Appendix A: Running a Freelance Web Business
Every job seems to follow the same pattern: I begin by outlining the features that the client and
I discussed, providing an estimate with a fixed cost, getting approval, and beginning work.
During development, I’ll post the website on my server so the client can review the progress.
Inevitably, there will be bugs and small misunderstandings about the way certain features are
implemented. I consider this category of change requests a normal cost of doing business, and I
do my best to accommodate my clients (especially by eliminating the bugs).
But some change requests turn out to be more substantive, and this can happen without the
client realizing it. It’s your job to be as clear as possible about the repercussions of their
requests. When they suddenly want a search engine on the site, you have to explain how that’s
not a simple matter of adding a new text field and letting Google take care of the rest. This is
when you can explain that there’s a substantial amount of work involved and that you’ll be
happy to put together a quick estimate for the job.
This simple explanation either shuts the client down entirely or does something even more
valuable: it up-sells your service. Having already signed up the client — an expensive and time-
consuming operation — you’ve now just made them a more profitable one, with significantly
less effort. And if you’d given up some profit margin on the front end, this is your chance to win
it back.
Up-selling often happens from the client’s perspective, but you can also initiate it. During devel-
opment, I often suggest features that would improve the website. In fact, when figuring esti-
mates, I try to include features that clients can consider in addition to the work we discussed,
and I include the pricing so they can make a decision.
Surviving in the Long Term
Everything I’ve discussed so far has involved ways to successfully run your business. But doing
this professionally is a long-term commitment. You’re not in it to make a quick profit and get
out; you’re here to make a living. Here are some tips for keeping your career moving while also
keeping your sanity.
Managing your time
As I discussed earlier when talking about bigger versus smaller clients, you can easily run into
problems when you’re working on several jobs at the same time. How do you choose what to
work on at any given time?
The issue is complicated by the fact that many people have difficulty motivating themselves to
work when they are the only ones looking over their shoulder! Fortunately, I have a wife, a
young daughter, and a mortgage to keep me motivated; if I fail, then they’ll suffer right along
with me.
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