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Hiring Your Web Business Vs. Hiring Overseas

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

The biggest reason why prospects consider hiring overseas is because it’s probably cheaper than working with your web design business. Many don’t see a justification for paying twice or even three times more for web design, when they can hire someone in another country to do the job cheap. Whether you like it or not, your web design business has to compete in a global marketplace. Some of your competitors are able to charge lower fees because the cost of living is much lower where they live. Explain to your clients some or all of the following reasons why your web design business should be hired instead of your overseas competitors:

Lower the Risk of Fraud

Your clients have access to all sorts of watchdog groups and reporting agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau, if you don’t deliver the services you promise. They can file complaints and warn other prospects not to do business with you. Those agencies may also investigate your business as a result of complaints. That’s not going to happen with web designers overseas. The client simply puts themselves at a greater risk, and the cheaper price will end up costing more than you would ever charge if something goes wrong. Encourage your clients to research web design fraud and hiring overseas for themselves. You’ll be surprised how many return to you to learn more about what you can offer.

Reduce Communication Issues

A language barrier can contribute to communication issues, and that can lead to more time spent on a project than necessary. It can also lead to work that’s not complete or inadequate. Working in the same country where your client resides doesn’t make you a better communicator, but it can reduce the number of communication issues due to language. Tell your clients that you can spare them the frustrations and pain associated with translation and hiring overseas. You can also save them costs to redo their projects and on charges for time spent going back and forth with overseas designers.

Poor Copywriting

Hiring overseas sometimes leads to poor copywriting as well. Your clients expect expert work that makes them shine, and not content that is full of errors. Many of the complaints from individuals hiring overseas involve the lack of writing skills that must accompany web design work. You should convince clients that your web design business doesn’t have those problems. Even if you outsource work to freelancers, you can review their work to ensure that it meets the client’s standards. Many web design companies and freelancers overseas cannot outsource copywriting work because it would cost more to hire them than what they are paid to design the website.

Some clients will ignore these reasons and pursue hiring overseas no matter what you tell them. They will focus solely on the lower rates and take their chances. It may be in your best interest to forgo those clients if they cannot see the value in what your web design business has to offer.

How to Sue a Client for Non-Payment

Posted: September 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

Before you decide to sue a client for non-payment, you have to determine whether doing so is a smart business move. There are a number of reasons why you may decide to not pursue the matter in court. One primary reason to consider is if it’s worth the legal expense that you will incur to file and sustain a legal battle. A secondary reason is the potential bad publicity that you’ll get, even though you have a legitimate claim. It can be difficult with some clients to remain objective and make your decision without anger or emotions running high. You should consider the ramifications before you go after a client and deny any impulse to take immediate legal action. If you’re satisfied with your decision to sue them, here’s how to do it:

Demand Payment First

Ask your attorney to draft a demand letter on your behalf and have the attorney send it to the client. If the amount is too low and if it costs more to have your attorney draft the letter, then you’ll have to do it yourself. There are several sample demand letters online. The gist of the letter is that you’re asking the client to pay within a specified time of receipt of the letter, and in the letter you document the monies owed and the facts that back up that payment is owed. You should serve the letter on your client by sending it by certified receipt through the post office, and you should require a signature upon receipt. The letter will be included in your evidence when you pursue the matter in court.

Write Your Complaint

If the client is non-responsive, you’ll have to write your complaint to file in small claims court. Whether you file a complaint in small claims court or superior court in your area depends on the amount owed. Call the court clerk if you’re not sure where you need to file your complaint. The information should be available on the court’s website as well. The complaint should state the facts which prove the basis for your legal claim, such as the services you provided, the dates when you notified the client about the payment or sent an invoice, and any agreement made between you and the client for services and payment. Your job is to prove that the client breached the contract, whether it was written, verbal or implied.

File Your Complaint and Serve the Client

Any small claims court will require proof that you served the client with a complaint and summon. The exception is when you can obtain a waiver of service, where the client agrees to waive his rights to be served. You can serve the client by certified mail or have an authorized court official do it for you. The best thing to do is find out what the court in your jurisdiction requires for a proper serve. Your client could ask the court to dismiss the case if you don’t get this right.

Present Your Case at the Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing for your case. Before the hearing, you may have to respond to your client’s Answer and motions in writing. You may also have opportunities, or at least look for them, to settle with your client. It’s important to prove your case at the trial, by illustrating to the judge why you should be awarded damages for breach of contract. If the court rules in your favor, then you can proceed to collect the court judgment.

It’s important to determine up front whether you can collect a judgment before you sue a client. You may win in court, but if the client has no assets or money, then you’ll have wasted your time.


Things to Include in Your Graphic Design Business Plan

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Writing a graphic design business plan is one step you can take to thrive as a new business. The alternative is to have no plan at all and risk business failure because you have no idea how to guide your business. Your partners, employees or potential investors can all benefit from a detailed plan that outlines the finances, management, sales and marketing strategies that you will implement. A thorough plan needs to include the following things:

1 – Executive Summary

Your executive summary should not exceed one page. It should contain an overview of your business mission, operations, objectives, and marketing and sales strategies. If you plan to share your business plan with others, then you can expect this page to be the most read. Keep it interesting so that you can intrigue readers to continue reading the rest of the plan.

2 – Services

Before you write your plan, you should decide on your niche. A graphic design business plan that covers all possible services is too broad and it will make it difficult for you to grow and compete in the marketplace. Your services should be specific to the niche that you want to target. Some examples of services that you may offer are:

  • Brand identity
  • Packaging
  • Logo design
  • Book covers
  • T-Shirt designs
  • Print marketing materials

Specify the services you plan to offer in your plan and remind the reader, and yourself, that there is a need for those services in your niche market.

3 – Target Market Analysis and Strategy

You must identify your target market and offer as much detail as you can about it. Part of the reason for many business failures is that they lack target market identification. You need to know exactly who you plan to serve, what their needs are, who else is serving that market and how to best deliver your services to them. Your analysis should include:

  • Demographics about your customers
  • Details about the businesses in your target market, such as the number of employees
  • Estimate the number of prospective customers
  • Discussion of trends in the graphic design industry
  • Strategies for customer acquisition and retention
  • Analysis of competitors

This portion of your business plan will benefit you greatly. You can refer to it as you implement marketing strategies, as well as share it with some of your employees.

4 – Management and Personnel Plan

In the management and personnel section of your graphic design business plan, you should cover your background as it relates to your ability to manage the business. You should discuss your educational background, work experiences, certifications and other areas of your background that will influence your leadership in the company. You should also list everyone who will work for your company as an employee, consultant, freelancer or independent contractor, along with their respective pay.

The good news is that you don’t have to write a graphic design business plan from scratch. You can buy affordable software that will include templates and outlines, and many will guide you step-by-step through the business planning process.


Top Lies Clients Tell to Web Developers

Posted: August 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Effective Communication with Your Employees

Posted: May 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Taking the time to develop effective communication with your employees is crucial to a running a successful business. Your employees can help you grow or fail, and which road you take often depends on how well you communicate with them. With so much at stake, you should take the time to improve your skills. Here are 4 tips for effective communication skills you should be using to engage your employees:

Tip #1 – Build Relationships

Your employees are people with real lives, issues and concerns. You don’t need to set out to be their friend in order to build relationships. You don’t want to take the other extreme and be a distant and uncaring person who is not attuned to their concerns and needs. Find opportunities here and there to build a rapport with them while still maintaining your professionalism. For example, if you know they have children, it’s okay to ask how they are doing every once in a while. If they hint at personal problems that you have solutions to and they are not the sort of problems that can entangle you in a legal or professional web, then take the time to be helpful. It’s harder for employees to underperform for bosses that they have relationships with.

Tip #2 – Practice Active Listening

Effective communication with your employees must start with active listening. Don’t dismiss the issues and concerns that your employees raise because they will stop saying anything at all. Ask them questions for clarification and get as much information as you can. Your job is to solve the problems they face, so that they don’t become frustrated with their jobs and helping your business grow. If you engage in passive listening, then you’ll miss opportunities to solve their problems and build relationships. You can also end up hearing the wrong message and a misunderstanding of what the employee is trying to communicate.

Tip #3 – Choose the Best Method of Communication

You should not fall into the trap of relying on one method for all of your communications. For example, if your employees work from home, it’s easy to become reliant on email for all of your communication. There are times when it’s more appropriate to pick up the phone and call. Face to face meetings may also be the best solution in some instances, especially if there is a communication problem. The verbal cues that you send with your body language are lost in phone and email communications and you may need that information for some situations.

Tip #4 – Provide Full Descriptions of Tasks

Sending short emails with vague details about new tasks that you want your employees to complete is not effective for communicating with them. It backs some employees into a corner, because they don’t want to seem incompetent or incapable of performing the tasks you assign by asking a lot of follow up questions. You can save yourself and your employees pain by providing full descriptions of the work you want done, either verbally or in writing, and encouraging them to ask questions if they are confused.

Communication can be a pleasurable experience for you and your employees. Use these tips to become effective when communicating with your employees, and you should see improved results in many areas of your business.

What You Need to Know Before You Hire an Employee for Your Business

Posted: May 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Before you hire an employee, you have to get your legal and financial house in order. You can’t afford to make many mistakes, because you could end up in significant trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Your employees may also sue you for your actions as an employer, if you’re not compliant with the employment laws and regulations in your state. Here’s what you need to know before you bring someone on board as a part time or full time employee:

You Need to Excel at Record Keeping

There are a few key areas where you must keep good records, including when you hire an employee. You can invite an IRS audit and end up with tax liabilities if you don’t obtain the necessary documents required by tax laws and regulations. Some of the paperwork you’ll need in connection with hiring includes:

  • W-2s for your employees
  • W-4s that your employees will sign and give to you
  • State income tax forms
  • Federal income tax forms
  • Form I-9 to verify your employee’s ability to work in the United States

One thing you should consider doing before you hire an employee is to hire someone else to take care of your payroll. There are affordable payroll services, but you can also hire an independent contractor with human resources experience.

You Need to Buy Insurance

You need to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, and you may need to purchase unemployment and disability insurance on behalf of your employees. The exception is that it may not be mandatory to purchase unemployment insurance for your business depending on the type of business you have and the number of employees. You need to contact the agency in your state that oversees business taxation to see whether you have to buy it. You may also need to purchase disability insurance by law if you live in a state that mandates it. Otherwise, there is no federal law that mandates employers to purchase disability insurance for employees.

You Need to Understand Employment Laws

An employment lawyer can help you to avoid legal pitfalls and to institute best practices to ensure that you are in compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations. You also have to understand the legal obligations that accompany your role as an employer, no matter how overwhelming it is. Some of the key areas where you should learn as much as you can before you hire an employee are:

  • Equal employment
  • Wages and overtime pay
  • Family and medical leave
  • Employment contracts
  • Immigration and workers’ permits
  • Workplace conditions

You don’t have to become an expert in these areas before you hire an employee, but you should get an overview of your responsibilities in each.

There are other alternatives to consider before you hire an employee. You can hire someone as a freelancer, consultant or independent contractor. These may be better options for you if you’re not ready to take on the responsibilities of an employer.

4 Tips to Open a Retail Location

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

The prospect of opening a retail location for your business is exciting. It could be the next big step needed to take your business to new heights. There are many details to prepare for, and it will require most of your time to manage the store. It’s important to learn as much as you can about how to operate a retail location for profit. Here are 4 tips to think about before you open your doors.

Tip #1 – Write a Business Plan

You should not open a retail location without a business plan. Unlike an online business where you can lower your overhead and therefore afford to make some mistakes, a retail location can go under if you make a few errors. One way to avoid that is to have a detailed and well thought out plan. Most entrepreneurs associate writing a business plan with asking the bank for money. The main reason for a business plan is to understand your business model, and to direct your business to success.

Tip #2 – Choose the Right Location

It’s all about location when it comes to a retail location. You could have the greatest store, but if it’s in the middle of nowhere, you won’t get as many customers. Choosing the right location is complex, and it involves many issues for you to consider. Some of them include:

  • Property taxes
  • Zoning laws
  • Local population
  • Surrounding retail businesses
  • Foot traffic

If you don’t have experience in this area, then hire a consultant to help. It can make a difference in the failure or success of your business.

Tip #3 – Understand Your Lease Agreement

If you’re leasing a location, it’s important to understand your lease agreement. You’re not renting an apartment where it may not matter if you have to move out due to a breach of the agreement by you or your landlord. You’re running a business, and if you’re evicted from your retail location, you may lose a good portion of the customers you worked hard to gain in that area. Hire an attorney to review the lease agreement with you, and understand your obligations under it before you sign it.

Tip #4 – Find Complimentary Retailers

You can benefit from the foot traffic from an already established business if it compliments yours. Customers will come to your retail location out of sheer curiosity and to learn more about what you have to offer. The owners of those stores may also be willing to work with you on co-marketing efforts. For example, other retailers may recommend you to their customers for the products that you offer and they don’t. You should do all that you can to network with them and figure out ways to attract their customers to your store as well. Make sure that those retailers are not in fact your competitors.

You should launch a marketing and advertising campaign months before you open your retail location. Don’t just rely on putting up a sign to attract your customer base.


Graphic Design Business vs. Freelance Career

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Launching a graphic design business is not for everyone. You might prefer to work as a freelancer instead, and have another company deal with the hassles and finances needed to operate a business. There are major differences between these two paths, and understanding those differences can spare you a lot of headaches. Here is what you need to know about these two options:

Self-Employment Taxes

As the owner of a graphic design business, you can expect to pay self employment taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This consists of Social Security and Medicare tax payments, and the rates do change. You will need to pay the rate for the tax year based on your earnings on a quarterly basis in most cases. Freelancers don’t pay self employment taxes, but the income is added to the overall personal income and taxed accordingly. The other thing to note is that the IRS won’t let you claim that you’re a freelancer in the same line of work for long. For example, if you work as a freelance graphic designer for one year and plan to do so the following year, the IRS may consider you self-employed anyway, and you’ll have to pay self-employment taxes.

Income Stability

One of the main reasons why people put off their dreams of working as a graphic designer is the fear of losing a steady paycheck. There are no income guarantees when you work as a freelancer, but it can be a more stable option than launching your own graphic design business. For example, you can apply for freelance jobs that promise a steady flow of work, and try to get hired by as many clients as you need to help you meet your monthly living expenses. As a brand new business owner, you never know when you’re going to land your next client and where your work will come from. Once you establish yourself though with steady clients, you may have the opportunity to earn much more as a business owner, and have the assurance of steady income.

Work Life Balance

You may choose a freelance career over a graphic design business any day because of work-life balance issues. You work much fewer hours as a freelancer because you don’t have to do everything else that is required of being a small business owner. You don’t have to spend nights and weekends trying to land more clients, completing bookkeeping tasks, making sales calls and collecting your accounts receivables. Your family needs and other responsibilities may not allow you to dedicate so many hours to the work. If that’s the case, than freelancing is a more flexible option.

Less Selling Required

You can’t escape selling yourself altogether as a freelancer, but you’ll do far less of it than if you operated your own graphic design business. The majority of your sales as a freelancer occur when you pitch your talents and skills to potential employers. Once you’re hired, then very little selling needs to be done. You’re always selling as an entrepreneur though, which can be overwhelming if it’s your area of weakness.

It’s important to consider these issues when making your decision to start a graphic design business or a freelance career. You may decide to launch a freelance career first and then segue into a business after you build your reputation.

4 Things to Do Before You Hire a Client

Posted: March 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

Before you hire a client, it’s important to take the steps necessary to ensure that your legal bases are covered and that you have a system in place to hold onto that client for a long time. The excitement or anxiety of getting a client in the first place can sometimes cause business owners to make mistakes. It could cost them money in the long run, and the client. Here are 4 things you should do before you hire a client:

1 – Draft an Agreement

You need a standard agreement for your business that you can tweak for each client you come in contact with. There are a few instances in which the job is too small or the circumstances don’t necessitate that you sign an agreement. You should sign an agreement with most of your clients that describes your role, your fee, how long the contract lasts and a description of the tasks that you’re hired to perform. One trick to an agreement is to attach an addendum to a boilerplate agreement so that you don’t have to keep changing your standard agreement. For example, you can include the description of your tasks and a fee schedule in an addendum that you create separately for each client, without any need to change the main agreement each time.

2 – Make Sure You Want the Client

Not every client who wants you to do work is the right client for you. That’s a hard truth to accept when you’re looking at personal and business bills to pay and sales are slow. You should think long and hard before deciding to pass over a client, but there are valid reasons why you may need to do so. Some clients will end up placing more of a burden on your business than it’s worth. Whether it’s because they’re too demanding or want you to work for too little pay, you should know the type of client you want to avoid. When they come your way, decline the work in a professional manner and try not to burn a bridge in the process.

3 – Develop a System

You need to have processes and systems in place to ensure that you treat all clients well and deliver quality work. It needs to begin with making sure you have their contact information and other data that you need to market to them and get their tasks done. Your system should end with delivering the product or service you promised, making sure they are satisfied and asking them for more work. When you have systems in place before you hire a client, you can be more efficient and have more success with marketing to that client in the future.

4 – Get on the Same Page

Miscommunication between you and a client is frustrating and can lead to many problems. One way to avoid that is to make sure that you and your client are on the same page before you hire them. A signed agreement will ensure that, but before you get to an agreement you should schedule time to speak over the phone or in person. Email is a great tool, but sometimes the details and nuances can get lost as you go back and forth. When you speak with a client, ask lots of questions to obtain information and to clarify expectations about what they want from you.

Doing these four things before you hire a client will help you build a solid foundation for your relationship.  It will take more time and effort on your part, but it’s worth the investment.

How to Transition From Corporate America to a Freelance Designer

Posted: March 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business | No Comments »

You can make a transition from corporate America to working as a freelance designer. Many others have done it successfully, even if they didn’t make a six figure income. Success to you may be the ability to meet your living expenses, and to have the freedom and flexibility to choose your own clients and work your own hours. Your goal may be that six figure income. Whatever your reasons, you have to plan a careful transition so that you don’t find yourself racing back to corporate America down the road. Here’s how:

Live on a Frugal Budget

You’re going to have to make some sacrifices if you’re serious about making your transition from corporate America to freelance designer a permanent one. For example, you’ll have to create a frugal budget to live on so that you can have additional monies to save up for three months’ worth of living expenses. You’ll also need to save money to launch your freelance career, such as equipment, Internet connection, web hosting and software. You can work as a freelance designer without going into debt, if you live on a frugal budget so that you can get your finances in order.

Pitch Telecommuting to Your Boss

Your boss may be your first customer, if you approach the situation with professionalism and can persuade him to allow you to work at home. Many bosses haven’t considered the possibility of making a position a telecommuting one. Many books, web and magazine articles have been written on how to approach your boss on this issue, and you should do your research before you talk to him. Your company may be looking for ways to make cuts, and your boss might welcome the idea of telecommuting if you’re willing to work part-time without benefits. The income and access to a company for resources may be just what you need until you build up enough freelance clients to design full time.

Work with Established Design Companies

There’s a difference between launching a business and working as a freelance designer. As a freelancer, you don’t have to do as much work as an entrepreneur to market, promote, sell and land your own clients. You can make a living by working as a freelance designer for established design companies that manage the business side of designing. All you would have to worry about is selling your skills to those companies to get hired, and then delivering quality work on time.  You would get paid an hourly rate in most cases, and you can work for multiple design companies at once.

Avoid Bidding Sites

The debate over whether it’s a good idea to use bidding sites to find work is a heated one. The way these sites work is that you submit a proposal with a bid amount and the person who placed the bids can review your bid along with ones made by other freelance designers. These bidding sites are global and you’re often going to be outbid by others who can charge as much as half or even more of what you bid. The work you put into each proposal and the number that you would have to submit to land one may not be worth it. It can end up costing you money, in addition to the membership fees you have to pay to these sites to bid on projects. You would be better off finding and applying for freelance jobs listed on job boards.

Living the life of a freelance designer is challenging and you can get discouraged in the beginning stages. You may face regrets in the beginning, and that’s common for many who make the transition from corporate America. Confide in your family and friends, and make sure you find supportive people that will help to motivate you along your journey.