I've lost track of the number of times I've had a panicked call from a potential new client, not able to get things done with his regular designer, asking if I can design a magalog or some other marketing piece within some unrealistic time frame. My answer is almost always no.
First, my schedule is usually too busy to accept last minute "need it yesterday" jobs from new clients. Second, I like to get a feel for the company by looking at past marketing material and having a conversation about aspects of their project. That's difficult, if not impossible, to do under those "last minute" circumstances.
Because I do feel bad for people in that position, I've always supported the idea of talking to people you might need before you need them.
For example, I've contacted print brokers to talk about potential future projects that I may refer to their way even though I did not have a specific project in mind at that moment.
I'm calling ahead for a few reasons:
1. I want to know if they're going to be a good fit for me both professionally and personally. If not, I do not really want to be working with them and they probably do not want to be working with me.
2. I want to know the extent of the services they offer. Trying to gather this information at the last minute just creates more stress in my life, the broker's, and the client's.
3. I want to know their preferred process for getting projects done. To ensure a smooth project for all parties involved, I have to be sure that my work process can mesh with their.
4. I want to be on their radar as someone they know. The reality is that things can happen faster and go smoother with people you already know, even if it's just from a prior phone conversation or some e-mails.
If you look at that list of how I look for print brokers, it's exactly the same thing you should be doing looking for a freelance designer or even a copywriter.
Already have a freelance designer you're happy with? Great … follow those steps to find other designers anyway.
Here's the deal: "Stuff" happens.
Sometimes your freelancer will be busy. Sometimes you'll want nothing more to do with him. Sometimes she'll want nothing more to do with you. Sometimes you'll want something outside your regular designer's skill-set.
Finding a new freelancer to replace your old one is not something you want to be doing as a project deadline is getting close to slamming you against the wall.
I have yet to meet a professional freelancer who is offended by a potential client calling and honestly saying, "I do not need to have services now. a need comes up down the road. So, I'd like us to get to know one another and see if there's a potential working relationship. "
If they're offended by that and feel you're just wasting their time, congratulations! You found out something important about them before you're in a crunch. Scratch them off your list and move on to the next name.
The sad thing is, very few business people reading this who use freelancers will bother to take my advice.
After all, they're busy … or they're totally happy with how things are going now and can not imagine it will ever change.
Fair enough. But experience has shown me that things outside of our control can put us in frantic situations that can have real financial consequences for our business. That's not the time you want to be finding a new member to add to your team.