10 Surefire Ways to Shift Your Career Into High Gear

Hi, everyone! I am so excited about Inside Freelance Design, and this opportunity to help you grow your new career.

The expansion that AWAI is working on for the design program will be an incredibly valuable tool for you as you build on the skills you've already learned in the course … and build toward being a successful professional designer. We have exciting times ahead!

With that bright future in mind, let's talk about getting clients. Here are some of the things I've done to create a $150,000 a year design business … and that you can do to create yours.

  • My most important self-marketing advice is this: Instead of looking for ways to get business, look for ways to help someone out. By changing your perspective, you change your whole business approach. You automatically start looking for opportunities instead of expecting them to come to you.
  • Always remember that you don't know who the other person knows. Very small projects have led to big projects for me, because a person I was helping recommended me to a friend.
  • Make “No job too big … or too small” your personal motto. In other words, don't say “no” to a job just because it might be worth only a couple of hundred dollars. Even today, I might do 2 or 3 magalogs a month, along with 5 or 6 small projects. For one thing, small jobs help you gain proficiency and confidence in your software. More important, those small jobs add up – and they lead to bigger ones. I've even offered to do jobs for free that wound up leading to more work – for pay – from the same client or someone they referred.
  • Be a good listener, on time, deadline-driven, ambitious, and flexible. You'll be surprised by how many jobs come to you because you're conscientious and easy to work with. And you'll be more surprised by the number of times it's because the company had to fire a difficult freelancer.
  • If you don't have samples, create some by reworking ads, brochures, and sales letters. Creative directors are more interested in seeing that you can generate ideas than in seeing real clips.
  • Start mining opportunities right in your hometown. Place your business card or brochure with local printers, direct-mail service companies, copywriters, and businesses you'd like to work with. And, of course, make sure the design of that brochure or business card is top-notch,
  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce and volunteer to do design work for their events and programs.
  • When you see ads for full-time designers, contact the companies and let them know you'd be happy to help them handle overflow on a freelance basis.
  • Prepare a short verbal advertisement about your career that you can use when people ask you what you do. And be enthusiastic when you deliver it. This recently helped me win a new client while I was standing in line at a store. As we were making small talk, a gentleman asked me where I worked. I told him what I do and how much I love it – and that led to a whole new opportunity.
  • Consider specializing in a specific area or two, such as magalogs, annual reports, logos, signage, product packaging, and so on. As with most professions today, specialists in design can earn more money in their areas of expertise. But don't get stuck in a rut. Be flexible and try new things when your clients ask- – and they will.

There really is a ton of work for you, because there's a huge demand for designers like you who can create designs that sell. Trust me … with the set of skills you're learning, you already have a big leg up on the majority of designers out there.

In no time, you'll have more work than you can handle if you keep your eyes open and look for opportunities to help others with your skills. The only way you won't get business is if you do nothing.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: June 30, 2005

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