Case Study – Lucy Maddison Design and Illustration

Lucy had been freelancing as a designer for 25 years.   Over the last three years she had been working increasingly with smaller businesses and start ups.

Lucy spent lot of time pitching for new graphic and web design jobs.  While she loved working with start ups, she recognised that they were usually on a tight budget and not always in a position to pay for the fully bespoke service she offered.  She wanted to achieve more of a balance between working with established businesses, who could commission more complex design projects, and newer businesses where she could be more creative.

Coaching & Time Tracking: Findings       

Penny’s coaching session with Lucy found that she had the typical tensions every freelancer has  between billable and non-billable work.  Although she had already made some changes to make it more efficient, pitching for work and back and forth discussions with clients was still taking up a lot of time.   Most importantly, we found that Lucy should be charging more to fully take account of the time it takes to take on a new client and to reflect the other “time costs” of her business such as admin, bookkeeping, marketing, pitching etc.  Our research showed that this would put her on a par with similar businesses and with designers of similar levels of experience.

We also found that maintenance of her clients’ websites was taking up more time than Lucy had initially realised and we concluded that she had been undercharging for this service.

Lucy often felt she was “wasting” a lot of time on social media.   Interestingly, analysis of the time tracking showed that social media activity accounted for only a relatively small proportion of her time.  Having this knowledge allowed Lucy to feel much more comfortable about the return on that time investment.

Main Recommendations

Following the coaching session, time tracking and process discussions we made the following recommendations:

Increase hourly rate – We recommended that all Lucy’s quotes and estimates be based on a higher hourly rate. This higher rate would take account of the total time spent working in her business and take account of the time that must be devoted to admin, marketing etc.  The time tracking data will allow her to calculate this accurately.

Template offering for new and smaller businesses – we recommended that Lucy offer a fixed rate for a bundle of standardised services specifically for new businesses (eg. 4 page website and logo).  This would not only reduce the cost to the client but also reduce the time spent pitching to these clients and bringing them on board.

 Develop deeper and longer term relationships with your existing client base – we recommended using a CRM to keep clear and detailed records of client work and maintenance needs. A CRM can also offer automated prompts to ensure timely follow up suggestions of updates or tweaks to the existing site or even a full redesign.

 A retainer system for charging more appropriately for maintenance of websites – This will ensure that the cost reflects the real time spent on this work.

Read what Lucy herself had to say about working with the Productivity Bureau here.

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