10 things I've learned about running a Graphic & Web Design Business

So a year has gone by and I learned a thing or two about running my own business. If you're starting your own freelance design business there is a good chance you're going to encounter at least some of the following:

1. Be prepared to get a crash course in Administrative work.

Let's get this one out of the way right off the bat. A very large chunk of my time is spent writing and responding to emails, preparing quotes, writing documentation and dealing with the bills. You'll be diving into the world of spreadsheets and project management whether you like it or not. You're going to dislike it at times but you're also going to learn some ways to increase your admin productivity. If I could give you any advice, it would be to stay extra organized and on top of all the 'paper work'.

2. You're going to lose bids. (...and that's okay)

When I first started losing out on bids I was frustrated. I figured for every five proposals I would write, I would win four. Boy, was I wrong. But I've learned that losing sometimes isn't so bad at all as it helps you become better at writing and quoting on proposals. You'll learn from this process and little by little, eventually start winning a few.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff.

'Small stuff' can add up and chew away at your precious time that you should be using to be productive. I've wasted time with being too picky with my designs, trying to change a clients mind, chasing after bills and worrying about what's next on the to do list. It's important to know that things generally work themselves out and that there are likely more important things to attend to. Running a business on your own can often be a balancing act and you need to be good at it.

4. Don't be afraid of confrontation.

Guess what? You're going to eventually get in a 'confrontational' stand off with a client about what you think something should look like and how the client thinks it should look. Of course you're going to think that you are right and they are wrong but that's not always the case at all. Unless they are requesting something outlandish like an animated gif or starburst, make sure you listen to their request. Communication is key here. It's your job to listen to the client and consider everything they are saying.

5. Out source when necessary.

Unless you have loads of time on your hands to do it ALL, I suggest you look for some helpers. DON'T commit to something that's out of your league while working alone. If you are going to take on a larger project track down people you trust to help. For example, If I need someone for a PPC campaign I'm going to track down a specialist. If I need a PHP coder I'm going to get one and not even pretend I know PHP.  Know your limits, know your boundaries and be smart.

6. Blogging is way harder than it seems.

I figured with the launch of my new site I would start a blog and write two posts a week. HA..haha.. hahHA. This is obviously not the case, nor will it ever be. I'm not a fan of writing a post just for the sake of writing. If I have something valid or informative to say I will. I don't consider myself a good writer/blogger but I'm certainly willing to give it a go.

7. Track your time accurately.

When I first started out I wasn't tracking how much time I spent on a project. This is a rookie mistake that most of us are guilty of. Track your hours so you know how much time you're putting into a project. That way you have an exact idea of what your costs are and when it's simply time to pick up the pace. Time is money.

8. Network, Network, Network.

Going to local networking events in your area is a great way to meet new potential clients. I get over half of my projects from either meeting someone in person, getting a recommendation from a current client or through various Social Media channels such as Twitter & Linked-In. It's important to be yourself and let your personality shine through in real life or online. So get out there and get in someone's face.

9. Analytics is your friend.

Google Analytics is your friend for both your business and your clients. It's important to keep an eye on the traffic that comes through your site on a daily basis. I've learned such things like: half of my traffic uses a Mac, 5% uses IE 6 (ugh) and most people check out the home page and then hop over to the 'Our Work' section. This is all valuable information that I just can't ignore. If users are interested in the 'Our Work' section then I'm going to have to make it easier for them to get to. Eventually, I'm going to redesign the home page with that goal in mind.

10. What you learn about yourself is amazing.

So what did I learn? I've learned that I actually can run a business. I've learned that some clients are amazing. I've learned that I actually keep learning every day. I've learned that I can always PUSH myself a little further. I've learned how to communicate better and I've learned that I'm a decent listener. Most importantly, I've learned that starting a business was worth it and to never think that you can't accomplish something. 'The sky is the limit'... words to live by.