Experience may be the best teacher, but there are some things that I wish others told me before I started web working. Right now, there are so many resources for web workers, but this wasn’t always the case, and even if more resources existed I didn’t always know where to find them. Although I didn’t have any regrets, I know that there are somelessons that would’ve spared me a lot of headaches if I didn’t wait for experience to be my teacher.
Start as close as possible to the work you want to do. If you want to become a business blogger, there’s hardly any sense in writing $5 articles on dating. It’s not going to help with your folio, since it’s far from the niche you want to work in. I spent so many hours on those types of articles during my first year, but looking back I think those hours could have been better spent applying for jobs I really wanted, and building a folio in a niche I was passionate about.
Organization is just as important as the work itself. While the quality of your work is important, it’s almost useless if you aren’t organized. I didn’t have a written or digital calendar until last year, and my invoices, contracts, and other important documents were either nonexistent or scattered all over my hard drive. This led to missed deadlines, long turnover times, and, eventually, annoyed clients. Even if you’re the greatest designer in the world or a bestselling author, the quality of your work matters very little if you can’t deliver on time or properly.
It’s okay to be firm with difficult clients. Some clients give you so much stress that you just want to let them go. They eat up your time needlessly, leaving you less time for actual clients or the work you have to do. Before, I would just be there for a client the second they needed me, regardless of what time it was or what I was supposed to be doing. This year, I started setting a maximum of 3 hours a week of real-time client support and an assistant arranges the queue based on urgency. Some overly demanding clients weren’t happy with this setup, but they understood that this would help me get work done faster.
Keep your goals in check. Keeping your goals written in an accessible place, whether digital or on paper, will make decision-making easier – especially if you’re choosing between two different opportunities. What career choices will bring you closer to your goals? What are merely distractions? I’ve always found it handy to refer to them once in a while, even if it’s just for inspiration.
Reinvest in yourself and your career. Honestly, I only realized it this year. For a long time I sat in the same old uncomfortable chair, worked in a corner in the dining room, and didn’t even invest time or money in new ventures. Apart from setting up a special space for your web work, you should also take care of your equipment, and, when you can afford it, make upgrades that will help you become more productive.
Your work is worth more than you think. Knowing this would’ve made me aim higher than what I thought I could reach. Earlier, I mentioned that I wrote $5 articles. I stayed in that price range for a very long time. If not for my partner constantly telling me that my work was worth so much more than that, I wouldn’t have thought about asking for a better price. It’s not true that potential clients always run to the cheapest bargain they could get. Many of them are willing to pay a good price for quality work.
Do I really believe that if I knew these things when I started out, I’d be better off today? I think so. In fact, I’d send this blog post to myself four years ago, if I could. There were a lot of things I unnecessarily stressed about, hours I wasted, and opportunities I missed out on, just because I didn’t believe any of the six things I mentioned above.
How about you? What things do you wish you knew when you started out?