Just over two weeks ago I went to The Business of Web Design conference located in the beautiful Atrium building in Cardiff. It was a fantastic event bringing together designers, developers and marketers working in the digital world from all across the UK. What makes this conference different is that it focuses on how you do business, with eight funny and engaging talks about the fundamentals of working for clients as a web designer or developer.
Working flat out on projects means it can be tricky to find time to really work on your business, but I came away feeling focused and reinvigorated about nurturing my “micro-agency” of one. I learnt that whilst there is plenty I’m getting right there are even more things I should be doing. Here’s what I discovered:
1. You are not “just a freelancer”
It’s always encouraging meeting good people who are in the same boat as me and finding out that I’m not the only one doing what I do. It can be lonely as a solo freelancer, which makes it hard to be sure what you’re doing is valuable or even correct. As usual I had a great time networking with like-minded folk, but more importantly all the talks pointed out how we need to shake off our own self-perceptions of being “just a freelancer” and give ourselves a pat on the back for getting out there and doing it.
2. Ask your client why
A common theme across all the talks was getting clients to see what you provide as more than just a list of features on a website. Many of the speakers recommended delving deeper into the client’s needs right from the start. I’m lucky in that I usually get on great with all my clients, but I’m certainly going to be focusing on more discovery at the beginning of projects. Hopefully by asking ‘why’ instead of ‘what’, I’ll be better able to solve their problems and make them feel more involved.
A major light bulb moment for me was learning that your service is more than just a temporary action. The work you do on a client’s website, app or software can be make or break for their business. What extra sales or increased turnover will they get as a result of your design? Charge 20% of that added value as your fee and you’re on your way to value based pricing. I’m not sure how well I can apply it as a freelancer working with start-ups, but I am going to be carrying out a comparison exercise analysing all my past quotes, to see how big a difference this approach can make.
4. Big isn’t necessarily better
Steve Kirtley (@stevekirtley) gave a very funny and insightful talk about his experience for a range of companies, right from tiny businesses to massive corporate beasts. Whilst making us chuckle at his canny trials and tribulations, we also learnt that if you want to work on big contracts, being flexible and at the top of your game is way more important than having a team of forty people. I’ll be looking at how I can become more agile and not be intimidated by the idea of chasing larger projects.
5. Make your design choices bullet proof
Paul Boag (@boagworld) spoke with refreshing honesty about working with clients. His advice about justifying your design choices with not only your own knowledge, but referencing experts who have proven how your chosen design element works, was not only common sense but something I rarely do. I will also be making sure that when I ask for feedback from clients I set the parameters, rather than just leaving it open to their personal opinion. Then they feel like they’re in the hands of an expert and I avoid the dreaded “make the logo bigger” type comments – win win.
A big thank you to Joel Hughes (@Joel_Hughes) and his team (@TBOWebDesign) for putting together an intelligent and inspiring day.
Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or chat to me on Twitter (@zer0mike)
I’m going to Canvas Conference in Birmingham and ShropGeek’s (R)Evolution Conference in Shrewsbury, see you there…?
Image Credits. Header: @TBOWebDesign
Mike Hince is a UI & UX Designer and the co-founder of Bossanova Design.