34 minutes | Sep 21st 2020

Farming Out Design Work - RD230

Do you farm out design projects?

Finding yourself overwhelmed with too many design projects is a sure sign that you are not charging enough for your design services. Don’t turn clients away. Instead, raise your prices and start farming out design work.

The following is a post from the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group.

Hi guys

So I'm turning away a lot of work at the moment, as I have my day job, and seem to have very little energy in the evenings and weekends to take on many freelance jobs. Seriously, I'm feeling so burned out, have been for a while now.

I do the odd freelance jobs here and there for previous clients that I'm friendly with, but I still get a lot of requests, despite not advertising or putting any vibes out there that I'm available.

I usually just recommend one or two other designers, and they really appreciate the work coming their way, but I also sometimes wonder if I'm being too kind? Would this be reciprocated? Could I charge a % from the jobs I recommend? Would outsourcing them take too much energy if I still need to be the person in-between the client and the designer?

Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

I’m sure the original poster is not the only designer facing this problem. At some point in your design career, you will find yourself burdened with more work than you can handle (trust me, it will happen).

When faced with this situation, the first thing you should do is review your design rates, because chances are you are not charging enough for your services. The same applies to all service-based industries. Too much work coming in is a sure sign that prices are too low.

Raising your rates will reduce the number of inquiries you receive, and those inquiries that come in will come from higher-quality clients. It’s a fact experienced by designers the world over. The more you charge, the better calibre of clients you receive.

Raising your design rates can be scary.

Raising design prices scares many designers. What will your current clients think? Will they leave you for a less expensive designer? Will clients stop referring you if you charge more? Will the influx of new design work dry up?

In my experience, and from others I’ve talked to, nothing drastic will happen when you charge more, other than you making more money.

Yes, there is a possibility of losing some clients. But the increased income from remaining clients will make up for the losses. Plus, with fewer clients, you’ll have more time to devote to projects, which means you’ll probably do a better job, one worthy of the higher prices.

Raising rates usually rectifies work overload. However, what if there are still too many projects for you to handle?

In the original poster’s situation, quitting their day job to run their design business full time is an option. But what if that’s not feasible? The solution is farming out design work.

Referring clients to other designers doesn’t help you. And asking for referral fees or commissions from other designers becomes complicated and seldom works.

Instead, you should retain the clients and farm out any design projects you cannot handle. Hire other designers to work for you and earn a percentage of the project cost.

Be an “art director” and farm out design projects.

When you start farming out design work, you act as an “art director.” Your job is to talk to the client, figure out what they need, possibly sketch out some rough design ideas and pass all this information to another designer to complete the work. This lets you satisfy the client without devoting all your time to the project. It’s a win-win for everyone.

How to farm out design work.

To farm out design work, you first need to find capable designers. Inquire within your network of design acquaintances if anyone is available to freelance for you.

If you don’t know any capable designers, you are sure to find some on platforms such as:

Once you find a freelance designer, you act as the go-between. You talk to the client, figure out what they need. Maybe come up with some rough ideas and then get these other designers to complete the work for you.

In some cases, you may give these designers creative freedom to develop their own ideas based on the information you provide them. In other cases, you may dictate exactly what they should design. It will depend on the project and the capabilities of the designer.

Once the freelance designer completes the work, you present it to the client.

Saving you time.

Farming out design work allows you to take on more projects with minimal time commitment on your part. A 10-hour design project may require only one or two hours of your time. Do this several times a week, and you can bill your clients for a full week’s worth of work, even though you’ve put in less than a day’s work yourself.

Once a design project is complete, you pay the designer from the money you charged the client. The difference becomes your income.

Many designers farm out more work than they take on themselves. They meet with the client, go through the whole discovery process, brainstorm ideas, and then farm the actual work out to willing designers who charge them less than they charge their clients.

Farming out design work allows you to keep clients.

Farming out design projects allows you to make money from projects you couldn’t otherwise handle yourself. The clients remain yours and will return to you the next time they require design services. In the future, should you have more time available, you can do the work yourself.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the amount of design work you have, consider raising your rates and farming out any design work, you can’t or don’t want to handle yourself.

Do you farm out design work?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.