SXSW 2009: From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 3:30 PM
Kristina Halvorson, President of Brain Traffic
Roger Black, President/Designer of Roger Black Studio
Whitney Hess, User Experience Designer
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder/Exec Creative Director of Happy Cog Studios

If you can stand in front of a room of 20 very intelligent people for 10 minutes and talk about just one thing, that one thing is what you should go into. Whatever that one thing is, you can make money off of it.

The great thing about freelancing is you can be scattered anywhere, be all on your own with your own websites and own clients. But pooling multiple freelancers together makes for a great global network for projects. Hiering a freelancer for a company is typically cheaper too. Having an enterprise scale agency build a website adds substancial costs.

Accepting that you cannot fully do an entire development process (Such as the Design aspect) is a great milestone. Trying to do everything if you’re not good at something is a bad idea. It is probably better to hire out the Design then attempt it yourself.

As a freelancer you should blog, tweet (twitter), and participate in the online community. This online interaction will cause some of the best networking. Your portfolio typically does not get you the gig, but its the process you take when producing that final product. People care more about how you work, not what the final product will look like… At least when wooeing the client.

When they were charging less for projects than what they thought they were worth they were getting poor projects. When they then started charging more for new projects the clients respected that and they started getting better projects. It is almost like if you charge a lot, you’re “more experienced” in their mind. And essentially the people who don’t want to spend a lot of money, they wont come to you. It works as a really good filter. It is becoming standard to be able to ask what their budget is, and then undercut it by 10% or so.

“Date Phononom:” Just like in dating, not being available will make you more desirable. So telling them you do not have time right now will make them even more excited to work with you when they can.

When you don’t want a client then charge him a ridiculous amount of money, and the worst thing that happens is they stop contacting you.

One of the freelancers, Hess, does most of her work between 12am and 4am. She does meetings in the day time with clients, but then does most of her work late at night. She doesn’t really have a set schedule, but sets deadlines so they’re realistic and can flow with her other clients’ work. When she procrastinates she seems to be more productive at last moment. Realizing that there were no managers overwatching her, and she could set her own schedule, she starting realizing what made her happy. And this happyness is what she surrounded herself in to become more efficient. I’m jealous. 🙂

Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2009.


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