The name of the game is profitability, and the key phrase is: Customer Expectations. If you follow the advice in this video, your design business will be successful and profitable.

So often freelance graphic designers fall prey to non-paying clients or they lose clients when expectations are not met. Below are a few tips to safeguard your freelance business and keep you from becoming a “working for free” artist.

1. Charge by the hour, not by the job. It’s not uncommon for a client to have many changes or revisions. Get paid for each segment of the project you produce. Charge from the minute you start till the customer gives their final approval.

So what is billable? With any creative work, there is chargeable time and non-chargeable time. Idea time is hard to calculate into the equation, but may be necessary, depending on the magnitude of the project.

For example: A customer asks you to design a business card. You go to Starbucks, order your coffee, and sit down in front of your laptop. You sit and think for 20 minutes before you even turn your laptop on. You as a designer will have to decide, “Is that 20 minutes billable to the customer?” Weigh each project carefully, but this does not mean you need to undersell your skills and talents.

Be realistic with your clients and they will not think you are out of line with your efforts. But in the end, the rule still applies – charge by the hour.

2. Get a deposit. Don’t be fooled by the “try it before I buy it”mentality. Too often design work is not viewed as “actual work” by many. Set standards to be sure your client follows through and that you recover funding for your time and efforts.

If the customer argues with you about paying in advance for design work, remember this scenario:

A man asks you to paint his house white. You buy the paint and do as he requested. He then comes to you and says, “I don’t like my house being white, please paint it blue!” Should you not be paid for painting the house white because he changed his mind?

3. Have some redundancy. Be sure you have the equipment to produce the work you are selling. Have a backup computer just in case your main workstation fails. Having two machines will give you more confidence, and you will rest easy in case you have a computer failure. Also keep current backups of your work and back up routinely. Remember, if the customer is willing to pay for the job, it has value..So protect it.

4. Consider the output of your final product. Whenever possible, show your clients press proofs before you print their job. Offer and recommend hard copy press proofs.. especially with clients who may be a bit persnickety. With more and more print shops moving to digital printing, this should be easy to achieve.

In conclusion, Work with a printer that can give you PREDICTABLE RESULTS. This is critical for retaining clients! Be sure your printer can work with you to match colors and on the stock the job will be printed on. A good printer will help you manage your project so your client’s expectations are met every time!