This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Laura Williams of Laurium Design. Laura told me about her struggle with turning down work, establishing client ground rules and how a fundamental shift in her proposal writing process wins her more and better projects.
Hey Laura! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us on the Nusii blog. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
Hey! I’m Laura Williams from Laurium Design. My focus is on creating good-looking, intuitive websites. I enjoy working closely with companies, getting to know them and their goals, while adding in my specialist design and marketing expertise along the way.
How did you find your way into the world of design?
I had no idea what I wanted to be when I left school. Like most designers, I had always been creative but the idea of becoming a so-called ‘starving artist’ didn’t appeal to me much. I actually started off in computer programming where I did pretty well but was always scolded for making my programs ‘too pretty’.
I ended up studying Electronic Media at college which is where my love of graphic design began. Since then I’ve graduated from University with a degree in Graphic Design, worked in a Print & Branding studio here in Leicester before starting up on my own to focus on my love of the web and all things digital.
Can you talk about how you source new clients, and has that changed over time?
In the beginning I used job boards such as Elance - I sent detailed pitches for low-cost work purely because I wanted the experience. I had a full time job as a designer so the money wasn’t a huge driving factor, but I felt I needed a bit more experience working on real client projects rather than the made-up ones from University.
When I made the leap into full time freelancing I was lucky enough to have built up a great referral network which brings in the majority of my work to this date. However I’m increasingly getting people contact me from websites such as Dribbble and Behance which is great because I find if a client is searching for a designer on those websites - they probably really enjoy and appreciate design themselves.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of working for yourself?
Turning down work is still a big issue for me. I have a tendency to take on more than I can comfortably handle during normal 9-5 hours. The problem with enjoying your work is that every new project sounds so exciting. I’m starting to learn however that most projects are not as urgent as they are first made out to be. So if you explain to clients that waiting a bit longer to start will result in a much smoother workflow and ultimately better design - they’re usually cool with that.
At Nusii we help creatives professionals win more proposals. Can you tell us a little about your proposal process, and how it’s evolved for you.
I used to quote hourly, as in actually write how many hours I estimated the project to take against my hourly rate on my quote! I thought I was being honest and open, but the truth is clients often don’t understand how much work can go into something that to them, seems quite simple. It led to a lot of unnecessary explaining of the design process before my proposals were getting accepted.
Now it’s all about value. If you can communicate what the project will achieve and how it will benefit them, the number at the end almost won’t matter. I’ve also changed my thinking in the sense that if a proposal doesn’t get accepted, it’s not because the client just ‘doesn’t get the cost of design’, it’s because I haven’t convinced them that I’m worth what I’m charging.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given before going it alone?
Set clear boundaries. Clients need to know when you will be available and more importantly, when you’re not. If you begin a working relationship by answering calls in the evening and sending work over the weekend, this will be expected of you throughout any repeat business. It’s a lot easier to set boundaries at the start of a project than months down the line when you’re at the end of your tether.
And finally, what’s your proposal secret weapon? What gems do you always include when writing or planning a proposal?
Make it super personal. When talking to a client it’s always good to be making more notes than you ever think you’ll need. It’ll be a massive help when writing their proposal because you can almost transcribe what they have said, and they'll read it feeling like you just ‘get them’.