Recently I’ve had a few amazing designers reach out to me in a panic – they’ve been knee deep in client work the past few months but don’t have anything booked for the rest of the year.
Has this happened to you? Hunkered down in client work, launching projects for other people – when you come up for air you realize you don’t have any projects on deck.
Now what? You’re scrambling, willing to take anything so you can pay the bills.
And that means you’ll more likely to take on the wrong projects (and clients).
Here’s what you can do to avoid this crunch.
1. Setup a wait list
When I was taking on new clients, this was the #1 thing I did to keep cash flow consistent. We can’t always take on every project right away, but with some smart planning (and non-refundable deposits) we can plan out 3-6 months in advance. I personally capped my wait list to 6 months, because timelines and project scope would often change beyond that point. Guess what – trying to get into traditional media like print magazines? They work this far out too…
2. Reach out to current clients
The last few weeks I’ve been doing strategy and planning calls with my long term clients to plan for 2016. This is smart on both of our parts – I know what my cash flow (and project load) looks like for the better part of the year (and I can identify any gaps) – and my clients know that I’m invested in seeing their businesses thrive (and that they can rely on me being there). I can’t tell you how many people comment on me being proactive – it makes a difference when you reach out first – don’t wait for them to contact you!
3. Reach out to former clients
What’s easier than finding a new client? Working with an old one! If you’ve been in business more than a couple of years, it’s likely that some of your first clients are ready for a refresh or have new design needs. Maybe they need a new responsive site or they’re ready for a design facelift. Check in with your previous clients to see how their business is doing – and if they could use your services.
4. Reach out to old prospects
Did someone contact you a few months back but ultimately didn’t sign on with you? It doesn’t hurt to see if they’re still in the market for new work. Often the decision to hire a designer can take months. Analysis paralysis sets in and no action is taken. While this isn’t my preferred go-to method, it doesn’t hurt to follow-up again if you had a good feeling about working with the potential client. First, check to see if they have a new site (so you don’t waste your time) and then reach out to see if they’re still looking for a designer.
5. Let other designers, colleagues and family know you’re available for work
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Other designers can be your greatest source of new work! Good designers (and devs) are often overloaded with work .. and we’re always looking for reliable people we can refer to. Are you in FB groups? Message boards? Let people know what type of work you’re looking to do. No one’s going to judge you – we’ve all been there!
6. Revisit old referral sources
Look at the past two years – who was your biggest referral source? Is there a reason they aren’t referring more people to you? Reach out to them via phone or email – see how they are doing. Remind them how much you appreciate their support and that you loved working with their referrals.