If you’ve come to this blog, welcome. And thanks for stopping by.
As time goes on I tend to spend a few days, sometimes weeks, looking back on the year around September time. September is my birthday month and the start of the school year and it always felt like a reset time; and still does.
This year I have been looking back on my business and making a few changes to how I do stuff in the future, including value/worth, working practices and client vs designer relationship.
So let’s talk about worth first…
After being challenged to up my prices at the start of the year, I set to with doing research as to what the average hourly rate was for a graphic designer with my experience and expertise.
I was surprised by the cohesion across the most popular 1st world nations that most people said between £25-£45 an hour and an average corporate employee wage of £24k.
And then I dug a little deeper and looked into fellow designers who work for some of the largest companies in the world; people like Apple, Disney, Netflix and Nike; on average they pay their freelance & consulting designers between £150-£300 per hour and an average wage of £45k+ – in fact some designers were walking away with £10-£20 k PER PROJECT!
Having worked at a measly £10-£15 per hour for almost 10 years, I immediately re-evaluated my worth and put my hourly rate up. And whereas in the past I would negotiate down, this hourly rate is now fixed. Part of my worth journey this year has not just been about numbers but also about overcoming the imposter syndrome by being brave, bold, courageous and most of all, being a flippin’ good designer!
How I changed my working practices
One of the biggest changes this year is making retainers a priority and sealing deals with a fixed term contract deal. This wasn’t something I would lean on heavily in the past but I made a decision that this is where I wanted to take Peanut.
I have also decided on my ideal target market and am building up strategies and services to cater to those people rather than being a jack of all trades and a master of none. I have honed my skill set to who I can help, guide and coach the most efficiently and have the biggest impact on.
The last change in working practice has come in recent weeks, where I have applied two new payment strategies. 1) An upfront payment will always be required to secure work and 2) Late payment charges will be applied. Maybe one day I will give specifics on these but for now I will leave it to your imagination to figure out why.
Client & Designer relationship
This has probably been the hardest part of the whole year; I have plenty of experience working for people who I see face to face on a regular basis, lots of meetings or conversations in person, but this past 2 years has thrown that into a bit of a spin and more and more client relationships have been via email; I have had some via video calling and I will come to that later
Here’s a shocking thought; no design is right for every project!
And sometimes walking away from a project is better for everyone.
There are also times you complete a project and you just know that isn’t going anywhere near your portfolio and sometimes you want to shout it out from the rooftops but the client drops your whole project. This can leave you feeling pretty rubbish and a bit despondent. But these are the times I have learnt that making sure you and your client are on the same wavelength throughout the whole project or retainer is VITAL to a good working relationship; even if it means you have to have hard discussions about money, excessive time usage, late responses, half finishes projects that need completing or paying for….so many things.
So Let’s chat…This is so important. I find talking with clients about who they are, their business, how it started, what and why they are passionate about something and even finding out their favourite colour and favourite hobby means I understand them more and we build a strong foundation to work with. Sometimes just knowing what colour a clients likes means you will avoid certain colours in your design process, which knocks on the head a possible stumbling block. Knowing a clients favourite hobby tells you about their personality; are they quiet, shy, or extroverted and social. It all plays a role in the client and designer relationship.
As a designer I have the knowledge to understand the design process for each of my services and I have a good idea of how long it will take, the process and conversations needed to get it done; my client does not. Honest communication is key when establishing a new relationship.
There have been times where I have agreed a price and then worked triple its value. Or when I have offered a lower price to help someone out and the project takes far too many twists and turns and takes four times as long as you had imagined.
This is because unrealistic expectations from the client and from the designer clash and cause chaos in the middle. Setting out a play by play for a client who needs to understand the process, the cost involved and the time it takes and what the extra costs will be for stepping out of those expectations are vital to having a successful outcome.
Design isn’t a one way street
Becoming a graphic designer these days is a tough old market to get into. There are times when I see job descriptions and think “You need 3 people to fulfil that role”. Knowing your strengths and learning to swim in your lane is key to your success. It will not be easy, you will get rejection, push backs and heartache, but it will come good in the end because you will become and expert in that field and your value will be immense.
Define your purpose as a designer
There have been times over the past decade plus that I have lost my purpose, lost who I am as a designer and been dictated to by circumstance, desperation, need for experience and made bad choices. Here it ends. I know the designer I am, I know my strengths and I am going to work to those strengths.
I believe in what I am doing and defining who I am isn’t limiting me, it’s liberating me!
If you are a designer just starting out, make sure you stick to your guns, make clear and realistic goals but then also have dreams, big ones, and keep reaching for those too.
At the end of the day there is only ONE you! So be you…everyone else is taken!