1 Stop chasing people
In life, and business, you will get ignored now and then. You have to learn to stop taking this as a personal insult. Although I put my heart and soul into design work for my clients, I have realised that people are very busy. They will have priorities, both in life and in their career, that come before what I do for them. Getting paranoid about why they’re not responding to emails and phone calls (I used to do this) is pointless. Now, I just move on to something else that’s important to me (which leads me to my next item).
2 Have a proper to-do list, with deadlines
Of course it makes sense to have a to-do list for your working day or week and most people in business will have this. But what about those things you’ve been meaning to do but never, ever get round to even starting on, never mind completing? In my experience, that redesigned website you’ve been planning, the Photoshop course you’ve been meaning to start, or that regular blog you’ve been meaning to write, will always be an afterthought unless you set yourself deadlines. Try not to put pressure on yourself, but you need to start treating your own projects like your client work.
3 Use the limited time you have more efficiently
When I first started as a freelancer I was super-enthusiastic about responding as quickly as possible to all enquiries. I once gave a random caller free advice about using Adobe Illustrator. I even fixed his issue in a file he emailed me and returned it to him. I was quiet at the start and in my head I thought, ‘What harm can it do? He may recommend me to others, or come back and give me paid work’.
I was just being used. Now I try to use the limited time I have, to work with, or look for, clients who I think will pay me what I’m worth. Making money isn’t everything, but anyone who tells you it isn’t the most important aspect of any business is misguided. Learning to spot genuine leads is not easy. What I do these days is look for the following red-flag statements from potential new clients:
- ‘I looked on Fiverr and Upwork but I like the idea of talking directly to my designer’
- ‘I only have a budget of X so I need you to come under that’
- ‘This is a great opportunity for you, but money is tight’
By all means, reply to everyone, because you just never know… but try to have a saved draft email with questions about key issues such as deadlines and budget. If a potential client is serious, they’ll reply with meaningful answers. In short, admin time is the hardest thing to manage, so the less time spent on that, the better.
Last year was my first full year running my own business. I learned more last year than I did in my entire career so far. I believe this is purely down to much more communication with clients. In my opinion, listening to and engaging with people is the only way to learn.