freelancer timeclock

If you’re reading this article, I’ll assume you either have decent skills to create a website, or have staff (domestic or remote overseas workers) to create websites.

If you want to run an agency, all of SwiftCloud can absolutely help you do that – including SwiftClock’s multi-user mode in which you can mark up temporary staff and/or overseas workers with pass-through billing.

Anyway, the number one mistake I see people make when wanting to be a professional web designer is not billing for time.

The auto mechanics have this down cold and make money every time. They….

  1. Give you an estimate before they start work, based on their best guess of the task at hand.
  2. If it goes over due to unforseen complications, they call you and ask how you want to proceed
  3. If it does go over and you’ve approved it, then you’re on the hook for more money.

Notice the flip side: If they have to pull out your entire engine just to get to the part needing fixing, they don’t absorb the extra time-cost – you do.

This is crucial to working as a professional, because while most clients are easy going, you will absolutely run into some who tell you “blue” then “red”, then show their boss, who says “purple” then “orange” then finally you all settle back to blue.

Clients, without time-cost controls, will often nitpick until perfection. If they are paying by the hour, then it’s up to them to decide how close is “close enough”.

The other mistake a professional web designer should never make is to ensure you get paid is never “unlock” the final product until the final bill is paid.

Most clients are cool, and if it’s a repeat customer we know are good for it, we’ll bend this rule – but with new clients, we keep the site in preview (i.e. http://ClientName.YourSite.com, or http://beta.ClientDomain.com) and develop on our server. Occasionally we get really large projects on weekly billing then it’s on-going and the clients pay or work stops, but generally speaking, get 1/2 down, and get 1/2 on approval to unlock the site. If the client says they have more notes, you can reserve X hours (usually 1 hour) for future notes but get $$ now to unlock it.

To lock it, SwiftCMS.com has a built in “gatekeeper” system that allows preview access, while everyone else sees a “coming soon” countdown. For custom theme work, we just use htaccess.

SwiftBooks.com allows invoice automation – so you can automatically remind clients of invoices, and even charge interest on invoices over X days old (as you should be!), and the invoice will automatically self-update daily pro-rated.

This gives the client a financial incentive to pay on the terms you agree to at the beginning.

For existing professional web designers, what other business tips do you have? Comment below.

For rookies just getting into the industry, what questions do you have? Comment and we’ll create future posts.