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Why My Plumber Would Make a Great Freelancer

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I recently had a whole new central heating system installed in our house. During the works I realised the similarities between our trades – Maybe not so much the physical labour, but the way in which we both deal with clients as single-man businesses. Whether you’re a freelance designer or a plumber, here’s a few tips on how to professionally run your business and result in happy clients at the end of every project.

He’s Passionate about what he does

Plumber soldering pipework

When Tim the plumber called round to price up the house works we could instantly see how passionate he was about central heating systems. He would explain the details of how the warm air circulates around each room and how the height and position of each radiator would optimise the system to keep everything cosy and warm.
When people ask me what skill I think is crucial for a designer, I always say they need to be passionate about the subject. People who are passionate about their trade don’t just do it as a job, it’s their life and they enjoy living it.

He keeps his qualifications and skills up to date

Plumber soldering pipework

As designers we always need to be aware of latest industry changes and new coding languages to keep ourselves on top of the game. Tim’s plumbing profession is similar, we chatted about what courses he’d recently attended and what he aimed to do next. Because Tim had attended a course run by a particular boiler manufacturer, our boiler was eligible for a free 5 year warranty extension having been installed by a qualified engineer – Win for us!
While our websites don’t come with warranties, having a solid knowledge of semantics, user experience design, usability etc means our client’s websites will have a huge advantage over their competition.

He gave a fixed price quote

Plumber joining plastic pipes

Fixed price project quotes are the preferred method for most freelancers, you estimate how long it will take and give the client a solid figure. From the client’s perspective this settles their mind as they know how much they’re going to be spending. Tim split the quote into one week of labour alongside the cost for parts, which meant we knew exactly how much we would need to pay the man. No worry of an unexpected sky high bill once everything was finished.

He asked for a deposit up front

Plumber at work

It’s common practice for freelance designers to request 50% or more of the project quote up front as a deposit. As small businesses it’s too easy to get ripped off by non-payers and the affects are much more damaging than they would be to a large company. Tim’s deposit was required for the sum of the parts needed for the job, which helped keep his cash flow out of the red.

He provided extra services beyond the project

Drainpipe attached to a wall

After the entire central heating system was installed and completed Tim had a little time left in his quote, so he used it to fix up odd little jobs around the house. He noticed our toilet cistern was leaking, so he fixed it. He spotted the tree outside was being held up by the drainpipe and was on the verge of falling and crushing our cars, so he chopped it down and replaced the drainpipe (in the rain). It’s these little extra services that can really fulfil a client’s expectations.
Once you’ve finished a client’s website, go that extra mile and tidy up any loose ends. For instance, if their logo is looking a little tatty, consider putting together a quick redesign for free. They will be forever grateful and it’s what makes them keep you in mind for their next project.

He did a great job, and a thorough one at that!

Copper pipework

We knew from recommendation that Tim would do a thorough job, but it wasn’t until we saw him working until we realised how particular he was. When we were fitting the previously mentioned drainpipe (in the rain) the tools and ladders were packed away, but he noticed it wasn’t quite straight. Out came the ladders and tools to move the top drainpipe mount an inch to the right. It’s moments like this that reassured me that the workmanship on the heating system was no doubt top notch.
Every client wants the person they’ve hired to do a good job on whatever they’re working on. A great designer will carefully craft every last detail of a website, leaving no section left out. Pay close attention to the details and your client will be over the moon about their design.

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Written by Chris Spooner

Chris Spooner is a designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques collating creative website designs. Check out Chris' design tutorials and articles at Blog.SpoonGraphics or follow his daily findings on Twitter.

  • http://www.catnipcreations.co.za Markus

    Awesome idea for a post :)

  • Stuart

    This is great – Brilliant post, Chris!

  • http://jamesduncombe.com James Duncombe

    As Markus said, great idea for a post!

    I like the way you've compared both professions.

    There's a lot that is shared. You're right that going the extra mile really helps.

  • http://www.jolora.co.uk Joe Spurling

    I wish I could find a plumber like that… And I bet there are a lot of clients out there that wish they could find a designer like that!

    I'm continually amazed how many freelancers get by only offering the bare essentials in their service.

    Great comparison.

  • Sahan

    Read, and will read again :) Thanks a lot for this Chris, Tim rocks and so do u :)

  • Rakesh KN

    As Markus said, great idea for a post!

    great comparison with two professions

  • http://www.fenotype.nl Lourens

    Very good article, but actually… I just want Tim's number. :)

  • http://www.adooylabs.com Audee Velasco

    I agree with everyone… it's a win-win for both client and freelancer!

    Cheers!

  • http://www.sensitivedesigns.com Sensitive Designs

    Nice attractive Title.. :)

  • http://www.divadev.com// Toby Cummings

    Great post, Chris! So, are those actual photos of Tim or just stock?

  • http://www.royalty-club.com Rondell

    Great read!

  • http://boio.ro adrian boioglu

    and he takes the time to take care of his hair too :)) Just kiddin'

    Great idea for a post!

  • eMazing

    awesome post, chris!

  • http://www.creativeindividual.co.uk Laura

    Nice article, can I have the number for your plumber?

  • http://twitter.com/ozloya oz

    ..awesome post Chris!!
    very interesting and the similarities are remarkable.

    -Oz

  • http://createsense.co.uk Tom Ireland

    Brilliant post Chris, very inspiring, I like to think i'm a bit like this myself :p (FYI – my web siteis not ready yet due to my pernickity nature. Trying to make sure everything's as it should)

  • http://www.amberweinberg.com Amber Weinberg

    Wow that's awesome that he did all of those extra services for you. I don't know of any freelancers who do that, even if they do have time left over. I might have to try that ;)

  • phil wright

    Brilliant analogy. What's his number?

  • Danae

    Hehe, I've always referred to myself as an "internet plumber"…fixing up the clogged tubes of the internets!

  • josue

    #gay

  • http://alldesignandprint.co.uk Simon Hall

    I provide a service like that at my printers in york. Only problem is some customer tend to push the boundaries knowing I'll do the little extra things that others wouldn't. It can be difficult to strike the right balance but if the customers keep coming back I must be doing something right.

  • http://www.jackoutofthebox.com Erin

    After a not so great experience with a plumber last year, I too noticed a comparison in our professions, and I've tried to keep in mind what our clients don't know and what we as designers need to do to keep the relationship strong, including educating and relating to them what's happening in what they consider "a strange world." Thanks, Chris!

  • http://www.catnipcreations.co.za Markus

    Just goes to show that no matter what it is you do, attitude is key.

  • http://desaindigital.com Jeprie

    So, you're going to plumbing business huh? :)

  • http://www.jungerbeer.at/ junger beer

    Nice Text

  • http://www.twitter.com/jamiewillmott Jamie

    Nice article and good images. They look like they have had your retro photo look applied to them.

  • Anton Suprun

    You only wrote this post to show off your new central heating, didn't you? :)

  • Bryan Abad

    I think this can be applied to most profession, we all build stuff. We have to be up to date as you said and doing that bit extra is what makes people recommend you apart from the great job you did! And of course being passionate about your job without that you wouldnt really care if you do a good job or not right?
    So thanks Chris your getting better by every article, im learning lots thanks to your blogs.
    Cheers!

  • http://www.theloop.com.au/Tina_Ta Tina Ta

    I really love this post! So unique and original and have a lot of understanding and knowledge. Thanks Chris for the great article! It made my night!

  • http://www.theloop.com.au/Tina_Ta Tina Ta

    Very true to every single word, I still remember how content I was when my services were done properly not only with good skills but also with heart and kindness by energetic and attentive people! They always inspire and remind me to do my tasks with due care, because it really is at the end of the day you get what you give.
    I like the photos too, very well-treated and beautiful hues. At first I thought they were from stock…

  • http://helikopta.com Bill

    Yeah, calling bullshit on the plumber. The only thing worse than dealing with a plumber, is dealing with a mechanic.

    Your plumber is a perfect gentleman, my plumber left a mess all over the house, broke a gas pipe and did as little as possible to terminate the job.

    Based on the title of this article I thought you'd take the direction that the plumber stands up for himself. Always requesting payment for all work, paid for visits just to inspect a problem and basically paid for all parts and labour.

    Unlike in web and design where it's more difficult for the client to physically see exactly what you worked on and therefore charge for every bit of time and service.

  • http://iliadraznin.com/ Ilia

    All very good points, and a good read. Cheers.

  • http://www.20milesnorth.com Joshua Web

    That last one "provide more services beyond what is required" is nearly a nevereding thing. You want any site you do for a client (especially when it carris your company name on it) to be stellar. Sometimes the client doesn't want to pay for the extra bells and whistles that really complete a site. But for some reason I cannot resist adding things anyways. I just cant leave a website without the finishing touches that a nice image gallery or flash element can add.

  • http://www.leegustin.com Lee Gustin

    Great idea for a post Chris!!

  • http://www.catnipcreations.co.za Markus

    It's very difficult to go the extra mile though when you trying to do the client a favour by starting before they pay up front and then they take ages to pay anything at all.

  • http://www.wayfresh.co.uk Web Design Newcastle

    Extra bells are always great to do but agreed you put loads of effort in sometimes and all they want to look at is something that took 10 minutes. Great post though

  • http://www.jgdesignz.com Jose Gonzalez

    Great Post Chris!!!! This is where creativity meets a post in a blog.

  • http://www.firstcliq.com Cincinnati Web Design

    It is analogies just like these that I use to improve the way that I do business with my clients. Great post!

  • http://www.buzz-webdesign.co.uk Web Design Hull

    Great analogy!… I never understand why the plumbers and general tradesmen that I come across never seem to understand that good service is so important… whenever I find someone remotely like your plumber, he ends up working for my family and colleagues and I make sure I don't lose his number.

    It's always worth going the extra mile that gets you repeat and word of mouth business!