Beginner Freelancer Hints & Tips – Book keeping and Clients (UK)

General tips for creative freelancing.

I have been asked questions on a couple of occasions about topics aside from being a creative thinker. I have worked with a couple of clients from all shapes and sizes and I am now going to offer some points from my own experiences. So I hope this helps.. (please excuse my poor spelling)

1) Agreement / Plan – Before you jump into a project make sure to get some form of written agreement to the client declaring what it is they will get for their budget in concise – detailed – bullet points, this will prove to be invaluable to you later on. A written agreement in the early stages lays down a project plan and what the client will get for their money and time. You don’t want to surprise the client at last stage with over spending their budget and ignoring their needs.

Agreements will also protect you as the designer from “feature packing”, feature packing is when a client would ask you to produce one poster for the same budget and then somewhere in the middle they try to slip a business card design or and extra webpage without wanting to pay for the extra time. Be careful about verbal agreements too, I have agreed to a project with a vague specification from a client only for it to back fire at a later date, make sure to talk it through in some detail first without dropping the final price into the conversation.

Don’t : “Hello Jeff could you design a booklet for me” and of course you’d jump at the opportunity and say “yes, great will do for £20”. Great, done and dusted….that quick, you’d be lucky. You will find yourself in probable situation whereby the client keeps changing there mind, adding elements to the project and continuous criticism about the the project. You don’t wont to hear the words “that’s not what we have agreed”, because that’s what you said on the phone, remember? That’s an example of being too quick to take the project and not talking it through. Do : “Could you design a poster for me?” “yes, what size, when, who, colours, time scale, budget in mind”? that is a rough example.

In the event you don’t talk it through, you may get these freelance symptoms : Loss of trust from your client, time consumption, delayed payments, loss of future projects, a headache, foul language, muttering under your breathe, morale.
So : Get the written spec if possible> Discuss > Plan Declare > Agree > Begin

2) Deposits – There are many valid reasons for asking for deposits, make sure to tie this into your agreement.
A deposit can act as confirmation for a project, this will guarantee your client is serious about investing into your time and skill. It will also confirm the start date for a project and you will find the project moves quickly. If a client starts to foam at the mouth about paying you a deposit I’d be weary, It could mean they don’t have the money, or don’t want invest in your time and effort. (Please only use this part as a guide, some companies may have a policy where they only pay on completion, use your instinct. I find this works for me.)How much is down to you.

Perks of the deposit are as follows : Acts confirmation for you and the client, pays for you to work through the project, protects you if the project is canceled, could keep you going until the far off completion date.

3) Price – Take into consideration what your price could be saying about your service, although many clients may want something for cheap this can also work against you (the designer). Could knocking the price down to %20 (or cheap by the current market) mean you are desperate, inexperienced or easy pickings? possibly from experience, by all means don’t be greedy, but don’t be too be cheap either. Being too cheap can say you lack confidence in your workmanship and will work for anything.
(If you are a graduate have the take it where you can get it attitude, if its good for the folio.)
Type into Google “salary calculator” or sign up to, better still, buy a design week and feel the printy paperness between your finger tips!

4) Book keeping – Always keep hold of your receipts, bank statements etc. As a freelancer you will need to fill out a self (assessment) form ether digitally or printed stating your earnings at the end of the tax year (April – to – April). Please take into account if you a you have a paye job, this will also add to your total earnings. Take into consideration at an early stages of freelancing and store some money to to pay your taxes and national insurance contributions, even better save your self some hassle and get an accountant.(I really should do that)
Type in self assessment in the revenue and customs website all call their hotline to talk to someone who knows more about the accounting side of things.

5) Communicate – This may sound like a cop out, but the “communication is the key” (or what ever) cliche really is the key. Talk to the client and respond to their needs. Take pride and joy in the project and this will really help you shine. The client will also be more will be more inclined to give future projects as you are enthusiastic about what you do .
Think it all through and every body ‘should’ be happy.

I hope you can extract some juiciness from this little article and helps you to avoid bulging temple veins!

Kind Regards,