New Online Store Prospect

Project Daisy: Part I.

A business acquaintance of “Max“* called and asked if I could redesign her online store. Max is the client I set up an online store for last year (the whole business is now for sale). The lady who called sells her products in a small store close to Max’s and wants to sell online as well. She said that she likes Max’s online store because it looks clean, neat and well organised.

I had to tell her that I am not a web designer and that the graphic designer I ‘usually work with’ is overseas.

However, Max’s online store doesn’t have a customised design anyway. I picked Max’s store front design from a selection of free templates which was part of the ecommerce hosting package. I customised it with photos and neat copy writing, a map for the contact form and so on.

A decent selection of neat design templates were one of the selection criteria when I chose the ecommerce host. Max didn’t want to spend a cent on the storefront design, and I don’t want to spend my time on an ugly online store that screams ‘We Are Unprofessional!’ to the visitors. The template was a decent compromise.

So I told the lady that if she is happy with a template design, I can help her set it up and we agreed on a time to have a chat about it.

 

flower

 
Yay! Does that mean I’ve got a new project? I am cautiously optimistic and trying to work out what to do.

I think I’ll try this way:
 
Preliminary plan for new online store project

1. Analyse the customer’s existing website . List what is wrong with it and how it should be done instead. Outline what I will do: overall structure, pages, copy writing, required photos and payment function.

2. Brush up research of e-commerce hosting offers – packages/features, hosting prices and quality of included free templates. Avoid giving away any names or specifics before there is a contract agreement – just give a cost range and feature examples so she gets an idea whether she wants to go ahead.

3. Provide an offer for my service.
That’s the nerve wrecking part. I hate to quote. If I’m not cheap, then she won’t hire me – my gut feeling tells me that based on small signals, for example:

  • The look of her current website and packaging (I have seen a product sample) shows that she has not prioritised spending on visual communication so far
  • The product type – import from China. The products are a smart idea and they sell very well in her shop (according to Max), but they aren’t expensive. It isn’t a product that allows to charge a premium price, because once other get the same idea and start importing it as well, they’d be able to source it relatively cheap in China, too
  • Her accent sounds slightly Chinese. Chinese traders tend to be hard bargainers
  • Shop location – surrounded by other small shops that sell cheap imported stuff

However, if I am too cheap, then she’l still expect me to help and provide answers whenever she needs it regardless of how little she paid. She will be unhappy if I say ‘no, I don’t want to spend any more time on this because I’ve already spent heaps of time and made little/no money’. An unhappy customer is a problem regardless how little she paid for the service and whether it is ‘fair’ to be unhappy.

I guess that learning to provide a professional service is very much about learning to quote.

 
 
 

*made-up name

**Spy-like project code name to emphasise the incognito nature of this blog. All project details are altered or omitted to ensure anonymity.

Read more: Journaling Project Daisy.

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19 thoughts on “New Online Store Prospect

  1. Lori D.

    Congrats on your new project!

    I understand what you mean about quoting a good price. That is very hard and I cannot beging to give advice.

    But I do have a question–would take the project for your own pleasure, because it is something you like to do? Or is it purely financial?

    You strike me as a very conscientious person who would do excellent work, even for an unfair price. Good luck to you!

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  2. Mados

    Thank you for your positive expectations and nice compliments, Lori.

    No, the project is not for fun… I must start to contribute more to our household financially ASAP, and even more so now when we have a mortgage to pay. I have promised my husband to get a job as soon as we move to the new place (which we do this week) – Anything I can handle, maybe cleaning.

    The new neighbourhood is a low-income area, so I think unskilled jobs there are really crappy and low paid, so I don’t look forward to it. Working in low paid menial roles also makes me feel stupid because I have a master degree but apparently can’t handle (and can’t find) a ‘white collar’ job that seems suitable for my academic qualifications.

    So: any income I can make as self-employed helps me to contribute financially in a more empowered way where I learn more than in a crappy unskilled job. As ‘the boss’ of my own business people tell me about their little businesses and treat me as an equal partner who has a brain, so I learn something. That aspect is interesting. The work type itself may become pleasurable later if I begin to be good at it and feel like an expert. This is only my second online store set-up.

    Anyway – Learning to be self-employed it difficult and full of pitfalls, I am not
    feeling so easy and well organised about it as it might seem from the posts. I am just trying to learn to be more that way. I miss ‘how to’ guides for most situations and find the whole business game strange and challenging although my repertoire for business situations and conversations keeps expanding.

    So I’ll write about how I go about some projects here to create my own ‘how to’ guide library and share it to maybe help others in similar situations: Like ‘not compatible with an office environment but well educated and smart ~ *have* to find a way be self-employed’… and *have* to deal with challenges people can’t see and don’t expect.

    Actually, that’s very much the purpose of this blog… in a circling, exploring, indirect way.

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    1. Lori D.

      Congratulations on your move, too. I don’t know how far you are moving from, but we moved numerous times before NH. I like to organization and list-making of moving, but the aftermath of figuring what goes where is maddening.

      I understand that some jobs must feel unfulfilling, especially after a master’s degree. And when money is needed, finding the right postion is terrifically important. Best wishes on your project.

      I did have a question, when you set up services with a client, do you charge for the completed project or per hour or a combination of the two? I’ve always been a salary gal, freelance work seems so wide open, I wonder how it works.

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      1. Mados

        when you set up services with a client, do you charge for the completed project or per hour or a combination of the two?

        It depends on the project.

        If it is an independent project (like this proposal) then I’ll try to estimate the required number of hours and give a fixed price for the completed project (or divided into sections)*. That is mainly to improve my chances to win the project and ensure that the customer is happy and don’t get charged more than expected. I have only had small customers where the cost is very important. It is also because I have had so few jobs that am not yet good at estimating how long time work will take, so this way I take it on myself if my estimate is wrong.

        If it is a freelance job where I am hired to do a specific task then it generally isn’t up to me to decide how or how much I charge, it is part of the terms & conditions given by the employer in the project brief. I can negotiate the conditions a little bit, but there isn’t much room because these outsourcers look mainly at the cost and have easy access to many other freelancers.

        If you think you might want to do freelance graphic design work and would like to see some contract examples etc, then I can email you some examples/templates. Just let me know.

        Ps. My response time will be a bit slow for the time being due to moving and a lot of things that need to be done.

         
        *Although in the last project I charged a (low) hourly rate for some of the work.

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        1. Lori D.

          Oh, cool! I’d never thought about doing freelance, I was simply curious how you put together a work proposal. When I think I could handle some extra work, though, freelance would be awesome. I prefer the quiet of home and independence.

          I hope that your move is going well. I am excited for you! 🙂

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          1. Mados

            It sounds like freelance graphic design work could suit your lifestyle. Freelance work that can be sourced online is generally very competitive (~ cheap), but I have the feeling that you could be able to build your own niche. Eg. children’s books illustrations and magazine illustrations in your trade mark collage style.

            Anyway, so would like me to email some contract examples and templates to you? I’ll need to remove some company names first, so I’ll only do it time if you want them.

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          2. Lori D.

            Hmmmm. I can’t see myself working freelance anytime soon, especially since we are thinking of doing some homeschool for Tyoma. But, I would like to have the information for future reference. You can email me at your convenience at loritiar. I have a gmail account.

            I appreciate the help and advice! Thanks! 🙂

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      2. Mados

        I understand that some jobs must feel unfulfilling, especially after a master’s degree. And when money is needed, finding the right postion is terrifically important. Best wishes on your project.

        Yes… an education is an investment in expected future employability at a certain income level which is required to pay off study loan instalments e.t.c. so when the job opportunities don’t match the standard post-degree expectations, then the bills become problems.

        However, I did my degree for multiple reasons including immigration/visa and scholarship options, compatibility with undergrad degree, wanting to get out of a dead end of casual, menial jobs, and the hope that business & marketing skills could make me more versatile and independent, e.g. self-employed. I knew all along that I am not a person who fits easily into a workplace / office environment and never really dreamt of a corporate career (unless nightmares count;-)

        I hope I can find a non-workplace way to put my qualifications & abilities into good use.. that is what I need to do. The challenges/difficulties are the same in jobs and self-employment but when working for myself I can be better in control of my surroundings and minimise stress factors, can limit socialising to a level that isn’t stressing and intrusive, can take breaks when I need to, work outside, play with the dogs to relax, select complimentary partners instead of having randomly assigned colleagues and so on and all in all, thrive in familiar surroundings.

        I thrive very well at home… especially here in our lovely new house with bushland just outside! I love being here. I ‘just’ need to make an income as well.

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        1. Lori D.

          Ahhh, education expenses. I went to a state college in New Mexico that was exceptionally affordable. It took years of engineering courses to understand that having the intellect to do electro-optical engineering does not equal the inclination or ability to work as one in the real world.

          You seem to have an excellent grasp on your abilities and temperment and that will translate into opportunities. Especially with a systematic approach. I think all workplace situations boil down to the mutual benefit formula.

          Using logic and keeping information organized is the best way to proceed.

          Best wishes for a happy moving experience! 🙂

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          1. Mados

            Education is free (and sponsored) in my home country but I did my postgrad as International student in Australia. I had about 2/3 of the tuition fee covered by 4 scholarships, so I was very lucky (and want to be able to live up to the associated expectations of contributing to the economy, somehow, in the best way I can). The study debt is a mix of all sorts of expenses incurred during studies and moving to Australia.

            You seem to have an excellent grasp on your abilities and temperment and that will translate into opportunities. Especially with a systematic approach.

            Thank you. Actually I don’t think so (about the grasp)… but I am trying. A systemic approach is the only strategy that works for me, so I am trying hard to be systemic. Actually I like systematising, so that side is not really hard:-)

            I think all workplace situations boil down to the mutual benefit formula.

            That sounds very wise … although I am not 100% sure how the formula works:-) (I suspect it is not really mathematical)

            Using logic and keeping information organized is the best way to proceed.

            I agree 100%. People tell me I am well organised. What they don’t see is the chaos and aimlessness that ensues in the same second I don’t try hard to be well organised:-)

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          2. Lori D.

            “People tell me I am well organised. What they don’t see is the chaos and aimlessness that ensues in the same second I don’t try hard to be well organised:-)”

            Oh, wow! Me too! I need to print this out on a business card to hand out on a regular basis! 🙂

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  3. Mados

    Congrats on your new project!

    Thanks. The project is so far still just a prospect, I’ll see what happens when I propose a course of action and quote, probably next week.

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  4. brittany220

    Good luck if you decide to pursue this project! Sounds like it could be a great learning opportunity. You seem to have put a lot of thought into it and I’m sure you’d do well if you decide to pursue this idea!

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  5. Shelley

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. I have a Masters in Education with a year of doctoral courses. I find myself in the same boat-struggling to develop myself as a freelancer. With so much unchartered territory, it’s easy to wonder if you’re heading in the right direction. It may take you a bit, but it’s obvious you have a lot to offer, not to mention you’re an exceptional writer.

    What I’m learning is that being a freelancer doesn’t necessarily mean I have to limit myself to writing. It’s not enough for me to be an online article or content writer. I must find a way to be more. It’s obvious you have a good grasp on this.

    I look forward to your future posts.

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    1. Mados

      Thank you for your encouragement Shelley, and for the great compliments…

      Yes uncharted territory is a good description. I think it is wise to not limit yourself to writing. Pure article/content writing is probably the worst kind of freelance work one can get because it is a generic, underpaid and mature line of work that can easily be traded online (=outsourced to workers in cheap countries).

      I try to think in ‘responsibility bundles’ of tasks that builds more on trust, and which hopefully put me in a stronger position than my overseas faceless ‘colleagues’ in India and the Philippines because I am local and tangible.

      This prospective project is a good example. Set-up of a template online store requires good copy writing and a variety of ecommerce-related know-how such as ecommerce template design & settings options, payment solutions, SEO, flair for visual interface layout and usability, but most of all, the ability to take responsibility for the overall project and not run if it doesn’t work.

      That’s where I hope to become competitive in the long run – not on the individual tasks (e.g. writing) but on the combination of things I can do/can learn to do and the overall responsibility I take and lift off the customers’ shoulders… ideally.

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    1. Mados

      Thank you for the nomination, Shelley! I appreciate the acknowledgement and I think the VBA is a good way to acknowledge and promote fellow blogs. I have looked through the rules in your post and will pass on the VBA ASAP – I am quite busy right now but will write the post within the next few weeks.

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