My best tips for freelancers starting a new web design project

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More and more of us are freelancing. The freedom is great but with it comes some risks. I’ve been freelancing for 19 years and these are my top tips for starting a new project…

Document EVERYTHING!

Document everything.

You want to be in the position of power. You need to document and keep as much as possible. There are times I will say to a client that they must email me their request. This is vitally important for:

  • Change requests
  • New additions to the project
  • Delays on their end

If you give a timescale for a project and the client phones you to say they are delayed getting you the bits you need, there is NO recorded evidence that your broken timescale was their fault. People will try to get the costs down once the project is complete and they can (and sometimes will) try to wiggle out of the full price, blaming things that were their fault. A text or email is fine, it just needs to be in a way that you can show the fault wasn’t yours.

Create a scope & requirements document

Before you begin the project you need to clearly state a few things:

  • Project overview
  • Goals & Objectives
  • The stages and timescales for both you AND the client (more below)
  • The Scope of the project
  • The structure of the project
  • Precisely what is and what isn’t included in the project
  • Your terms and conditions

It is important to lay out what timescales they have for things like reviews, change requests etc. It is also useful to lay out how much time is given for change requests and how many they are allowed to make.

I have a scope and requirements template (pdf) you can view to see my own document.

Keep a log

Deadlines and timescales

Yes is tedious but in the long run it is well worth the time. Even though you’ve given a timescale at the start of the project, they may come back to you asking why it took so long.

You need to be able to say “The header change took X hours, the images you supplied all had to be cropped, scaled and optimised which took X hours”. If the client knows the breakdown, and it is within the timeframe you gave, there is little they can say.

Being able to break it down if needed can save a LOT of headaches!

Don’t put it live UNTIL you’ve been paid.

Yes, I’ve been stung on this one. I uploaded a clients website to his server and he changed the FTP password and never paid. Never, ever put a website on the clients live server until you’ve been paid!

Cover off ALL scope-Creep

If you don’t write down EVERYTHING that the project covers you will get issues where a client wants an extra 900 hours of work because it wasn’t clear what was and wasn’t covered in the project.

Wordpress logo.

If, as an example, they want a blog and you choose WordPress be VERY clear what your scope is and the costs for each part. There is a BIG difference between clicking a button on modern servers and hey presto, the blog is live… compared to finding out the server they are on can’t do that and you manually have to upload the thousands of files, create the database to only then find out their server is running a PHP version from the 90’s and all that work uploading the latest version of WordPress was wasted.

Will you be installing a theme and plugins? Will you need to modify the theme? You have to know EXACTLY what is involved before you agree. You also have to state the costs for each part if you do have to do extra work on it.

I cannot emphasise enough just how important this is. Just saying it’s £45 to install WordPress on the server is NOWHERE NEAR enough detail and this type of lack in detail will bite you hard!

Give yourself some extra time

Sometimes something out of your control happens. It could be your computer dying, sickness, stuck on a coding issue, whatever. If you think it’s going to be really tight to complete the project within the timescale you are going to spend the whole project stressed.

If you finish ahead of time the client will love you. If you have a problem you know you have some breathing space before it becomes an issue.

I know that sometimes you have to give a tight timescale. I’m not saying you should do this on EVERY project, just the ones where you can.

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So, these are my tips for all you budding web design freelancers out there!

Simon Day

If you have a wedding, portrait, event or festival coming up please contact me. Likewise for portraits. Check out my social media channels: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter