Lessons Learned From My First Freelance Project

I recently just wrapped up a quick freelance project that I had been working on, which involved creating a hi fidelity prototype for the client. Overall, I think the project was a success: I completed it on time and the client was happy with the final product! However, seeing as this was my first non-school related project, I did a lot of “winging it” and had I known some things prior to working on the project I would definitely have used a different approach for some things. Here are three things that I would do differently for next time:

#1: Always ask to be paid an hourly rate / Projects always require more effort than you expect

Seeing as the client had already done the user research and identified the features that she wanted to incorporate into the demo I figured it would be fairly simple to create a prototype so I decided to charge a flat rate for the project. Boy was I wrong! If you think a project will require “x” level of effort, multiply that by two and that’s probably a more accurate measure of the work you will have to do.

#2: Be prepared to explain what UX is and how it differs from visual design

Many people are unfamiliar with what UX is and may not understand the value that you bring to the project other than just making something “look good”. Don’t get discouraged or offended if this happens. I was pretty lucky to have an open minded client, so it was a great opportunity to practice explaining what skills I would bring to the project. If you are not as lucky, it is still a great opportunity to practice communicating the value of UX design. It might even be better practice because you will have to really argue your case to get your point across.

#3: Pick your battles / Small changes and additions add up BIG TIME.

As someone who tends to want to make people happy, this is definitely something I struggled with. I did a pretty good job of pushing back when it came to usability issues with ideas that the client wanted to incorporate, but I gave in to most of the aesthetic/content changes that were requested. This would have been fine if all these small changes hadn’t added up to hours and hours of work, requiring me to stay up way past my bedtime. In hindsight I would have told the client that I would keep all of these things in mind and come back to them if I had time after completing all of the more important items first.

I hope this post helps you get started! As a designer, you can bring a lot of value to a project. Don’t worry about not having a lot of experience. Any opportunity, whether you get paid a lot or a little, will be a great way to try new methods, tools, products, and learn from your successes and failures.

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