Oh man. We’re about to get vulnerable over here.
Dusting off the ole’ computer archive, and shining a light on designs that you’ll never find in my portfolio.
You know… the projects that paid the bills in those early years, but were a complete mess.
And I don’t mean the clients were a mess… as us designers typically like to shift blame. I mean I had absolutely no idea what I was doing behind the scenes. No contract, no project management system, no clear process and don’t get me started on my hot mess of file organization. “Untitled-3.ai” *facepalm*
I’ve come a long way in just a few years in freelancing. It’s taken a lot of mistakes, hard lessons learned, and a healthy dose of humility to fine tune the Spruce Rd. process into a well-oiled machine.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve chatted about booking clients and cleaning up your freelance process. Last week you selected one strategy to implement to turn inquiries into clients. (How’s that going, btw?!) But how can you go beyond and book happy clients who embrace your process?
This week, I thought I’d take a deeper dive into my own business and walk through 3 radical changes I’ve made over the years. I owe these transitions the success of Spruce Rd. They are what led me to booked projects, smooth processes, and happy clients!
3 radical changes I’ve made in my business:
Stop thinking like an employee
Years of schooling, odd jobs and first “real” jobs taught me to behave well and follow orders. Ok ok, that might sound extreme, but there’s some truth to it! We grew up learning to follow authority and do our job well. That meant when boss lady told us to do something, we obliged.
I used to take this mindset into my freelance business. The client wanted a beach ball in the logo? You got it. Oh, you wanted to outline the type too? Sure thing!
You see, this lovely logo design was a project I took on my last semester of college. The client drafted a mockup of the logo themselves in Powerpoint, and I vectorized it in Illustrator.
This is a poor process.
I don’t blame the client at all — I clearly didn’t have a streamlined process if they thought they had to design the logo in Powerpoint and toss it over to me to finish it out.
I’ve learned since this 2010 beach ball logo to shift my mindset. I’m not an employee. I’m the boss, and need to embrace that role!
Another HUGE shift in my business has been to think like my client. When I put myself in their shoes, I quickly realized how my process affected them. You see, my process followed industry standard and went something like this:
Spend hours sketching concepts for my client’s branding
Have a breakthrough moment of clarity on THE logo design my client should 100% pursue
Present two or so other mediocre logo options — just in case they don’t like the logo I recommend
Send a PDF to the client, while crossing fingers they go with the “right” option
End up frustrated when my client wants to combine 2 of the options. They can’t decide which they like best!
Does this sound familiar?
My process essentially gave my clients paralysis. Too many options led to indecisiveness, and ultimately compromise. My “employee mindset” typically said “sure thing! I’ll combine those 2 drastically different logos together.” We’ve come a long way, friends.
So, instead of presenting 3 options, I now only present one.
There’s a whole psychology behind why this one logo solution works. Just as I trust my accountant to handle quarterly taxes (praise the Lord I don’t stress about that!), our clients trust us. I would feel unsettled if my accountant told me we could submit our taxes one of three ways, and had me select which method. I’d rather trust him to do what he’s best at. Our clients feel the same.
Eliminate the paralysis, and guide your clients through the process. (While also reserving your sanity in presenting your best work!) Secret? This shift in my process typically leads to ZERO revisions from my clients. Another win!
Stick to a process
I talk a lot about process here at Spruce Rd., and that’s for a good reason. A tight process is what separates my former hot mess freelance business, to my thriving studio today. Talk about a game changer.
I have always been the over-organized one. A neatly organized five-star binder and a clean computer desktop. In my early years of freelancing, I was just as organized. The problem was that I kept switching up my process. One client got 5 logo designs, another client got a different proposal layout, and one client wouldn’t even get a contract. All true stories.
The obsessive researcher that I am couldn’t land on one clear process. This sent me into a tizzy with each client inquiry. My ever changing process stressed me out. I’ve since made the plunge into using apps like Basecamp, 17Hats and Quickbooks to help manage client projects. Worth it!
Nowadays, I’ve got my process nailed to a T. Sure, I’ll make minor refinements here and there. But it’s pretty much been the same for 2.5 years.