The last few weeks, I’ve been thinking quite hard about getting much more business-like with my web design work. The web has a lot of helpful advice for design freelancers who want to be more professional – John O’Nolan has a couple of good articles (it helps a lot that he’s British – US business practice doesn’t always translate).
One is on web-design mood cards, which are basically screen-shots of a wide variety of websites; looking through them will help a client define to you what they want their site to look like (“Something like no. 39 – but with much less black, and a lemony-coloured background, oh and a picture of my cat…”). They can be actual cards, or a web-page – O’Nolan has very helpfully designed templates for both, and you can download them for free. That’s deffo something that I’ll be doing.
The other useful article of his is on setting payment terms for clients (there are also lots of useful ideas in the comments section). After reading through it, I’ve decided that for future business clients, I’ll insist on 50% payment before I even start work, with the rest to be paid after the design is signed off but before the site goes live. In other words – no pay, no site.
Additionally, I’ll work up a questionnaire for clients – what the site is to be used for, will they want ecommerce facilities, who the site is aimed at etc – so that I’ll have a clear idea of what work is needed before I start. And I may even write out a contract for them – there are plenty of templates I can use.

Yes, this is the year I’m going to get my web design business sorted. No more “Um, will £X be OK?” or letting the client tell me what they’ll pay – yes, I’ve actually allowed that in the past, and got shamelessly ripped off. But that ain’t gonna happen again.