[thelist] Freelance Web Designer

Green, Janet JGreen at DesMoinesMetro.com
Wed Apr 4 10:43:43 CDT 2001

Yesterday I said I would post a couple ideas for building a freelance
portfolio without working for free. I used each of the ideas below in my
business every time I wanted to add a new service and needed to prove

<tip type="freelancing" author="Janet Green">
Instead of offering to work for free to build your freelance portfolio,
start out by building a site for your own business. Because you are your own
client, this can be done around the hours you might spend on a day job. But,
don't just make your site look pretty, go through the entire site design
process, from ascertaining your needs, goals and objectives, to testing on
multiple browser versions and even purchasing and setting up a domain name.
This way, when a client says, "You're pretty new at this," you can say, "I
understand your concern about the fact that I am new to freelancing, but let
me show you what I have done for my own business, and explain the process I
went through to create this site. This is the same process I would go
through with you." Then, give them enough info to show that you do not just
"throw up a page," but that you go through a distinct planning phase that
takes their needs into full account. This shows that you are a serious
business owner who thinks about goals and objectives and how the web as a
marketing tool can help achieve them. If you are lacking in actual
experience, the best thing you can do is to build your prospect's confidence
by showing them that you understand the bigger picture as well as the
details of coding a web page. 

<tip type="freelancing" author="Janet Green">
Instead of offering to work for free to build your portfolio, choose a
website similar in nature to the type your prospective customer wants to
build, and develop a written plan for improving it. (Yes, you'll have to
have some conversations with them FIRST to determine what they want and
need.) Use the site as an example of the type of site you think they need.
Do NOT present the site as your own work, unless it IS your own work, but DO
use your "superior knowledge of how the web works" to show them several ways
that THEIR site will be better. Even more powerful is to look at one of
their competitor's sites that seems to have similar goals and objectives,
and show them how they will be better than their competitor.

<tip type="freelancing" author="Janet Green">
Instead of offering to work for free to build your portfolio, suggest to
your prospective client that you conduct a brief information-gathering
session whereby you will come in and talk to them in detail about their
goals and objectives. Plan to spend about half an hour with them. Then, work
up a brief summary of how you would handle the project (initial thoughts on
how the site will be organized, an outline of your workflow process, etc.).
Include a suggested organizational chart showing the top couple proposed
layers of the site; attach a one-sheet project estimate, with a note at the
bottom that says, "This estimate is subject to the mutual acceptance of a
contract which will outline the project and business practices in greater
detail." This can constitute an informal proposal, and shouldn't take you
more than an hour (plus proofreading time) to work up after you've talked to
your client. Since proposals are a part of doing business, you're not giving
away anything you wouldn't normally "give away." Hopefully, your proposal
builds their confidence in you without forcing you to give away your
creative ideas. (NOTE: Proofread the whole thing CAREFULLY for typos,
grammatical problems, factual errors, etc. before giving it to your client.
Nothing says "amateur" like mis-spelled words.) 

The bottom line here is, you will likely spend more time securing your first
few clients than you will after your business is up and going, but it
doesn't have to be your "creative time" that you give away. If the prospect
of doing all this legwork to get a client onboard does not appeal to you,
*don't* be a freelancer. Attracting/persuading clients is absolutely
critical to your business, for obvious reasons. If you need a Dale Carnegie
course to boost your confidence, or some type of sales training, invest in
it - even if it's just a good book on the subject. Give yourself the tools
you need to be successful. If you treat yourself like you are a "real"
business, your clients will too.

NOW, after writing THREE TIPS, and subtracting one for participating in the
discussion about copyright/ownership issues yesterday, I've established
credit for two off-topic posts. Look for a silly joke or something from me
eventually. LOL 

Janet Green :) 

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