Being a woman in the world of freelance graphic design

September 8, 2009

black woman_mediumIn this modern day world, many women business owners still face internal and external challenges in trying to start and further their businesses.

Let’s face it, there are some potential clients (male and female) that may be skeptical of a woman entrepreneur’s skills, business sense and overall ability simply because she is a woman. Sad but true. But what I would like to focus on is the internal roadblocks that some of us women put in our own way when trying to expand our businesses, graphic design or otherwise. Roadblock: We don’t feel we deserve it Sometimes, even after confirmation that you’re great at what you do and even after initial success, some women still feel that greater success is a reserved for an elite group that they are not privileged enough to be a part of. They feel alienated and confused about what next steps to take due to doubt. Nay-sayers can add to this false feeling of inferiority and cause a self-fulfilling prophecy to occur. If a woman (or a man) focuses on a false premise that she is unable to do the job then pretty soon small failures will begin to occur due to the mental block. Solution: There is nothing wrong with a self-pep talk. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you started this business in the first place. Recall the compliments you received on your last service or look up that e-mail of thanks that you got from your last satisfied customer. Think about all of things that you want your business to do for the community and for those less fortunate. Focus on those people believing in you and the effect you will make on those around you if you don’t give up. Also, attaching yourself to a mentor will help. Having an outside support that can see all of your accomplishments will cause you to see great qualities within yourself that you may have overlooked. Roadblock: We are afraid to charge what we’re worth Some women feel that charging market rate, or even slightly above will price them out of the bidding process. Then those potential clients will tell other potential clients, and pretty soon, no one in the city will do business with them! One thing that I have learned as a woman in this business is that there are plenty of clients to go around. Sure you want the big account, but if you don’t get it for whatever reason, there will be another to go after sooner rather than later. Not to mention the fact that continually pricing yourself too low can make you look like an amateur. Solution: Do an assessment of what your competition is charging. Not only that, do a search on the marketing budgets of some businesses that would need design services; every legitimate business makes an annual report. Next, really assess how much time it takes to perform your services. Not just time in minutes, but time in the form of money. When you’re working on a project, you’re not only giving that business your time, but you’re giving it your attention. You are taking that time away from doing something for another client, going after new clients, and away from your family and other personal things. That time is valuable and should be compensated for fairly and to your benefit. Roadblock: Unethical male clients In the five years that I’ve had my own graphic design business, I have had some of the best and some of the most bizarre clients that you could ever meet. You meet every kind of person in this business. Most of the time when I meet with male clients, they are nothing but kind, professional and business oriented. Then there are times when some of them have something different on their mind. It can happen. You have to realize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when conducting business with male clients with less than respectful motives. Solution: Don’t be afraid to lose the money. If a male client says or does something that you feel is inappropriate, don’t be afraid to let him go or refer him elsewhere. Sticking to your moral guns means more than a high-dollar client. Your respect is priceless and anyone that isn’t willing to give you that respect on a professional level or otherwise is not worthy of being your client. If you feel that their behavior isn’t worth getting rid of them altogether, don’t be afraid to let them know that their actions have been inappropriate. There is a tactful way to say everything.

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About Valerie Thompson

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

I have to say I was glad to come across your post, and appreciate the professional way in which you have mentioned you have met clients who have not been wholly 'appropriate'.

I have had a client recently, who after the first meeting made me feel quite disrupted and not valued for the work that I do - he seemed to just love the fact that I was 'a woman' - who at that point in time (it would seem to him) was at his beckoned call.

EG. During our first meeting he made many mentions to his diminishing marital relationship, defined their awkward sleeping arrangements and gave me 'worldly advise' about accepting whatever comes along ....oh and that 'marriage doesn't last forever'...

Like most freelance designers, I knew I needed the work, so I sailed through, choosing not to react or acknowledge his inappropriate comments but was left feeling massively disappointed in the lack of real social 'progress' that this situation seemed to reveal.

I questioned for a short time afterwards whether or not I was being too harsh on the client and should just 'go with it' - to get the money - or perhaps I had unrealistically high expectations of the business world...

I knew in my gut, he was unsavoury...and it would be best not to get involved.
So, I have washed my hands of him and any potential business and passed the work onto a male friend, who I know will NOT get the same response form him....

...which relives (and slightly irritates) me.

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