OK so this is a continuation of the “How To Become A Freelance Web Designer” series I’m doing, Part 1 was about taking the first steps into becoming self employed, and introduced the two main types of businesses here in the UK. With a little bit of advice which I have picked up when I set up as a Freelancer. Let me now talk about the tools of the trade and what you will need when you start off.
The Tools Of The Trade.
For starters there is the computer you will use to produce your work. I wont dwell over this too much, it has to be sufficiently powerful enough to run the software you will be using, weather it is Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator or dare I say it even Fireworks. With a decent display, plenty of RAM and a fairly large hard drive. These all depend on the type of work you are doing of course, its worth spending more of your hard earned cash on a high end PC or MAC if you primarily do a lot of graphics work. (This is not such an issue if you are a “code monkey”.)
– FTP Client (I use FileZilla).
– Graphics Software (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, FireWorks etc…).
– Coding Software (Notepad will do !! or Dreamweaver).
– Office Suite (Open Office is a great free alternative to Microsoft Office).
– Virus Scanner (You dont want to lose all your hard work because of a virus).
– BackUp / Restore Software (Same reason as above).
– Testing Server – I use Wamp Server for this (It installs Apache & MySql server locally on your machine).
This sounds like common sense, but it is likely to be the first thing you will use to talk to your potential clients. I would always go for a smart phone if you can afford it I wouldn’t be without my iPhone. It is my diary, contact book, email client, camera (in some cases) etc.. there are many more ways in which to use your mobile phone as a business tool (I might even write another post about this later). If you don’t have a smart phone I would recommend getting a cheap pay as you go phone to get you started. As you are not tied into any contract which will ultimately depend on your business succeeding.
A Business Suit
First impressions are key to a successful business, you need to appear professional in what you do at all times, and going the extra mile to achieve this is time well spent. A “business suit” can mean a lot of things, its not just your physical clothing, but your whole appearance, from the way you style your hair to the smart looking car you drive or the way you speak and present your ideas.
Your physical appearance may need to be altered depending on who your client is, this can be quite tricky to get right. If your client is a Lawyer, Accountant, Mortgage Advisor etc.. you should put on your shirt and tie. If he is a builder, plasterer or tradesman you may be able to dress down slightly. In my experience if you “mirror” what the client will be wearing it will put you at ease with the all important first client meeting. And give a good first impression.
Again a slightly odd “tool” of the trade, but like a lot of things in life from dating to job interviews “confidence” in your own abilities and knowledge will help you massively in achieving success as a freelance web designer. If you portray confidence you will instill confidence in your clients and they will feel happier for it!! (Make sure you always deliver on this otherwise your business image may be tarnished).
When running your own business you need to be extremely organised, you need to be able to work efficiently and effectively 90% of the time. This will help you hit your targets and achieve your deadlines. Without organisation you are doomed to failure!!
Business Skills / Tools
It is essential that you get to grips with keeping financial records of your business (book keeping). I simply use Excel, to record my Bank Account activity, Incoming payments and Outgoing payments. For invoicing I use an online service fromhttp://www.freeagent.com/. It is by far the best online invoicing system I have found, its fairly affordable too.
This is most likely the hardest job you will have to undertake as a Freelancer, mainly because you aren’t trained in the Art of “Talking”. The sale is like the “Petrol” or “Gasoline” for your business, without sales your business wont even get out of the garage. You need to be able to recognize what your potential client needs for their website, ( not necessarily what they want) and explain to them why they need it and what the benefits will be.
Word Of Mouth
This is quite possibly the one of the most important factors in becoming a freelance web designer in my opinion. Although this is somewhat out of your control, there is no stringer sales tool than “word of mouth”, A recommendation goes a long way in the world of Freelance Web Design. You can influence this simply by doing a professional job for your clients. Testimonials are extremely powerful and a lot of my own work was picked up through word of mouth.
To Sum Up…
Basically there are a few things you need when setting up as a Freelancer, some of them physical tools such as computers, monitors, keyboards etc… but the most important thing is the right attitude to working for yourself. Always be prepared to go that extra mile, to appear professional and knowledgeable. Get to know your potential clients before going to see them, research their business and what they do, so ultimately you give off a great first impression. Word of mouth and recommendations are key to being successful.
I hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any questions drop me a message or comment… Thanks.