What do you do when you have a flood of project inquiries coming in and they all are a great fit for your freelance business?
You may be thinking “Um, Jamie… that doesn’t sound like much of a problem.”
What’s the catch?
While it may seem amazing that more client leads are coming in, it can still be a source of stress.
Just thinking about answering prospective client emails and getting on consultation calls can feel exhausting if you are managing other client projects and leads at the same time.
Not to mention that as a designer, you only have so much available time to spend on client work.
We’re getting into “too much of a good thing” territory here.
So how do you improve this?
01: CONSIDER RAISING YOUR RATES
When you have many inquiries coming in and they are all saying “take my money!”, it may be a good sign to raise your prices.
When you increase your rates, you are able to work with fewer clients but give them more of your energy. You can also improve your income by raising rates due to the influx of client leads you are receiving.
You’ll still want to keep your ideal clients’ budgets in mind. If you price yourself too far outside of what they are willing to invest in, you may find your project inquiries will slow down dramatically.
Instead, you want to increase your rates enough to show you can selectively choose who you want to work with, but you also are willing work with their budget.
02: BOOK OUT CLIENT PROJECTS IN ADVANCE
If adding sustainability and stability to your business model is important in this stage of your business, you may want to book client projects in advance. This means you’ll look at how many projects you want to book on your calendar and decide how many client openings you’ll have based on how long your project timelines are.
How many client projects you want to book out in advance is completely up to you. You can decide if you want to leave wiggle room for incoming projects you are really excited about, or if you want to keep everything scheduled months in advance so your calendar is set in stone.
You could also create a waitlist for clients who want to book projects with you. Your waitlist could be structured on a first-come-first-serve basis, or you could privately organize projects by your interest level in each one.
If you do create a waitlist, it is incredibly important to communicate how it works and when you will get in contact with them about booking their project. You don’t want to leave them hanging!
While I think it is okay to have a waitlist, I don't think long waitlists are the best way to serve our clients. No one really wants to wait 6 months for branding. And if they DO wait that long, there's so much pressure added to make sure it was worth their while!
This is exactly why I opted to hire subcontractors rather than have a waitlist, which I’ll talk about next!
03: THINK ABOUT COLLABORATING WITH SUBCONTRACTORS
Too much work but not enough hours in the day? I feel you! I had the same struggle when Spruce Rd. really started to take off.
There were so many client projects I wanted to take on, but I knew I couldn’t take them on all at once. I wanted to serve my clients well and not have them sitting on a seemingly endless waitlist.
I didn’t want to stunt my business growth, but I also didn’t want to feel burned out.
My happy middle was taking on a creative director and strategist role at Spruce Rd. while working with subcontractors to support me in the graphic design work.
It’s allowed me to work with dreamy clients I couldn’t wait to strategize with while also prioritizing my own self-care and time with family. Not mention that I am able to help other designers’ businesses grow by working with them on client projects.
But before you work with subcontractors, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Choose your subcontractors wisely: If you want to test the waters with a subcontractor, think about hiring them for a smaller project before they take the reigns on a bigger project. That will allow you to assess if they are a good fit for you and your clients in the early stages of your collaborations.
Make it legal: Please don’t ever work on a client project before you and the subcontractor have signed the proper independent contractor agreement. It will save you so much stress to know you have everything in writing. To save on lawyer fees, you can customize one of The Contract Shop’s templates so you know you’re always legally covered. Phew! (Full disclosure: I've included my Contract Shop affiliate link. BUT, I've worked with Christina personally, so I would have recommended it anyway😉)
Be clear about expectations: What deadlines do the subcontractors need to meet? What is your collaboration style like? What guidelines, policies, and procedures do they need to follow? What parts of the process are they involved in? Being clear about the answers to all of these questions will help you answer their questions before they begin working with you on projects.
Put systems in place: If you have most of your creative process in your head instead of having it documented, it might be difficult for subcontractors to confidently jump into your process. Instead, spend the time to put customized systems in place for your internal team before you begin adding subcontractors. That way, the process is smooth for you, your subcontractors, and your clients.
One of the great things about working with subcontractors is that you don’t need to stress out about supplying them with full-time work. Since they are working with you as an independent contractor, you can work together in the short term and decide if they are a fit in the long term as you go.
They aren’t an employee of your business. Think of them instead as trained helpers who can assist you in the seasons where you need a few more hands on deck. It can make a world of a difference as your business grows!
What project inquiry season are you currently in?
Are you struggling to attract client inquiries?
Are you receiving some inquiries but none of them have been a good fit?
Have you found yourself having to turn away client leads that are a good fit because you have too many project inquiries?
No matter what season you are in, you now know how to respond.
Keep these email lessons bookmarked so you can return to them when you go through the next season change. And, as always, I’m here as a resource the whole way through.