in the long run. While both have pros and cons, choose what works best for you and your productivity.
You may be in the business of helping others market themselves and elevating a business to the next level, but it can be challenging to market yourself. Take advantage of marketing tools, utilize social media and don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face networking. Be mindful, when meeting with potential clients, that you aren’t too pushy.
Point out some of the benefits of your services, give them your contact info, and make a follow-up visit.
Additionally, make sure that your prospects and clientele have numerous ways to reach you (email, phone, website); some people prefer different forms of communication.
Once you’ve spread the word about yourself, you better be ready to get to work. Be patient and don’t get too down on yourself if the inquiries don’t come pouring in. Take your “down time” to make sure you are organized. Start to keep track of all your financial transactions and set up software that can help you run your business more smoothly and efficiently.
Build a Portfolio as You Go
Just like any job, prior experience always looks better, but with starting your own design business, it may be more difficult. Add every job you do to your design portfolio and ask clients to write a testimonial. These are always important to have on hand, but even more so when starting out.
Be Consistent with Communication and the Hours You Keep
As a freelance designer or developer, you are your own boss and have complete control over your schedule. This is a great freedom that everyone wants but can be dangerous if you get too lax with your schedule.
Keep consistent hours and always get back to clients when you say you will. For example, if you say that you will respond within 48 hours and only on business days, stick to your word. Not only is it professional, but it builds trust and credibility.
Hold Off on Hiring Employees
Unless you have too much of a workload to handle from the very beginning, hold off on hiring employees right away. Give yourself some time to get settled in your business and become used to working for yourself. When you own a business you want to make sure that the employees you hire will have the same passions and motivations as you. Consider apprentices or interns before hiring someone on a permanent basis.
Even though you’ve got your computer and the skills and talent to get a design and development business going right away, there are important aspects to figure out first before you serve your first clients.
Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.