The cover of this book displays an illustration of a robot juggling seven yellow balls (as you can see). At first this picture made no sense to me – after all, I thought this book was about freelance web designing, not juggling … but as I began reading the book, it occurred to me that in many ways being a freelance web designer is just like being a juggler. After all, as a freelancer, you’re not just designing websites. You’re also developing them, communicating with clients, writing proposals, converting prospects into clients, handling finances, and running a business all at the same time.
Founded in late 2006, Smashing Magazine (which is not really a magazine at all – more of a website and blog) was created to provide web designers and developers with information, resources, and advice on the latest trends and techniques in the industry today.
So earlier this year as I stood in the Union Square Barnes and Noble and found this book, Successful Freelancing for Web Designers: The Best of Smashing Magazine – I must say, it caught my eye (there is a juggling robot on the cover after all). The $29.99 price tag also caught my eye (“Thirty bucks for this little thing?!”), but after browsing it I decided to take the plunge and make the purchase.
And I’m glad I did. This little gem of a book is packed with useful articles on a wide variety of web-freelancing topics from over twenty successful professionals in the field today. A few chapters that stood out were Critical Mistakes Freelancers Make, How to Identify and Deal with Different Types of Clients, and my personal favorite, How to Explain to Clients That They Are Wrong (smirk). Other topics discussed in the book include time management skills, how many comps to provide, client red flags, customer service practices, the admin and finances side of freelancing, improving designer-client relationships, communicating effectively, and a whole lot more.
One attractive thing about this book is that instead of getting a lot of one person’s opinion (as you do with most books), you get a snapshot of a variety of professional’s takes on freelancing practices. As is true with anything, there isn’t one right way to deal with clients, or manage your time, or market to your audience, or price your products. This book allows you to get a feel for how different designers and developers deal with various aspects of being a freelance web person, and then to make a decision for yourself about what parts you’ll absorb into your own practices.
In addition, the authors of the articles in this book have a way of keeping it real, and are even humorous at times (the chapter How to Respond Effectively to Design Criticism displays an illustration of a person meditating). Several of the authors share personal stories and anecdotes from their years of experience dealing with a wide variety of clients in the web design industry.
I would recommend this book of course to anyone interested in freelancing as a web designer, as it paints an accurate and informative picture of all the different parts involved in the freelancing venture. I would also recommend this book to a person who is already freelancing but seeking additional guidance about how to handle various aspects of the business: perhaps looking to refine their design and development process, improve their client communication and relationships, or revise their time management and administrative processes. There is something in this book for every freelancer and every web designer.
An excerpt, from the preface:
Being a great web designer or developer is one thing. Running a successful freelance business is another. Whether you already have work experience in companies or you’ve just graduated from design school, being self-employed entails a number of tasks you most likely didn’t have to deal with so far. As a freelance web designer you also have to be a project manager, office administrator, accountant, controller, and IT expert.
Juggling all of these often unpopular tasks while conceiving creative ideas and producing splendid websites can be very arduous. To help you with this feat we have compiled 21 selected articles about successful freelancing that were published on Smashing Magazine. These pieces offer you invaluable tips and guidelines from professionals in web design.
We hope this book will make you even more successful and help you master your own “juggling.”