Web Design

Refusing Bad Business: A Luxury You Can’t NOT Afford

Posted on March 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

As someone who’s worked on both sides of the freelancer-client fence, I give a lot of “insider” advice to designers on dealing with their clients. One of the most common problems I hear is that designers would love to be able to turn down their worst clients – the ones who pay late, don’t pay at all, or who just generally cause way more trouble than they’re worth. But the problem, these designers tell me, is that they just can’t.

Image Source: Angry on Bad via Shutterstock

They have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and so on. Whenever I hear this complaint, I try to root out the source of it. What is causing these designers to have this mentality Why don’t they see themselves as capable of having the so-called “luxury” of refusing bad clients I think they’re looking at things from the wrong end. All they can see is ‘I need to pay my bills and can’t afford to be choosy,’ when the whole client relationship process is really about so much more than that.

Sitting Up Straight

When you start things off wrong, you will finish them wrong. That’s just a fact of life, and it applies to virtually everything. I’ll share an example from my own life that some of you have probably dealt with as well: design-related injuries. I had the world’s crappiest chair, which wrought major havoc on my back and shoulders until I finally replaced it this year. Most injuries to the back, shoulders, and wrists are caused by poor posture (and crappy chairs – I’m sure there’s a study on that somewhere).

If you sit down at your computer and your spine is bent in a weird position, or your hand is a bit crooked on the mouse, it’ll be okay for awhile. You’ll probably feel no pain for the first hour – maybe even two. But do that every day for a year and you’ll be in a brace and out thousands of dollars in physical therapy bills. How do you avoid that kind of catastrophe By sitting up straight with proper posture in the beginning. I know, I know – I sound like your Mother. But she was right. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and all that. And eat your vegetables!

You have to start in a good position to end up in one. If you want a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with quality clients, the cold truth is that you may to have to make some short-term sacrifices in the beginning. You might have to go into a bit of a crunch financially (yes, I said it), or refuse to work with a certain type of client if you notice bad behavior start to crop up. This isn’t to uphold some lofty ideal of “honor” or anything, but simply because every crap job you take puts you that much further away from your true goal of doing work you love and are proud to display to others. It might seem irresponsible to take a loss over a quick, cheap gig, but if you have a truly valuable service to offer valuable clients, it’s actually irresponsible not to.

Image Source: Brainstorming via Shutterstock

Sit up straight! Stop seeing yourself as not “eligible” to refuse bad business. Instead, start seeing it as your duty to do so. How else are you going to make room for awesome clients if your time is being wasted by the crappy ones Work on changing yourself, rather than your clients. A bad client will never, ever, ever, ever change into a good one. Never ever. I can’t repeat this enough. You’re going to get sick of hearing it. But I still need to say it, because there are many, many designers out there who still don’t understand. It’s one of my main talking points for a reason; I see it over and over. Quit polishing the turds and find yourself some gold bouillon.

Dining Like Royalty

How does a designer go from struggling to put food on the table to beating clients away with the proverbial stick Many designers are offended at the suggestion that they turn away work – don’t you know I have a family to feed and/or beer to buy I get it. I know what it’s like to be a struggling freelancer, to have to take whatever work you can get. But I also know what it’s like to turn away work that doesn’t suit me as a professional. How I got from point A to point B is really not that complicated, nor is it a fluke or just my good luck. I’m not some rockstar creative with an overinflated opinion of myself, and you don’t have to be either.

Image Source: Strong Super Hero via Shutterstock

The key is to change your attitude. I acknowledged that I simply wasn’t going to be able to provide value to the right clients if I kept taking on the wrong ones. I had a great service that my ideal clients needed, and it was just plain irresponsible of me not to make room for them. You owe it to those dream clients, and to yourself, to focus in and weed the garden. Remember, niche = GOOD; generic = BAD. If you dedicate yourself to finding and helping people who “click” with you, you’ll soon be doing less work while making more money. And as a bonus, you’ll be way less stressed out and frustrated. Maybe fewer of you will have such horrific stories about bad clients and I won’t need to squawk so much about them. A gal can dream…

Adapt To New Opportunities

Human beings are extremely adaptable. Just look at how diverse we are. We’ve evolved to adapt to just about any situation – good or bad. If you’ve adapted to the lifestyle of taking whatever clients come your way and scraping to get by, don’t kid yourself that it’s anything more than that – an adaptation to a poor situation. (No, I did not mean for that to rhyme, but I’m going to leave it because I can. You’re welcome.) You may think that having an open-door policy with bad clients is just “how it is” for freelance designers, but it’s really not.

As a talented creative professional, you need to know that you are capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for. Take control of your own thoughts and actions to make room for a new situation to adapt to. Create those new opportunities and don’t be afraid to eliminate what’s not working.

What Do You Think

Designers, have you eliminated the worst clients from your roster What strategies worked for you, and, more importantly, how has it improved your business

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The Remote Designer – Jumping into the Cloud

Posted in Web Design

The Remote Designer – Jumping into the Cloud

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Freelance work can be one of the most liberating work, especially when moving from agency or in-house, you will ever undertake in your career. And while it has plenty of benefits, especially when developing a career, it has no shortage of it’s own challenges. The ability to set your own schedule and work when/where you want is liberating, but it can also be more difficult to connect with clients, maintain a consistent workflow, and find inspiration in isolation.

Cloud Computing

Fortunately, the emergence of cloud computing has opened up a lot of opportunities for designers. It’s no longer necessary to overload your personal computer with large software packages and files, and back them up on several external hard drives just in case of possible crashes. The cloud enables you to store, back up and share files and programs on the web, which you can access from anywhere. It’s a revolutionary way of doing your work, and immediately streamlines your workflow.

If you’re interested in using the cloud, but unsure of where to start, try reading this cloud computing guide for a brief introduction (and a pretty funny video of people trying to explain what exactly the cloud is).

There are cloud apps specialized for virtually every aspect of designing, so here is a quick guide on useful web-based apps to get you started if you’re thinking about taking the freelance plunge:

For Client Collaboration

Dropbox: More or less a household name at this point, this is a free service that allots you 2GB of storage upon sign-up. It’s designed for any web user, which means that your clients will be able to easily use it to see any files you wish to share with them. It’s also a secure app for your own storage. For those who need more space, they do have many options to pay for increased storage.

Sugarsync: This is another comprehensive storage system that offers file and folder sharing. It is compatible with most devices, so is a great option for your clients to use with you.

Evernote: Not only can Evernote act as your own digital scrapbook to store research, inspiration and ideas, it’s a great app to take notes when meeting with clients. You don’t have to deal with lugging around a notebook and remembering where you put your notes; you can locate them any time and from any device after your meetings or collaborations.

Dealing with clients can be difficult to navigate at times for reasons other than technical ones, so here is a collaboration guide for more in-depth help for those with less experience with remote work.

Encouraging Team Effort

Basecamp: This is one of the most popular project management apps. It’s ideal for designers, because it tracks projects from start to finish, and is designed for teams to work together remotely. It stores and organizes all files, documents, discussion feeds and feedback all in one place, which makes it extremely easy to track what team members are doing, as well as the project as a whole.

Draftboard: Another great collaboration tool, this streamlines all communication and feedback on project mockups. Perfect for the remote designer, you can update your progress and receive feedback from other designers or clients in one fell swoop, without having to meet face to face.

Remote Coding

Codeanywhere: When inspiration hits when you’re on the go, use this browser-based coding tool, which allows you to draft web layouts on any mobile device. It has Dropbox integration, as well as mobile apps for all types of Smartphones.

CSSDesk: Design a creative website with this full-featured interface. It allows you to develop designs that are supported across all major desktop and mobile browsers.

Helpful Software

Adobe Creative Cloud: As a designer, this is an especially exciting cloud app for you. You’ve probably become accustomed to buying expensive software packages that take up ahefty chunk of your hard drive space, and then spending more to upgrade to the latest version. Well, not anymore! Adobe now offers access to its latest products with a membership. Instead of installing programs on your own computer, you can use them on any device, as well as enjoy exclusive membership features.


Google Cloud Print: Connect your printer to the web and print a document or image from any application or device. You can share printers with anyone you choose from your Google account for a more concrete version of Google Docs.

Typography and Color Guides

TypeCast: This aewsome tool lets you design and experiment, all in the browser, with web fonts and real content. You can try the most popular web fonts all in one place, including all weights and compare font combinations and build type systems very quickly.

Adobe Kuler: Another excellent tool for doing tests, this app is for creating color themes and palettes, which can then be exported to any CS5 program. You can also import photos to create color palettes based on their prominent colors.

Experimenting with different apps will allow you to decide what works best for you to make your remote design efforts a success.

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The Art of Going Freelance

Posted in Web Design

Weekly Web Design Inspiration – N.177

Posted on March 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

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