In 2017, I was coming out from a massive burnout.

I was spending most of my money on alternative treatments. My daughter was still a baby. I had to find a new project soon or get a full-time job. I had promised myself that I would not get a full-time job until my bank account hit $0.

I start reaching out to old colleagues. And I got a meeting.

After going through this miserable year, I kinda didn’t care whether I got this project or took a full-time job. I doubled my price and I said that I would work from home and visit for meetings.

They said, YES. I could not believe this was happening.

Here are 3 lessons from this project.

#1 Unpopular companies have budgets

The software they are building was super niche. Not sexy. And profitable.

There is this fetish among UI/UX designers to work for companies that are popular. I get it. You get some bragging rights and instant credibility for the next job. But for some reason, I don’t care for that. The working vibe of the founders and the team was super chill with no pretences.

I would rather have that than the pressure of popularity.

#2 Higher pay = more trust

No micro-managing. You set the rules for how design is done in the project.

You might think the opposite. If they pay you more, they make sure they get their money’s worth by keeping you busy. But no. I got plenty of time to research and explore solutions. I got involved with the founders with their business strategy and shaping the future product.

This project left me with no tolerance for clients that sit on the shared screen with you and tell you to move this to the left and make it bigger.

#3 Do a retainer contract

This was not a quick project. The scope was massive, and there was no way I could give a fixed project.

In this case, structuring the engagement as a retained contract makes the most sense. A retainer is basically a monthly salary. The plus for you is you get recurring revenue for months. If you have time, you can work on other projects as well. You run the process as an outside consultant. The plus for your client is that they don’t pay health insurance and when the work is done the contract is discontinued.

As a solo UI/UX designer, I have found that retainer contracts are one of the keys to building a sustainable income.

Bottom line. Charge more. It’s better for you and your clients.

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