There is no question that everyone wants to be successful, but how many people plan for that success? Consider a few of the ways most people recognize the relationship between experience, time and value:
- “I have a full understanding of my employers systems and how they operate. It would take time train a new employee to be able to support all the systems that I am can handle. I deserve a raise.”
- “The knowledge that I have is more valuable because I am now an expert in my field so I will start charging future clients a higher rate.”
- “Certain activities now take me less time per project to complete because I am more efficient with the tools I use. I won’t change my rates but I will be earning more per hour as a result.”
Each of these statements is reactionary in nature – the potential for increased profits is based on the knowledge or experience you have gained in the past. You might arrive at financial success through one or more of these approaches, but you aren’t planning for it. I believe that the most important factor to the future or success of my business is to always pay attention to it. I try to approach every decision or new business opportunity with the mindset that I am not only solving one challenge for one client, but every future client I might ever have!
Standardize your tools
Familiarity breeds efficiency! The farther along the learning curve you are with a software / service, the more output you can generate with it per hour. Keyboard shortcuts, code snippets or recorded actions for batch processes all allow you to be more productive. A good indicator of your comfort with a tool is when your thought processes change from wondering where you would do X to having ideas or theories where it probably should be done. After all, the less time you spend googling or reading tutorials, the more time you can spend working for your clients.
Don’t re-invent the wheel if you don’t have to
There will always be some cases where 100% custom solutions are a better fit than any off-the-shelf product. However, many open source projects available probably offer 80% of the functionality you need on a given project. How much sense does it make to start from scratch instead of just customizing the 20% which doesn’t fit your needs. Especially if you’re an agency of one, relying on a platform built by a community of like-minded individuals allows you to focus on more important aspects of your business.
There are added potential business benefits to contributing to an open-source platform too. A few of the reasons I have chosen to focus my development efforts on WordPress are:
- Releasing themes or plugins will lead to more links to my site from the community
- Increased traffic equals increased potential clients who would need or recommend my services
- Customization opportunities from people who want modifications but cannot do it themselves
- Future development opportunities from people who have enjoyed my other works and need something new developed.
Every part of a business process can – in theory – be templated to some degree to save you time and/or energy:
- Messages to clients informing them of your standard working process
- Boiler plate responses to requests for information or the typical questions you ask a new client
- Placeholder content elements for wireframing in Illustrator
- Photoshop styles that you use on a regular basis
- Generic CSS templates to be customized to match a particular client design
- Business document templates – invoices, quotes, functional design, etc.
- Design document templates – business cards, t-shirts, web layouts (960 pixels, iPhone, etc)
Create a design repository
Is your mind is always racing with new ideas? Do you do mid-level mockups up 7 different logo concepts even though the client only asked for 2? Do you capture those ideas / concepts somewhere that can be used as reference in the future? I have gotten into the habit doing a review for such collateral at the end of every project along with documentation and invoicing. The less time I spend hunting for that concept I did for client X last year, the better.
Standardize your process
Now that you have document templates, canned emails, etc get into the habit of using (and updating) them consistently. Not only will it make your work life that much easier to manage, if you want to sub-contract work to someone else, you could send them the templates as a starting point to ensure consistent results. After all, “freelancing should be a springboard, not a treadmill”
What are some other ways that you plan now to make servicing all your future clients easier?