View Full Version : Advice for Freelancing Stay At Home Mom

11-27-2009, 08:13 PM
Hello everyone,
I was happy to find this forum and have enjoyed browsing through some of the threads. It seems there's a sincere effort being made to offer help and suggestions to other designers, so I thought I'd ask for some opinions.

I am a stay at home mom of an almost 2 year old child. I have been doing freelance web and graphic design projects off and on for many years. I have, as we all have I'm sure, experienced a serious drop off in clients due to the economy and am really needing to bring in some more work. I'm just not sure what's the best way to go about it.

I live in a small-ish town, so lots of the local businesses feel they have no need for a home on the web. Others have already got a web site they are content with at this time. I feel I need to make more of an effort to get my services out there on a broader scale and I am making it a serious new years resolution to do so. Here are some of my ideas.

1. Concentrate on certain categories.... hair salons, dentists, musicians, etc.

2. Create a cover letter to send along with my business card

3. Set weekly goals of # of businesses or individuals to contact with my offer.

I think these steps would help in getting my name out there, but I'm not sure what to include in my mailings. Do I need a brochure? Do I need to create a comp site for each category I target so prospective businesses can see a mockup idea of say, a classy and professional site for a salon? One of my biggest struggles is how to approach businesses whose sites are awful. Obviously you can't tell someone flat out "your web site sucks." How do you present your ideas for redesign in a friendly, respectful way?

I'd be very interested to hear if anyone has feedback to share about these ideas. I truly enjoy design. I just want to utilize my time wisely and generate some business.

Thank you all for your time and consideration.

11-27-2009, 08:41 PM
I too have noticed a decline in work due to the current crisis! and as its christmas its getting even worse!!

as for advertising, what i found works is postcard adverts, these seem to work better than leaflets if posting to businesses! leaflets dont even get looked at whereas a postcard takes a little more effort to screw up, making the person actually take notice of it!! (that may be a bad analogy but its a true one!!)

yes...u will need to make mock up websites rather than just say you can do a certain type of site with ease!!
i too specialise in music websites and i also specialise in websites for models, i am fortunate to have a deal with a modelling agency (even tho the work is every once in a while) and so i get access to use whatever images i like...which i used to set up a few mock websites to show off my work!

id suggest talking to a hair salon or other busines OUT OF TOWN and do a basic (but flashy respectful) website for free!! therefore your promoting your work, and yet not taking any work away from your current area!! sometimes i do sites on the cheap just to guarantee the monthly maintenance on the site, which if you can get a company that needs updating a lot your more than quids in!!

i think at this stage in the current crisis...the words are "sell yourself".....but dont "sell out"!!!...you still need to make sure your time, effort and expertise is well compensated!! ..ive been on other sites and seen people bid for jobs that should cost over 300 and asking for a measly 25.. and the jobsites even take commision!!

11-27-2009, 11:26 PM
Hello and thanks for your thoughtful response. I hadn't considered postcards as a mailing option for web design. I guess I imagined more information would need to be presented than what one could fit on a single side of a card, that's why I was thinking I needed a brochure. I will have to play around with some designs and make some mock ups.

That's great that you have a steady stream of work with the modelling industry. That's a field that will always thrive so I hope the work is constant for you.

I agree with you about not selling out. I've come down in my pricing significantly, but I feel like a lot of people have had to do it. There are a dozen other designers right around the corner who are going to quote the client a lower price for their work, and unfortunately, clients often see dollar signs and not quality of work.

Have you had any success reworking sites? There are so many awful sites out there with a web presence I feel I could seriously improve. I just need to narrow down the proper etiquette for approaching someone in that situation. I suppose saying I could improve their site isn't exactly an insult, but some people may take it as such.

Again, thank your comments. I don't have many friends who are designers, so it always help to bend another creative ear sometimes. :)

11-28-2009, 12:29 AM
im the same...i have absolutely no friends whatsoever who even know how to work a computer never mind design a site lol!!

to be honest its best if you dont say "ill rework your site" its actually best to say " your site is crap" .....BUT obviously not in that context lol!!
i try to say things like "you have a decent site but its not very appealing" try to explain the fact that people dont just goto sites to buy things...but they get lured there in the first place!!...maybe work on somethin that explains the fact that if someone was after a job and they walked through the door in scruffs they wouldnt really get the job compared to the person who made an effort and wore a suit!!

as for the modelling.....i have the contract...but the work is like 3 days every month...so it may be guaranteed..but its not an income i can live off!!

11-28-2009, 01:09 AM
It would be so satisfying sometimes to be able to actually say the words "Your site is crap," just like that. But I don't think it would get me the job. ;) I have had this conversation with another designer friend and she's suggested I do a side-by-side for the prospective client.... their site up against another site that is obviously more attractive. Asking the client, which "storefront" would you enter? Which is most professional? Etc..

I know what you mean about the randomness of work. I've got a couple clients like that and, no, it's definitely not enough to call a paycheck. Maybe if I had a dozen others like that!

11-28-2009, 01:52 AM
Well, well, you definitely need a portfolio if you’re a designer, especially if you’re freelancing; there’s no way around this. Nobody wants to buy a pig in a poke.
And I’m not a friend of doing work for free for commercial businesses, it doesn’t matter if it’s in town or outside because many times they will politely accept your offer but it’s not getting you a real foot in the door because they don’t value the work in the same manner as if they had paid money for it. Pro-bono work for non-profit organizations or things like that would be better to promote one’s services and build a portfolio. This way you can even be proud to have done something for the community or whatever.

I’d say rather than just focusing on small local businesses you should aim for some higher class projects that pay better. Get your name out in more than a ten mile radius. There are lots of job listings on the internet where location doesn’t matter that much. And I don’t mean these suspicious bidding sites where guys from India offer their work for $5 per hour and the site owner(s) take their fees, too. Good sites are for example http://programmermeetdesigner.com or http://authenticjobs.com where you can establish contacts and/or offer your work on an international basis.

However, although I’m not the oldest guy in the business my experience is that quality eventually always wins over the cheap labor. If you’re good and confident about it (and are nice and modest at the same time, of course) then you’ll always have something to do (and get a decent salary for it).

11-28-2009, 02:45 AM
I couldn't agree more with VIPStephan, especially:

And I’m not a friend of doing work for free for commercial businesses, it doesn’t matter if it’s in town or outside because many times they will politely accept your offer but it’s not getting you a real foot in the door because they don’t value the work in the same manner as if they had paid money for it.

I'll go so far as to include 'discounted' work in the above (in most cases).

If you’re good and confident about it (and are nice and modest at the same time, of course) then you’ll always have something to do (and get a decent salary for it).

Very nicely put.

11-28-2009, 03:28 AM
Hello Stephan and PappaJohn,
Thank you both for your comments. I agree with you that a portfolio is key. Any discerning client is going to want to see examples of your work. We can't just say we can do it, they want to see it in action. What Stefan said about doing free sites makes sense. As a student or as a friend, it's easy to get roped into something like this. I've done my best to stay focused on projects that have worked out positively and passed on those where I could tell the client wanted a million dollar site for virtually nothing.

I've done some pro-bono non-profit work which was much appreciated and got me some referrals, which was nice. Regarding my focusing on specific groups/categories, I used my local businesses as an example of who doesn't want a web site. I agree with you that I need to look elsewhere. I have been making that effort, I just need to get a new plan of action since my approach hasn't been working.

Regarding the suspicious bidding sites, I hear ya. The free ones seem cluttered with the "I'll work for peanuts" bids, though perhaps peanuts to me would be a monthly salary in some countries. I've browsed and even considered joining membership places like ifreelance.com but am even leery of those. I guess I just don't want to pay up and then get burned. I've put in the time designing for different contest sites as well, getting great feedback but always seeing the award going to another designer. So, those venues are less and less appealing to me now.

I guess what I'm trying to express thru my ramblings is a strong desire to simply find my niche. I want to figure out how to hit things from the right angle and be a successful freelancer. I would absolutely love to get some of those bigger projects that pay more. It just seems like the world is saturated with people who call themselves designers. It's my job to present myself and my skill set in a way that brings in the work!

Thanks again for your thoughts. I really do appreciate talking to other designers who have faced the same obstacles.