What’s on the Back of Your Business Card?

intentionallyblankHopefully…NOTHING.

Just as some of our design clients want us to fill up every available square inch of white space (“I paid for that!”), several business card printers want us to fill up the back of our card. They say we’re wasting a valuable opportunity to “keep your customer’s attention.”

Hey! If you need a brochure, print one.

The blank back of your business card can be used for personal notes made in your personal handwriting. Don’t force a bunch of superfluous information onto a business card that was never designed for that purpose to begin with.

Often, other people use the space on the back of your card to make notes about you: where they met you, what you do, impressions (nice! witty! charming! knows Alex! call immediately regarding Smith project!). Leave them the space, don’t squeeze them out.

Personal handwriting of any sort is personal. It is an especially charming and powerful gesture in a world of arms-length, text-based communication like duplicate proposals, email and business letters.

The back of your business card can:

  • Create a sense of urgency for your proposal. The prospect probably already has your card. Here’s a chance to put it in his hand yet again, at the end of the meeting, with a personal message to him that he watches you write: “Saturday until 2″, “Ask for Lisa RE: extra inserts”, “Add’l copies 2K until Thursday.”
  • Share “For Your Eyes Only” information. “Fax 801-555-1212″, “Direct Line 928-555-2323.” Will the recipient of this private information feel special? Yes.

If you attend networking meetings (I know…yawn) you can use the back of your business card to make a powerful impression with someone you would like to do business with. The majority of these meetings follow a similar format: whipping through the room as fast as possible, smiling, gathering business cards and making surface chit-chat. Everyone intends to follow up with everyone, but few people follow up with anyone. Stories are forgotten (including yours) long before people reach the parking lot.

Here’s the rule with networking: First impressions count, but second impressions stick. After the first burst of card exchanges and chit-chat, identify the two or three people in the room that you can still remember and would like to do business with. Write on the back of your card: “Great meeting you, Sharon — I’ll call you Wednesday.” Now, catch them before they leave and hand them your card note-side up. Say those same words to them. There’s no need to linger. Smile, say good-bye. Call them WEDNESDAY. They will remember.

Try it! Let me know what happens.

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Images courtesy kevinzim & nate steiner; assembled by Dan Turner, used under a Creative Commons license.

PRICING: Ducks, Eagles, Graphic Design and You

eagle-duckThere are too many freelance graphic designers spending too much time attempting to win prospects who don’t understand the value of graphic design. Here’s a clear signal: “Why should I spend thousands of dollars with you when I can get the same thing from Joe Discount for $500?”

The “same thing?” When your prospect says that to you, you likely don’t need stronger sales skills or more patience. You just need to move on to the next prospect. You can’t change ducks into eagles. And that’s okay.

I rediscovered Kevin Fussichen’s Duck Laws this morning and remembered how they can help us understand Graphic Design Pricing and Prospecting:

DUCK LAW No. 5
Ducks are noble creatures. They shall not be penalized in the eyes of other creatures because they are not eagles.
Restatement: All things are honorable if they are what they are honestly, even if they are different from you.

DUCK LAW No. 6
The greatest duck that ever was cannot fly as high as even a modest eagle.
Restatement: If one would soar with eagles, do not swim with ducks.

See? If you are trying to sell a $7500 graphic design project to business owners who think $500 is an astronomical amount to spend for graphic design (my numbers are just an example), you are going to be miserable. And broke. You must seek out prospects who are already accustomed to spending $7500 for graphics. Then you are left with the easier task of selling them on YOU.

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Images courtesy Carl Chapman & tifotter used under a Creative Commons license.

Is Your Client Fiddling With Your Design?

fiddleEven after you and your client have agreed on a concept, signed off on a layout and are coming down the home stretch, every once in a while you will hear: “Can you change the background?” or “Should we overlap these photos?” or “Can you move the logo…?”

Why all of a sudden is the client doing your job?

Maybe, because it’s been so much fun working with you, they hate to see the project come to an end. Perhaps it’s pre-launch jitters. Whatever it is, you have to regain control of the situation; otherwise you risk the effectiveness of the design and you risk producing something you’ll be ashamed to include in your portfolio.

The first thing to discover is whether they’re just fiddling or if they have some sort of new vision. The best approach is to be gentle and diplomatic: “You bet I can move it — what are you trying to accomplish?”

That question is designed to refocus them on their goal, which is to concentrate on the needs of their viewers, users, prospects and customers. The broad issues, in other words, and leave the details of the color scheme, typography and design elements to you.

If they are, in fact, fiddling, they will not become refocused and they will also not — because they are likely not designers — be able to answer your question in any sort of meaningful way. You’ll need to help them: “For instance, are you looking to make it bolder, or softer, or more refined, or more corporate, or more personal…?”

The goal is to get them to articulate what they want (as it relates to the needs of their users and business), not how to do it. This line of questioning will generally get communication flowing again while defining client/designer responsibilities.

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Image courtesy jotor used under a Creative Commons license.

Finding Clients Shouldn’t Take Forever

spiral-time-350When it comes to finding clients, speed is very important to me. I don’t want to rely on a client-finding system that may take six months or longer to kick in. If you feel the same way, it’s time to learn how to turn on the speed.

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Image courtesy Gadl used under a Creative Commons license.

Creativity On Demand

treeYou do not have to “wait to become inspired” to produce. The inspiration comes out of the work, not vice versa.

In the world of commercial graphic design, the ability to perform ON CUE is one of the qualities that separate professionals from hobbyists. Professionals still have all of the same daily trials, tribulations and obstacles to deal with as everyone else, except they persevere and get the job done.

The following three tips will help you avoid creative block and meet those pesky deadlines:

1. Go with your strengths. When you’re under the gun, it’s best to save uncharted creative territory for when you have more time.

2. Be open to changing direction and even starting over. If you discover your original concept is too ambitious for the allotted time, change it rather than setting yourself up for massive compromise and undesirable shortcuts near the end. You may need to abandon more-complicated techniques and adopt simplified versions of them instead. In these instances, less IS more.

3. Don’t panic (especially if you find you do need to start over). In fact, take a break: Go for a walk, have some tea, stretch, breathe. You might take a few moments and look over your past work, just to remind yourself that you are capable of magnificent results. When you return to the task calm and clear-headed, you’ll be able to complete your project in far less time than if you allow yourself to enter panic mode.

As a professional, you’re able to produce good work and good solutions even on your worst days. It may not ultimately be your best work, but no one will be able to recognize that except you.

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Image courtesy uncommon used under a Creative Commons license.

Your Freelance Sales Engine

trainThere are a number of “right” ways to start and maintain a successful freelance career. However, the sales aspects of this endeavor cannot be overstated: If you don’t have clients, you don’t have a business.

For the freelancer, a subtle mind shift early in the game will keep you “in the chips” for as long as you wish to play. Try this: You are not just a graphic designer, but rather, you are a sales organization specializing in graphic design. This attitude will keep you tuned into opportunities and allow you to take a pro-active stance in the development of your business.

Learn how to land new business “right now.” You will never regret developing the skill to replace 100% of your monthly overhead inside of 30 days by contacting people who have never heard of you. To me, this is freedom AND security.

There are a lot of things to know and figure out in a freelance career, especially if you intend to be at it for any length of time. But the most important, for you AND your clients, is simply this: Nothing happens until something gets sold.

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Image courtesy Charles & Clint used under a Creative Commons license.

What’s Your Budget?

Question: “When you ask a client what their budget is, why wouldn’t the client be suspicious that the cost is gonna be pretty much what his own answer is?”

Answer: Asking for a budget qualifies the client in more ways than one. It lets a designer know if s/he is working with an amateur client or someone who has been around the block. The “hand-holding” factor is generally much greater with amateurs and is compounded if they don’t understand how designers work or how much they cost.

Also, if you have to pull teeth to get a budget figure, you will be pulling teeth the whole way; be sure you factor this into your proposal.

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Say Goodnight, Sparky

flw-homepageThe static Freelance Workshops site — which has served us so well for so long — has finally been put to rest. In it’s place, I present this shiny new offspring: A fully integrated CMS site designed to deliver blog-o-licious goodness while preserving the original nine Freelance Workshops.

As of this moment I’m still working on adding/updating links, photo credits and smoothing out a couple of kinks. But we are otherwise launched and functional.

The soul of the site is not changing a bit. The emphasis is still on developing your freelance graphic design practice. The time-tested information in the workshops is ideal for students, staff artists and agency reps who want to master the fundamentals of freelancing — as well as veteran graphic designers who are ready to move to a higher level of achievement.

Only now, of course, we’ll have more ongoing real-time opinions, rants, observations, instruction and commentary from me. And from you too, if you’d like to jump in.

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