updated: October 2nd, 2009 / Ross Johnson / 10 Comments

The demand will come…

There are a lot of freelancers and budding web design companies out there who are more or less dipping their toes in the water. The hope is that they can either make a living off of web development/design or hopefully make a great living off web development/design. This is an unnerving feeling, three toes in the water. You can feel the water but it is cold, and you know if you could just get all the way in the water it would be refreshing. I know this feeling, as I was there myself not too long ago.

Don’t take a job just because you feel antsy about getting work

The mistake I made over and over because of this feeling was getting into projects that I knew were bad ideas. Now there was a post about firing your client that really reminded me of this. There is a tendency to accept any work you can when you feel like things are slow. It happened to me when I first started out, it happened to me again earlier this year when I merged companies. You need to have faith that if you do good work and get your name out there the demand will come. You do more harm than good getting into projects and jobs with people who are abusive, unrealistic, clueless, won’t pay, etc…

It happened to me many times

In one case I agreed to do a website for less because the prospect said “I promise we will keep it easy.” When the scope changed drastically (into the use of AJAX and flash) I informed him that I would have to switch to hourly because there was no way to estimate the amount of time it would take to complete the project. At the end he questioned the billing and the company got paid less than the amount of time spent on the project. The request for a lower cost, and the reasoning should have been the first clue. I knew it was a red flag, yet I ignored it.

I promise there is enough demand, be patient

There is enough demand in web design/development where anyone reading this could make a good living doing it if you care enough to push for it and learn to do great work. Sure there will be times where you are watching your spending closely, but the demand will come.

Instead of taking that job that your gut tells you is a horrible idea, spend more time working on marketing yourself. Spend the time you would have wasted in meetings that never lead to a paycheck and go to some networking events. Participate in some local groups. Get your blog going for some natural SEO benefits.

Sometimes you don’t see it coming and you do have to fire a client you thought was great. But 90% of the time it has happened to me I saw it coming, I just ignored it because I wanted the work in a slow period.

10 thoughts The demand will come…

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  2. Thanks,

    Im just heading out of two or three projects where I knew I shouldn’t but thought I needed the money.

    I really didnt need the money, I could have survived.

    Im a week into taking a year off work to refocus and this is great advice

  3. That is good advice, and advice I’ve given to a couple people myself. Although I think that as a freelancer starting out that’s a lesson you have to learn the hard way. It only takes one horrible project that goes outside the scope of what the client is willing to pay and what you are capable of to learn.

  4. @Ayush – I hope your year off is very helpful. I would love to take a year off and refocus, but I don’t have the kind of savings to really make that a possibility at this point. I do take vacations and alter my daily working to help refresh from time to time however.

    @BradC – Yeah it is hard to realize even if people have told you. I always had this urge of “Well if I just do a little more they will be happy and I will get paid and everything will be great.”

    ross
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  10. This needs to be printed out and hung in front of every freelancer..

    “Don’t take a job just because you feel antsy about getting work”

    (I’ll pause while your printer is printing….)

    Ok done? Now my story. I started freelancing mid 2007 with a lot of experience in Ruby on Rails. For the first few months I had trouble getting work, mostly because I couldn’t show off my previous code and I didn’t have a clue about marketing myself. Around November (2007) I started to hear “Well… we don’t need Ruby but we could use some PHP help. Can you do that?” Being low on work, I relearned some PHP and started to pick up a couple PHP projects to fill the gaps.

    Fast forward to now; I’m still trying to drop PHP, I’ve had to take an entire month off to get back up to speed with Rails, and I can’t work with most of my previous clients (great people, they just don’t need Ruby). If I stayed focused on Ruby instead of cutting myself short, I could have gotten a few projects and really improved my visibility in the Ruby community.

    Good news is, if you make a mistake (like I did) you can always correct it. It just might slow you down and take you longer to get to where you want to be.

    Eric

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