‘Tis the most busiest time of the year

Date posted: November 27, 2023

As I’ve heard from fellow web designers who’s been in the game longer than I have, who own agencies and established. Towards the year’s end is the busiest time for web designers as business owners tend to look back on what they have done throughout the year and reflect. Some would look to revamp the existing website or decide to launch a new one.

This turned out to be quite true for me this year which is also the 1st “official” year that I pursued this career full-time.

Many leads and prospects reached out asking for quotations. This allows me to schedule some of them for next year to space things out and lighten up the load.

I haven’t had a vacation this year. Outside of project work, I’ve been rotating between online courses from design to business, sales, and client management. I even signed up for Jiu-jitsu practice to maintain my physical well-being which I love and invest my time into.

My sleeping and other habits are also out of whack as I want to spend more time in the evening relaxing and talking with my girlfriend.

Things are picking up speed and quite hard to manage everything. It’s a bit scary but also very exciting. Wouldn’t it be nice if the clients just manage themselves to my business needs haha.
It’s like a roller coaster slowly going up the ramp and about to make a dive. It’s terrifying but also exciting. Let’s see where this takes me!

The nightmare of scope-creep and how to prevent it

Date posted: October 16, 2023

If you ever work with a client on a project, scope creep is one of the things that is bound to happen sooner or later, the client asked if we can add another feature onto the website, another bullet in the list of deliverables, another idea that the client came up with that might make you spend the whole weekend researching on how to fit it in the current project.

I’ve been in that situation before, and as a fellow people pleaser who doesn’t want to say no, I always say yes to those requests only to resent myself while working on it, and just between you and me, I also secretly love the challenge as well as the enjoyment of solving problems but deep down I know that this isn’t sustainable and something has to change, I cannot just say “yes” to scope-creep because the following things will start to happens:

  • What is this “thing”? We will lose sight of the project, and the initial purpose of why the project was created in the first place.
  • “So… when will we launch?”: the project will take longer to design, develop, and test. To postpone the launch date could affect both your and your client’s finances and plans.
  • When will it end? everything will keep snowballing if you accept every request and demand from the client, the moment when you start to say “no” will cause a “crack” in the relationship with your client.

How do you get ahead of scope creep? Is it the client’s fault that you have to spend extra hours in front of your computer working?
I would say that it’s hardly the client’s fault since it’s very common to have an idea, a lightbulb moment during the project that they think can have a positive impact on the business with you saying yes they either think that: this must be easy enough to change or you’re a pushover who will agree to everything they say. Either of those is hardly true (well, maybe the latter is sometimes true). The way I deal with scope creep now is to have a system, the difference between the pros and amateur is the pro has a system:

  • List out the detailed timeline and deliverables (scope of work): having things written down in an agreement and contract is a great first step for both you and a client to get on the same page, understanding what’s the project about, when and how it will be delivered
  • Set expectations and boundaries before work: let the client know that you are a professional who is focused and works with a system, not a tool that the client can use and push around, you have spent years and resources to get where you are now, the client should respect your craft as you should too.
  • Invite the client into the process, and work them through on how and why you make a decision -> this will eliminate impulsive, unthoughtful decisions from the clients.
  • Always reflect and compare the project progress in each milestone with the agreed-upon scope of work and the project’s goals.
  • If there’s a much-needed scope change, take a deep breath, stand firm, and let them know there will be budget and/or timeline implications or this will be a different project after this current project is finished and achieved its goals.

Finding someone instead of everyone

Date posted: October 2, 2023

I’m starting to try out messaging businesses in my city and realize that most (if not all) my message or email will not be replied. It’s good to keep in mind that the point of client outreach is to get all of the client but finding the right one! The same one goes for when you are sending your portfolio to multiple company applying for a job or even dating.

Getting the word out is easy to measure and exciting as well.

Focusing on this misses the point.

You might be able to get a song played on the radio, but will the song motivate listeners to show up at the concert?

The math is simple: You can’t build a freelance career or a restaurant or a medical practice on one-time interactions. Charities that fundraise a few dollars at a time, door to door, pitching strangers… they have a rough road.

The hype and the tension and the promo work for a while, but they aren’t sustainable.

Which means, “this might not be for you,” isn’t a problem, it’s a feature.

We’re not looking for everyone, we’re looking for someone.

Seth Godin

Toward Stickiness by Seth Godin:

Why your business might need a business analyst?

Date posted: September 15, 2023

Business analyst is a job that usually posted on job board and hired by tech company. What business analyst do is to… well… analyse a business and suggest solution that can solve their painpoints or improve an area of that business.

To put this in example, let’s say you are running a dance academy that offer dance courses every 2 months for people to sign up, your target audience is from 18-28 years old so you mostly do your marketing on social media, which is working great, you use google form for student to sign up.

The business analyst can look at that and can see that there are painpoints that needs to address and opportunities for business to grow, the good thing that the business are doing and able to capitalize:

  • Hard to show detail about the courses and the instructors -> this leads to reduce in sign ups and conversions.
  • Employee might have a hard time to keep track, response to message, deal with repeating questions from students.
  • Student don’t have a good overview of the course.
  • Marketing bottleeneck, limited by social media and offline present only.
  • Poor presentation of the school if only on social media.

The analysis could go even further with statistic, study, research and spreadsheet, from there, the business analyst will have some suggestion to improve such as: having a website that built for dance academy with the specific functions such as: an archive of all the classes and categorized them by statuses of upcoming, finished and ongoing, having pages of teachers and facility images of the academy, connect signup form with email for easier signup and manage between staffs,…

The list goes on and on, so let’s bring it back to why tech companies are more likely to hire a business analyst. Business analysts need to study not just the client business but the services/products of the company that they are working for and connect the two together, they will be the bridge between clients and the company by seeing and suggest how the company product can help with the client busines. It could be an app, a service, a website, a design, a product, a system, a framework.

Some industries like banking, ecommerce, politics are in dire needs of business analyst as their existing system is complex in itself and very resistant to changes, yet the customer and technology keep evolving.

When I was working in a tech company, I used to think that business analysts is a bit redundant as the owner or the developer already has the idea of the existing problem. But this might be wrong as the owner’s view or the developer’s view might not be aligned with the customers. The owner might be thinking too much about budget or what he think may be best for his customers, while the developers might be thinking too much about the technical stuff and forgot what’s the main goal of what they are building.

As a freelancer, I realize that it is way harder than it looks, just the client communication alone is hard in itself, to tell a business owner that they have a problem and your product is how they can improve takes listening skill, analytic skill and problem solving skill and later on communicate that to the dev team, and company that you are working for also takes a lot of communication skill.

Do you think you need a business analyst for you business?

A lot of (UX) research is garbage and worthless

Date posted: September 10, 2023

I’ve recently listened to The Futur Podcast with Michael Margolis – the CEO of Storied, a strategic messaging and leadership firm that helps leaders and teams stand out through story.

In the podcast, Michael shared his view: “I find that the majority of research is garbage and is a distraction”, he further elaborated:

“…research is really valuable once you actually have the guts to put a stake in the ground and say, here’s the thesis. Here’s what we think matters, here’s what we think is true. Great, now let’s go test and validate that. Too oftentimes people do this open-ended research fishing expeditions that basically comes back with, it’s either a pizza with nothing on it, or it’s a pizza with 32 toppings and it has no sense of coherence, right? I’ve worked with a lot of UX research teams and they’ll come up with these beautiful frameworks that’s 12 different ways we could think about the product. And the heads of product are like, dude, just give me a POV. What’s your stance? Cut through this noise for me.”

Michael Margolis on the Futur Podcast

I agree with this view whole heartedly, it’s hard and pointless to research something without a thesis already existed for you to validate or prove wrong. Take for example if you want to start a business in your area, you decide to do research by asking the locals which business would they like to see or support. This is open-ended research which the results could be vary tremendously, everyone could have very different answer based on their age, needs, occupation and education.

Whereas you can plant your thesis as “People would love a modern coffee shop with high-speed interenet designed for working remotely”. From there, you can start asking meaningful question such as:

  • Do people in the area usually like to work at coffee shop?
  • Do they even like coffee?
  • Have there been any similar business openned in the area?

From there, a researcher can conduct his/her research with a thesis in mind and analyze the research feedbacks objectively for clearer and effective result.

When I conduct user research for my web projects, I usually have my users with similar interests and ask them about their painpoints and goals regarding directly to the business I’m working on so I can devise the correct content and layout for the website.

What do you think? Do you think user research is a waste of time?

How would you do your user research for your business?

The shownote:


Listen on Spotify

Should you work for free?

Date posted: August 20, 2023

When I first started I found it very hard to put a price on my work, one reason is because I just started then and didn’t have any proof to show the client that I’m worth X amount of money.

Another reason is a bit more simple and maybe lot of people in creative field can relate is that I find joy in my creative process, in solving problems, designing interface, creating website and seeing it coming to life to help people. The process is rewarding enough for me and to put a price tag on it feels guilty somehow. And even when I decide to charge, I find it hard to raise my prices.

Before answering the question of “Should you work for free?”, I want to start by affirming that it’s okay that you don’t know how to price your work in the beginning. Here are some of the reasons why you should charge for your work and your work should never be free:

  1. Free work is unappreciated: Respect for your work, respect for yourself. Imaging how you take care of a phone you got for free vs the phone you paid with your hard-earned cash.
  2. Financial gain: by start charging what you are worth, the profit can go into your business, self-improvement, open room for collaboration, buy more tools, courses, books, hire more people, allow you to help more businesses.
  3. Open your network: Even when your work doesn’t return you with financial gain, you can opt to work for referrals, trade specialties, learning, charity. Even if you aren’t paid with money doesn’t mean it cannot be traded for something else, but I must warned you to approach this with cautions as many new designers got taken advantage for using this approach.

Question you should ask yourself:

  • What’s the value of your work?
  • How can your work help to improve your client’s business? Can it be translate into money/profit for the business?

By start charging for your work, you can start to improve your process, able to help more people and have a scale/metric to measure the value of your service/product.

Don’t start with design,…

Date posted: August 18, 2023

What’s wrong with starting to design right away?

One of the biggest mistake when approaching a design project (in my case, a web design project) is jumping right on to design with only a brief idea of what the client want, your assumption on what the client might want or what you think what would be the best for the client.

Don’t worry, I’ve been there and I believe most (if not all) professional had once done this as they wanted their creativity take control of the projects, thinking that they are the expert of both the design aspect and the client’s business as well. This is the wrong approach and will prove costly in the long run and will end up a broken relationship between you and the client, you resenting the project that you once excited about

What should you do instead?

The right way to approach this would simply be talking with the client and truly listen to their thinking and what they want to solve by hiring your service. Instead of guessing and assuming what the client might want, looking high and low for reference and mood-boarding only to learn that what the client want and need are completely different!

Actually listen and engage your client in a conversation, start with truly understanding their problems and frustration and what they actually want to solve, from there, the solution and the design might come into your head very naturally and clearly. By honoring the communication, when you present your idea to the client, there would be very little pushback and you already have the client’s reasons behind your design decisions. The project would go way smoothly and less revision. Time, money, resources are saved, heartaches are avoided.

Don’t start with design, start with listening to what your client needs.

Don’t start with design, start with knowing if you and your client is the best fit for each other.

Don’t start with design, start with clear communication.

You are reading posts from category:
Business ideas, freelance thoughts, my experiences working with clients.