How To Prepare Yourself For Taking On New Design Clients

Taking on new clients can be a dream for fresh freelancers… or a dreaded endeavour for the inexperienced.

You don’t know your worth, your clients’ expectations or even what your edge on the competition is. It’s very easy to undervalue yourself when you’re first starting out!

But what if you knew what to ask these higher-paying clients? Would you still be intimidated by taking on higher-paying work—work that feeds you, while building your dream portfolio?

I’m going to share how I started asserting my worth as an artist and exactly what to cover with your new client to give them the best product possible!

Establish a budget upfront!

I ask for their budget in the same motion as about their idea, but that’ll take practice. Asking for their budget upfront establishes your worth and asserts that you expect proper compensation. You then showcase what you can provide for them based on this budget, not based on their expectations—that’s where you get into abusive territory.

Clients have grand visions, sometimes expecting way too much. You need to establish boundaries with who you’re working with right away—because ultimately you are working with them, not for them—ensuring your time isn’t abused. You don’t revise things half a dozen times for no extra compensation.

To avoid any future confusion or altercations with new clients, I religiously go through these questions to get a full picture of my clients needs and expectations, the scope of the project and how much time you’re devoting to the project. An individual or brand with a logo budget of $200 will not receive the same product as one with a budget of $1000, for example (and yes you can make that much for one licensing deal, just not on Fivver).

Why waste time doing this? Why can’t you just start getting paid right now on Upwork or Fivver?

Well, there’s nothing stopping you from doing that, but if you want a sustainable income that pays you what you’re worth as a craftsman you need a niche group of regular clientele that will be fanatical about everything you say (and sell)!

Viewing this intimate conversation about your clients passions (and ultimately their project) as a waste of time means you’re probably reading the wrong blog and should just go scavenge across abusive job-boards that undercut the value of every other freelance worker out there then just go on ahead and “make that bank”.

But if you want to get paid by people who value your work and will hire you over and over again—and recommend you for more even more dream projects—then you need to read this!

Establish A Budget With New Clients Upfront With These 8 Questions:

  1. What is the Company/Product/Service name to be used in the logo/branding?
    • This may seem silly, but you wouldn’t believe how often I’m brought onto a project thinking it was a rebranding job and found out it’s for a new/different/offshoot brand—wasting my notes and sketches, as well as their time.
  2. What is your Tag line (if any)?
    • Whether or not you need this for the design, it will give you a better picture of what your client’s message is
  3. What are you selling?
    • Get them to tell you as much about their product or service
    • What is the message they’re trying to convey with your work?
  4. Who are you selling to?
    • Describe the audience you’re targeting as best as possible.
    • Dig deeper (age, gender, interests, income, geography, etc. are only the basics)
  5. How do you want to be known in your industry and when compared to your competitors?
    • Competitors, fellow creatives or whatever you wish to call them, you are comparing both aesthetic and ethos as well as products and content.
    • Where are they at vs. where they want to be and how your work will get them there. Getting them to show you their “Dream Aesthetic” and favourite brands/pages from social media is usually the easiest way to involve clients in this part of the conversation.
  6. Do you have an idea of what you want? If so, describe your visions in as much or as little detail as you’d like.
    • Sometimes less is more here. Setting your boundaries early on is important and you have the right to know what you’re being hired for. In most cases, you’ll have already told them your niche or they have approached you because of your existing work (or even by recommendation from a fan!)
  7. Are you currently working with any time constraints? Ideally, how soon would you like to have your project completed?
    • This is another step where you need to set boundaries for yourself. If you’re having trouble keeping up, be transparent about your current work-load and be honest about how quickly you can complete a project.
  8. What is your budget?
    • The burning question that no artist has the answer for. I’m not going to pretend to know how much a human is worth, but I know how much money I need to make to pay these pesky bills: start there.
    • Talking about money is difficult for millennials. It’s okay to talk about money.
    • Feeling your skills should be compensated properly is not a crime. Don’t allow them to devalue your worth or make you feel you’re being unreasonable.
    • If you can’t justify the cost of your work by breaking it down for your client, you’re still too unclear on your self-worth and just might be over-selling yourself if you’re constantly being rejected at the “final sell”.

It can be a scary to take on new things. Just remember this for your next call on Zoom:

We didn’t become self-employed only to go broke.

We did it to become self-sustainable—to cope with chronic pain and illness, find employment as marginalized folks, to survive in tough times—while still doing something that breathes life back into us, rather than drain us.

If you produce a variety of content, you need to establish your niche and specialties for them right away—to set the boundaries in this new relationship at the beginning—not half-way through, when you realize you’re no longer working on what you signed up for. Unlike a romantic relationship, you’ve (hopefully) established some sort of written agreement via (at minimum) a paid invoice.

Whether you’re still navigating where you fit in within your field or are geared up to grab the new opportunity right now, you can download this unique and professional questionnaire I designed: print it off for your next new client here!

If you would like more coverage on drafting an invoice and red-flags freelancers should look out for on job-board websites, let me know by commenting on this post!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying To Nail Down Your Niche + Why You Need To Envision Your Success

Do you ever feel lost in what you’re doing?

Do you have trouble remembering the bigger picture?

As artists and creative people, it can be easy to forget why we began creating in the first place.

It can so easily feel like you’re talking into the vacuum of space, posting all your hard work into a black hole.

So how you do get noticed?

You need “a thing”, or a niche.

Something important to us as human beings is being good at something. We all like to feel like we have ‘our thing’. Not only does defining your niche make you more memorable as a creator, but it also makes your work feel more filling—your heart has to be in it for it to work.

For us to have ‘our thing’ we kind of have to make it up on our own. 

Whether that’s your middle school awards or that class in college that totally changed your life, you’ve found your thing.

When trying to compete in the rat-race of social media popularity, gaining commissions, and finding new clients—we often lose sight of ‘our thing’, and which work made us happy to begin with.

You work hard, but you don’t know where you want to go with your art or business.

Whenever I’m feeling this way (because we all do from time to time), I always go through the same exercise that I’m going to share with you right now!

  • What do you do and why? 
  • How do you do it? 
  • What’s your method and why do you do it that way? 

That’s it? Almost.

Envisioning your future can be the simplest exercise for self-discovery.

The importance of having a vision of your future:

  1. To keep you focused on a plan
  2. To keep you motivated towards your goals
  3. To master your skillset—narrowing down to one niche to build capitol to support your plan

What that might look like:

I wanted to share an expert of my Future Vision as an example of what measures you should focus on as a newbie, rather than looking at vanity metrics and low-ROI tasks.

So, here is part of my personal Future Vision from 2017—a pinnacle point in my life, when I was finishing school and planning to become self-employed:

At 28 I picture my life modern, but simple. With a dog and my own patch of grass, living in a smart home and tending a greenhouse. Where we live is only filled with what we need and love. I'm happy and healthy. 
My dreams of being a self-employed artist are a reality. I have a mildly successful blog I write and a podcast I do every month. I am finally thrilled to be living and have built better positive thinking techniques. I have healthy habits and meditate every day. I do yoga and jog to stay healthy and active. I eat the best foods for my body with lots of fresh greens and nuts. 
I feel great in the skin I'm in and only wear what is for me. I want to tread my own path in life and pursue my passions. I focus my energy on producing rather than consuming, being more conscious of whats going into my body, and making my body move more. To spend more time and effort on experiences than possessions- 
It has made me so humble and grateful to have kept this life.

14 Questions To Guide You Towards Your Niche + Vision

  1. What are my strengths? What am I good at?
  2. What do people come to me for advice or help with?
  3. What do I get excited or passionate about?
  4. Who are the most important people in my life and why?
  5. What do I need (to do) to feel my best?
  6. Where is the majority of my energy and attention been going lately?
  7. What lessons have I learned in the past 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  8. List my recent wins & failures.
  9. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  10. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do?
  11. How would I like to give back or help others?
  12. What drives me & what do I hunger for?
  13. What do I need more of in my life?
  14. What are my values & how do I live out those values in my own life?

I urge you to pull out your journal, day-planner, notes app, or whatever it is you use to record your ideas and get started on answering these questions! I promise you that this exercise will without a doubt help you refine your niche and overall vision for your life and art business.

If you need some extra reading, check out my other post on finding your niche, as well as advice on getting started as an online seller, and tips for marketing your creative business right now!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

The Best Way To Spend Your Time As A Creative Business Owner

Before I started this project, I really had no clue what I did in a day.

If there’s no pictures, it didn’t happen as far as my memory is concerned

But when I recently had to write a piece on my experiences as a creative business owner and freelancer, I had to figure out what I actually did before I could start writing.


During this project I also came across a big problem…

It’s difficult to gauge your output in the early stages of being self-employed, and whether you’re working up to an industry standard. 

Am I doing enough, or am I slacking off?

It’s too easy to lose track of time, especially when working on one big project over the course of days or weeks. It can be even easier to fall behind on your progress, unnoticed.

When you first start out your milestones cannot be measured by the money you make—this can make tracking your progress a lot more difficult.

You won’t be making anything your first day working for yourself. Maybe not the first week, or even the first month, but that doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. 

I spent a lot of time feeling guilty whenever I wasn’t actively working on a paid project.

But a lot of what we do as self-employed people is unpaid labour—a lot of our time is devoted to unpaid tasks like social media marketing, promoting sales, applying to grants—leaving us with less time to look for more work, get commissions, and still finish passion projects…

There’s moments where it feels like all of your stress and hard work is for nothing. It gets hard, sometimes it will feel like it’s too hard. Comparing yourself too closely to others can leave you feeling shitty and dejected.

We get this way is because we often don’t have a clear overall vision of what we want to accomplish. 

You may have a vague idea of what you want your life to look like in 5 years, but could you write it out on paper; fill a page or two? 

This is an exercise I first started doing regularly because of Lavendaire, a successful content creator who focuses on minimalism and mindfulness. You write out your ‘Future Vision’, as she refers to it, which is basically everything you envision your life to be in a year; in 2 years; in 5 years. 

Envision every detail you can picture, smell, hear, and to totally immerse yourself in whatever you want your future to be.

It’s easy to put off doing the things that will give us the most returns—it’s a lot easier to paint a canvas than to sell it when you’re finished—but taking a look at my future needs and having an overall theme for my life has been a great way to be consistent in my efforts, both in my professional and my personal life. 


A huge part of creating compelling artwork is storytelling, or effectively content marketing.

It’s not enough to say “Buy my art!”, these days. It no longer speaks for itself; you need to breathe life into your work with refreshing words and flowing phrases.

You can have the most beautiful art in the world, but all people care about is a good story. If you’re not saying anything with your work, no one will resonate with it — and no one will buy it.

Social media is a content marketing goldmine, and now with shoppable posts it’s easier than ever to make money off Instagram and Facebook.

All you need is a clear vision of where you want to go with your creative business.

One of the many ways to clarify that looks like is with a social media marketing strategy.

For example, I use my content to show off my designs, get in touch with my audience, and promote my projects. In tandem with well-written captions, frequent posts are a great way to start a conversation or to get feedback on what your project while you’re still working on it!

What will you use your platform for?

I want you to download this FREE worksheet so you can get started with setting your goals to clearly see where you’re going with your creative business!

If you’re still feeling like you’re missing something, go read about how to build your confidence and business as well as advice on establishing your niche to gain some footing in your content marketing plan.


Until next time, look below for some of my other digital reading materials to keep you busy during quarantine!

Joey @ The A/J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Why Instagram Stats Are Ruining Your Artwork

My best tips for dealing with “posting anxiety” as an artist on Instagram:

Creative and emotional people: Don’t look at your statistics!

There’s a new phrase I’ve heard recently, as I was speaking with a friend and colleague about social media management — and mainly the stress of constantly creating content. After a while, we arrived at a common major issue: posting anxiety.

Posting the right content for Instagram — to be picked up on the explore page and gain traction — can feel like the most important thing sometimes, especially in content marketing.

The truth is, “how to get famous on Instagram” is a mystery to most people trying to grow a following or business. I know this because too many other artists that have cried out to me, “I have no idea how Instagram works!”

Even worse, I know people who don’t post their artwork at all!

Why?

They’re scared! Rightfully so, the Internet can be a mean place. Someone who wants to casually show off their hard work doesn’t necessarily want to be subjected to the same scrutiny as a professional artist open to critique.

artist painting watercolours
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Brand new artists need to know — the internet doesn’t have to be a scary place!

Instagram is perfect for artists as a digital marketing platform! Filled with beautifully spaced and cropped photos, there’s so many creative ways to lay out your feed.

I’m not going to tell you how it works — no one truly knows how these social media algorithms work and I’m not going to pretend I do.


Today I’m going to talk about why you SHOULD NOT check your statistics on Instagram.

This article is intended for artists and crafters with a small following of less than one thousand. That being said, an account with less than 1000 followers can still get their art sold!

Do not obsess over your Instagram analytics yet, if:

  1. You have less than 1000 followers
  2. You have poor-quality engagement
  3. You’re still self-conscious or intimidated by posting

Why shouldn’t I care about my statistics?

As artists, it is our job to feel — don’t force it.

  1. Your following is too small to give an accurate picture of your target market, unless you already have high-quality engagement — people liking, commenting, and BUYING your stuff! You’re just going to unnecessarily bruise your ego if you pay too much attention to numbers too early — and you’re going to make less art.
  2. Your followers aren’t engaging with your posts, giving you poor-quality engagement. In most cases, it’s because your followers can’t see your posts! A caption with only a couple sentences and 4 hashtags doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to get creative with your posts and do some story-telling or you’re going to be drowned out by higher-quality posts. Try experimenting with different post layouts, emojis, and hashtags — Instagram allows up to 30 and I suggest using all of them.!
  3. You’re still scared to hit “post” on your work, even more-so when you care about it. This is where I want to help you — I’m going to share my tips on posting your work and growing your following without obsessing over statistics every day!

6 Tips On How To Grow A Strong Following, Organically, And Without Losing Confidence In Your Craft

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
Top Tips For Free Marketing Online
  1. Comment on at least 10 posts a day. I’ve read social media gurus suggested leaving 50 comments, but I just devote an hour to Instagram every day and see how much I can do in that hour.
  2. Be genuine on the platformpost about yourself, show your face, and leave comments with 4 or more words and an emoji.
  3. Share to Instagram like you’re already “famous”. Carry that energy into your posts with consistent colour and lighting in your feed — it makes a huge difference you wouldn’t think. If you’re new to social media marketing, there are many feed-layout planning apps out there to get started, but I have not yet found one I would recommend.
  4. Spam your story and share your latest post there! Instagram’s story feature is great for flooding with content. Followers are more likely to see your IG story than your post, since it’s always at the very top when you first open the app. The feature is hard to ignore, so take advantage of it! I wouldn’t post more then a dozen times in a day, unless you’re actively engaging with people (via a Q&A, a poll, livestream, etc.)
  5. Have a master-list of all the hashtags you like to use — keep them in the notes on your phone. This way, you only have to pick those 30 hashtags one time, and then simply paste them into your posts later.
  6. Have a pod. You may have heard of Instagram-pods before, but if you have a small following you might not be in one yet. Start one with other artists on the platform, especially people your fans of — it can be a nice safety blanket to know a handful of people will engage with your posts. Feel free to follow me!

7 Big And Bad Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Instagram Reputation:

  1. NEVER BUY FOLLOWERS! Period. Apps that say they’ll boost your account’s numbers, or give you more “authentic followers” are feeding you BS.
  2. Never give anyone any of your personal information, account information, or money! This should go without saying, but seeing people’s readiness to login into an unknown app with their Facebook information (which is now also Instagram too, folx) scares me. If you’re at all serious about this, you’re putting the security and ownership of your business on the line by doing this.
  3. People might also pray upon you via direct messaging, saying they love your account and will feature it on their page… for a cost. DO NOT GIVE THESE PEOLE YOUR MONEY! (See #1 and #2)
  4. An app for instagram statistics reports is probably the worst thing you could do right now, for your self-esteem and content quality. It’s important to know who your target market is, but checking the numbers more often than once a week will leave you most likely disappointed. In my opinion, I have not found the best app to track Instagram statistics because I haven’t found a single one with terms of service that aren’t sketchy AF (See #2).
  5. Follow other artists with a similarly-sized following — they’ll probably be interested in your work too. I have also made so many friends this way! Some of which I now collaborate with. Don’t expect artists with over 5000 followers to follow you back.
  6. The internet is a democracy — you can delete rude comments and block whoever you want. I fully support this, especially when you’re first starting because the odds of receiving valuable criticism is so low.
  7. Turning off comments is a nuclear option that I only see huge accounts doing: models, adult content creators, public figures, and other people who receive inconceivable amounts of awful harassment. If you’re still very sensitive about your work you can do this, but don’t expect your following to growengaging with the people in your comments is probably the most fun, too.

How are you feeling? Inspired? Empowered? Overwhelmed?

I want you feeling equipped to take the next step. Whether you feel ready or not, I suggest working through my journalling prompt sheet for your best year yet! I feel like it will really help you find some confidence and clarity for what you envision this year looking like for you and your art.

I would also love it if you shared a time you experienced posting-anxiety in the comments. Starting conversations about these kinds of things is how we learn and grow with each other!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.