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Working on smaller projects with a shorter timeline

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Part of this business is the ability to turn out work at a timely rate for clients who need it now, because if you can’t do it, they will find someone who can, and willing.

Yes, things take time to custom tailor a clients needs for various projects, but when its a pretty cut and dry  project where the client, content and brand has already been established, you have to recognize the time to not try and reinvent the wheel and instead, put out good work with a quick turnaround.

As clients approach me for fast work when they need things done in a quick manner, I am ready for them. I am ready to take them on, dig into the project and turn out a product that they need and I can be proud of at the same time. It’s a difficult balancing act to handle, but worthwhile if you can have your ducks in a row. This doesn’t mean that you should cut your rates or sell yourself short.

For clients who need larger projects done, a lot of customization for a proposal goes into the process based on what clients need, but a lot of times people approach me with work that needs to be and is a pretty small project to take on, considering the types of projects I regularly work on. These projects are great to take on to fill the time when the larger projects are in a time of waiting. Sometimes, depending on the client, a project moves into a “hurry up and wait phase” and taking on smaller projects, I have found, is a great way to keep working, become more efficient, and get better at your craft on smaller scales.

Normally, for larger projects, I charge an hourly rate and base that rate on what information clients have presented to me, my knowledge of my work process and how long certain projects take, but for these smaller projects I base pricing on a flat rate. Anything that falls under the scope of work that needs a lot of attention and a large creative process to have a great outcome needs a proposal, meetings, and a lot of research before beginning the actual design and end product. But sometimes a client approaches me with more production-style work, and for those projects, I have decided to take them on to fill my already intense work schedule and at the same time, provide a reasonable service to clients who need quick turnaround for production work.

Here are a few things I have realized that help me pump out this work on a very timely basis is to keep a few key things in mind….

First and foremost, when going into a project that needs a quick turnaround and done really well, it takes focus. It takes a lot of focus. Every distraction under the sun can slow you down or cause you to lose precious time that you have allotted for this client and this project. Get rid of every distraction. Find a quiet place and a good timeframe where you can work uninterrupted for long blocks of time.

Organize your resources
Having your resources of textures, fonts, patterns, code, snippets, etc well organized will help you work faster as you can pull the pieces you need together to quickly turn out a project where a brand and content has already been established.

Streamline your workflow
As you work on projects, take mental notes where you need more time, what goes quickly and where you get hung up in the process. For me, most of my time is spent in the smaller details as I have many game plans for layouts on a grid-system and typography.

Turn off your phone
I absolutely refuse to answer my phone when working. If it’s an emergency, I’ll get a text or an email. Corresponding with clients via email for changes and updates is much better than having a client call you every day or twice a day or, even 5 times a day while you are trying to pound through some serious work. Having a Google Voice number really helps because I can have the voicemail transposed to text and then emailed to my inbox where I can quickly scan over a recent call without being interrupted.

Know your priorities
Major projects require the utmost attention for great outcomes and amazing results. Working on these projects are very mentally draining. It can become exhausting at times. Having these smaller projects at a flat rate are a great way to take a mental break from larger projects, but you’re still making an income, working on your craft, and practicing efficiency. But the key thing to remember is your priorities. Your larger projects need more attention than more production-style projects, and therefore you need to focus all of your attention on those projects when the time comes. Use your smaller projects to take breaks from the larger ones, but remember your priorities to your clients and deadlines.

Charge a rush fee
For smaller jobs that can be taken on, I charge a rush fee for these projects. Plain and simple, I don’t have to take on these projects, but I will schedule them in my workflow at an additional percentage cost for that client. Since the smaller project is usually a smaller budget, it’s only fair to charge a “rush fee” to get this work done.

I have enjoyed taking on smaller projects and being able to pump out good work for clients who need production-style work at a reasonable cost. Not every project can be a $10,000+ project when you are a one man design studio, but to fill the time between larger clients, I have truly enjoyed taking on the smaller projects and have the ability to turn them around in a timely manner.