This past Wednesday evening, we had the pleasure of hearing Jody Campbell of Studio C Design Services speak about how to increase your success as a freelancer. Jody has been in the professional creative field for almost 12 years, and has worked for in a variety of different clients in numerous industries. Based out of Germantown, Wisconsin, he deals with clients both locally and worldwide, and some of Jody’s work can even be seen sitting on the shelves of the nation’s largest retailers.
Jody earned his BFA in Illustration at MIAD in 2005, and is working towards his MBA in Marketing. He has also spent the past six years instructing thousands of design students at four private colleges in two states. Talk about someone who is passionate about his work!
Jody’s presentation addressed many topics that directly affect freelance designers, especially in today’s economy. How do you keep getting work in a down economy?
State of the Industry
Jody started out by outlining several useful and interesting statistics about the state of the Freelancing industry and it’s trends based on the 2011 Freelance Industry Report. This report addresses things like:
- Who Are Freelancers — and What Do They Do?
- Attitudes Toward Freelancing
- Freelancer Challenges
- What Do Freelancers Earn?
- Impact of Economic Downturn on Freelance Businesses
- The Outlook Over the Next Year
- How Freelancers Get Clients
Increasing Your Success
Why do you want to be a freelancer? Some of the benefits that Jody outlined include:
- Flexibility of scheduling hours
- Working for yourself
- Flexibility in location
- Making your own decisions
- Control over potential
Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? But how do you really become successful at being a freelancer? First of all, understand that freelancing is not a job; it’s a business. And all successful businesses have a plan, and all successful plans share common elements that work towards achieving your stated objectives. Without a plan, your business will have a hard time succeeding.
51% of Freelancers will spend less than 5 hours per month marketing while at the same time “finding clients” was said to be the biggest challenge. That being said, the best things you can do right now to increase your success as a freelancer is to market yourself! How? Have a plan.
- Research: Collect, organize, and write down data about your target market
- Ask Questions: What stage is this industry in? What trends are creating opportunity? What is the average profit margin?
- Learn about your Competitors: Who are they? Where are they located? What is their business model? How much do they charge?
- Know your target market: What are the demographics? How much is spent on services? What purchasing channels are used?
A Plan Inside A Plan
So how exactly do you go about getting all this information, collecting your research, and staying ahead of the competition?
- Conduct/review surveys online and through social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Observe your target market and take note of how they behave
- Read articles in trade journals, industry publications and websites
- Contact industry associations or trade organizations
- Identify a niche(s) that fits your service and describe them in your marketing plan
- Find out how your competition is meeting their client’s needs and offer a more unique solution
- Identify the best strategies for your goals and follow through with them.
- Create a pricing structure that will position your service competitively in the market.
Building Brand Awareness
Branding is not about just making a logo. It’s about what people see, and how often they see it. What do they associate your brand with? You want to be the one to guide your client’s to the right perception about your brand, so you need to take the time to build that brand awareness. Once you start building your brand awareness, how do you know if it’s working? One key thing to keep in mind is to always track your numbers. This can tell you what’s working and what needs to be improved upon.
- Things to consider in building/projecting your brand:
- Budget – know what your budget for marketing is.
- Allocate time – make it a point to set a specific time aside to market yourself.
- Daily pitch – create goals of things you want to do daily/weekly/monthly and stick to it.
- Stay marketing – don’t give up, keep it up!
Don’t be afraid – putting yourself out there can be scary, but it is the key to success.
Automate processes – automate simple tasks that take up time so you have more time to market.
A few other things to consider when putting your brand out there and marketing yourself are:
- Up sell – try to sell other services at the same time.
- Add value – show the client why this is important to them.
- Follow up – never leave a client/colleague/inquiry hanging.
- Blog – write about things you are passionate about.
- Understand – know the industry, and understand how you fit into it.
- Opportunity – take every experience as a learning opportunity, good or bad.
The second best thing you can do right now to increase your success is to actively network! It’s not about how many friends or followers you have, but how often you interact with them and other people outside of your immediate circle. An important concept to understand about networking is it isn’t about how other people can help you, it’s about how you can help others. By actively engaging people in and outside of your network, you can quickly determine how your services can benefit them. Networking also builds your visibility and reputation within your professional community.
Another important concept to remember is that “Local thinking will only lead to local rewards.” If you only market yourself locally, you can expect local results. Why not market yourself globally and receive global results?
When you’re networking it’s always good to remember:
- Be genuine
- Be yourself
- Provide value
- Ask questions
- Connect daily
- Follow up
- Nurture others and yourself
There are two approaches to pricing: hourly and flat rates. Each has its pros and cons, but there are some main things to take into consideration for each. Whichever method of pricing you choose to use, you need to first weigh in these factors:
- How much experience do you have?
- What is your current/past pay?
- What are the area norms?
- What is your lifestyle like financially?
- What kind of profit will you get?
- What are the competitors getting paid?
Hourly wages, as explained by Jody, are best left for projects that don’t have a specific timeline, and can’t be predicted as far as the number of hours needed.
Flat rates are usually best for large predictable projects. Things to take into consideration are the hours versus the value of the project, how many people will interact with this design and how many times will it be reproduced? You also want to establish your revision expectations. You don’t want to charge a flat rate if someone is going to want 30 revisions. Also, what is your deadline? Your expenses for materials? Your minimum?
Know the Legal Stuff
As a designer, it’s important to always know the legal requirements for the designs you’re creating. Do you own the final designs? If you are signed as a “work-for-hire,” then you don’t. Always be aware of what your client’s expectation are, and read the fine print. Make sure you always protect your intellectual property, and If you don’t understand part of a contract, go to a lawyer to have them explain it. It’s better to fork over a little than get sued for a lot!
As a designer, multitasking is nothing new. That’s why it’s always important to keep a firm grasp on where each of your projects is at, and what needs to be done to complete them. It’s also important to set goals for yourself as far as where you want to be in the future.
- Know the scope of your projects
- Identify what the end state is
- Predict driving forces that will help or hinder the project both internally and externally
- Avoid vague requirements – know exactly what your client’s expectations are
- Communicate regularly and in an effective manner
- Find out what your project is on the client’s priority list
- Work effectively as a team to get the project done
- Forecast for the future – what will you be doing next week? Next year?
Overall, Jody’s presentation was very informative and helpful to any freelancer, whether they are new to the industry or if they’ve been in it for years. The industry is constantly evolving, and it’s important to adapt your processes and standards to match the world around you. Jody shared his extensive knowledge with us, and I hope you enjoyed hearing a portion of his presentation!
If you have any questions for Jody, or would like to connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn.
Also, feel free to post any other questions, comments, or additions to the presentation!
Photography by Troy Freund (@MidwestPhoto)