Being a graphic design freelancer comes with its own set of issues and opportunities. The freelance-client relationship can be extremely fragile. You took all that time to build a reputation and get work, but a simple misstep can set you all the way back to zero - or worse. So if you find yourself constantly having turnaround with clients or just want to prevent a big problem, consider these ways that freelancers tend to sabotage their careers.
As a freelancer, you have the right to the money you have earned, especially since you have done the work for it. However, you should never be demanding about payments. If you feel as though you should have been paid but have not received payment from the client just yet, you can simply e-mail them asking about the payment. Always be polite and professional; never demand to be paid, and most clients will be more than happy to send payment.
As a graphic designer, you often receive deadlines from clients for when they need you complete a project. Clients set deadlines for a reason and if you do not meet these deadlines, you are not going to get far with your freelancing career. Word will spread quickly that you are unreliable as a freelancer, as clients are often more than willing to provide negative reviews when they are frustrated with results.
Don’t Respond to E-mails
When clients e-mail you, you should respond as promptly as possible. If you see e-mail messages from clients and you are overwhelmed, the kind thing to do would be to let them know you are currently busy or not available. Ignoring clients is going to turn them off and away from wanting to work with you.
Don’t Follow Instructions
Clients often give you work and expect you to follow the instructions they have provided. Always be sure to listen or read their instructions carefully and follow them correctly. Otherwise, clients will not take you seriously, nor will they choose to use you again for future projects.
Harass Clients for Work
Never harass your clients for work. It is understandable that you might need work, but there are other ways to ask if clients need work done without actually being pushy.
Don’t Complete Your Work
If you are expected to perform certain tasks and cannot complete them all even though you said you could, you are going to lose the clients that you have. No client wants someone who does not complete their work.
Never Be Available
When you are a freelancer, you need to make yourself available. Of course, you need to set certain working hours for yourself as a freelancer, but you should be available during your work hours, showing your clients that you care to do their work. Make sure, too, that clients know your hours of operation.
Speak to Your Clients However You Please
Clients deserve respect and should always be spoken to in a professional manner, even if you are upset. If you find yourself becoming unacceptably angry while speaking with a client, excuse yourself politely (I'm sorry, I have an important phone call coming through; I'll call back within the hour). Vent off the phone for a reasonable amount of time, come up with a solution, and call the client back once you have taken some deep breaths and have a plan.
Never Help Anyone Else
When you are a freelancer, be willing to help others as much as you are able. Avoid being stingy and selfish. What goes around does come around. If you are always willing to lend a helping hand when you have time, then others will be that much more willing to help you out.
Expect Something for Nothing
You cannot expect to earn money and clients if you are not doing any work. Do not expect anything if you are not going to work for it. Being a graphic design freelancer takes lots of midnight hours or working around the clock to meet a deadline. Be prepared to miss some events or that TV special you've been looking forward to; if your client is expecting a postcard proof in the morning, you'd better provide it.
Business relationships are more fragile than most realize. There are many, many more graphic design freelancers who can do what you do, so remember to baby your clients and always, always, always treat them with respect.
Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company that offers business cards, printed catalogs, posters, brochures, postcards for direct mail, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.