The world of freelancing, up’s and downs. Guest blogger Sally Kellaway

   Having freelanced for a year or so and discovering so little information on freelancing as a graphic designer at University. I’m keen to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences as a new graduate stepping into being a freelancer. At University the focus is solely on creativity (or at least it was at my University) but I feel there are little if not any resources that new graduate can turn to about learn skills, how to conduct yourself as a designer running your own business. From taxes to invoices to what you should charge your clients, to how you should even behave with your clients. So I’ve asked Sally kellaway who is soon to be a graduate to write a blog post on her experiences as a freelance designer and here is what she wrote for me.

The world of freelancing, up’s and downs.

So whilst at university I wanted to freelance, the thought of being able to work from home with no boss breathing down my neck, to me, was bliss. Get up when you want, work when you want, drink as many coffee’s as you want etc. I have been freelancing for a year on and off and I can confidently say that this is only half true, clients who want your services usually have full time jobs, so contacting them is never within the usual hours, I’ve been woken up by emails at 2am from a client asking to change something by 8am the next day…no…stop…nobody gets in the way of me and my zzzz. On the upside, it has given me a lot of experience both good and bad that I can take with me through my design career, it has also made me decide exactly what I want to do now I am out of University.

Here is a list of my pro’s and cons:

Pro:

Many coffees.

Lie in’s (sometimes)

Comforts of working from home.

Less stressful (usually)

Work around other jobs and commitments.

Go to the ‘office’ (your home) in your PJ’s-many wins here.

Cons:

Stressful, all the management, invoicing, work, contact, emails etc are on you solely.

Lonely, I’m not going to lie working from home on your own wares thin after a while and you end up singing/talking to yourself….eek. I missed working as a team and bouncing ideas off of each other.

If you get stuck you have to rely on Google and Youtube to help which is time consuming.

Awaiting payment, nobody EVER pays on time and you usually have to chase it up, so unless you have a steady flow of work or another source of income paying bills can be tricky. One week you are minted and the next your eating supernoodles-the ‘basics’ ones…

Winging it, you literally wing everything unless you have been on a course or something similar about freelancing. My uni only did an hour’s talk on the subject so I was left fairly lost and have learnt from mistakes-not that that’s a bad thing!

The constant battle between ‘the client is always right/paying your next bill’ and the shouting in your head saying ‘NO YOU ARE WRONG, I AM THE DESIGNER NOT YOU BAAAHHH!’ My advice when you get the eighteenth email saying ‘no it just doesn’t look right…’ Take ten minutes before emailing back, breathe, and trust me.

Don’t get me wrong freelancing is great for building your portfolio and when you get big clients you make big bucks which is so unbelievably rewarding, creating something from scratch on your own and seeing it come to life within a business etc. Here are my top tips on getting freelance work, the do’s an don’ts:

1.  Behance, create your portfolio, photograph everything professionally and tag tag tag the crap out of it so when people search, your work comes up.

2.Google invoicing and learn the professional in’s and out’s of it, also create  a template with your logo so people remember you.

3.Tweet about being a freelancer and again, tag tag tag!

4.Make yourself into a brand or even look like an agency, more likely to get work when you look like a professional business.

5.Have a logo and consistency, whether that’s a certain type, colour scheme or style such as humour, corporate, edgy etc. Again-be memorable!

6.Reply to emails straight away, in my experience the clients who have passed on my services commented on how fast I reply and get work done for them.

7.If you need to, get someone on board such as a web designer if you aren’t strong in that area, collaborating is great for getting better results of work.

DO:

Be professional at all times, freelancing is a grey area where you have to trust each other a lot with time management, payment and getting the work done.

Make it clear with a contract the work you are doing, time you are doing it in and what YOU expect from the client, you are employed by them but you are NOT their slave.

Have fun working where you want, starbucks is always good as inspiration hits whilst people watching in my opinion.

Try and make contacts through your clients, you never know who they know…

Do make sure you know copyright laws, don’t get caught out using someone else’s typeface as there can be a hefty fine for both yourself and your client.

DON’T:

Take days to reply to emails.

Don’t get the p**s taken out of you, many a time I haven’t received payment, it does come with the game as a lot of the time freelancing is done over email/the internet. If you can, meet the client somewhere public for a meeting/briefing.

Don’t be lazy with file organising; you may have more than one project on the go and need to be able to access files quickly and sometimes after the project is done. Clients come back wanting more when you’ve done a good job such as letterheads, web banners etc.

Don’t get underpaid, go by how many hours you think it will take to complete the job, then have around 4 ‘changes’ within the contract, anymore and the client has to pay by the change/hour.

My last piece of advice would be time management, especially if you are juggling more than one job, try not to get overwhelmed, you have all day not just standard office hours. Also, communicate with your client but gage whether they are more of a ‘I’ll leave you to it’ client or one that wants to be involved a lot. As annoying as multiple emails a day, the one’s who are more involved tend to give more feedback and you can get the work done to their exact specifications.

if you like what you’ve read and you would like to get in contact with Sally and view her work take a look at her behance profile and you can also tweet her on @srkdesigns

If you would like to share your experiences as a long term freelance graphic designer and help graduates understand this profession. I would love to hear from you send me an email to: thecreativeconundrum@yahoo.co.uk and mark the subject as “I’M A FREELANCER SHARE MY EXPERIENCE”

until next time budding designers,

Amy

My Best ways to quickly and efficiently get freelance work done!

Okay I’m already apologising for my epically long subject title on this one, but I feel I need to share these facts, but in actual fact they aren’t the easiest thing to share… okay I’m confusing you know I’ll admit it… gosh I need to stop apologising this is just turning into an argument with myself!

1. folder organisation

Firstly one of my key tips I would say Is file organisation I have a section on my computer dedicated to my freelance work which sits various different folders for various different companies that I do work for. I separate them into projects in each folder and images. I’m not a naturally organised person I would admit that but I have practices to ensure I can find everything when I need it.

2. naming of files

Give each file and each change a unique number or reference this often happens with logo changes and after a long hard day at staring at a computer you think to yourself whilst looking at that thumbnail is that really the one I’m looking for because seriously they all look like identical twins

3. start from a sketch

You can never go wrong with a sketch if your start from a sketch with you idea you can usually be quicker in the design process when you go onto the computer you tend to get obsessed with tweaking and changing small things and you really just don’t get any where

4. Make lists and take notes

Some clients aren’t good over email’s. emails and texts can easily be misinterpreted and If you don’t question them and go off on a tangent then …. yea your wasting time and essentially time is money when it comes to freelancing. Making lists is all about work prioritisation what needs doing now what can be done later and who is your high priority client at this time.. Obviously they are all high priority but making a list and thinking seriously about what need doing can really help.

5. Remember to take a break

Taking a break is important for your health go for a walk, go get a glass of water. Go and think about the designs rather than stare at the computer. Sketch just get yourself away from the computer just for a little while.

6. Have everything to hand

I have my trusty design books with me, a big bottle of water, a sketch pad, a note book and of course my laptop, but that kind of given. I live in a very small flat in London so I don’t really have a desk but I will sometimes go and sit at the dining room table or in the garden I feel like having one place to do my work is a bit ridged I’m a creative person and my surrounds reflect my design so be where you are comfortable but always remember to separate home life from work life.

 

 

Places to go people to see!

Okay so this week has been a little bit of a weird week as I’ve been away back to Nottingham to see my parent only just got back. To which was pretty non stop the entire time which made things a little crazy on the freelance front. although I did see some good art at Nottingham castle which was fun.

So naturally here I am sat on a train with my handy mac computer and my latest copy of computer arts (The innovations issue!) getting things together for my clients because they need me and plus I pretty much give a dependable service. Last week I did a poster for a new girl band coming and the speed and quality of the work has (hopefully) ensured my long term freelancing with that client finger crossed the guy seemed really happy and did say and I quote ” I will have lots of work for you over the summer” so that seems promising.

I’m also designing a new logo for a smoothie company which is mainly linked with tropical fruit my main focus of that project is for the coconut to look less like an egg… and then we are laughing! but other than that its going well.

I’m also working in conjunction with a eCommerce clothing brand based in Glasgow who want me to design some t-shirts for them for there latest range of t-shirts and there is regular work in that for me which sounds good. so yes I’ve been very busy.

I would add some image to show you some of the work I’ve been up to but for some reason my images keep uploading strange they all look like tiny little ants in size : ( must get that fixed anyone know why this is happening please contact me?!

What do our clients really want?

I’ve been freelancing for awhile now and as part of this I’ve been reading a few books. mainly “know your onions” graphic design and I’ve come to realize that some of the simplest of things that a client would need tend to be over looked by us. So I’d just like to highlight some of the things I’ve put in place with my own clients that keeps them happy and ultimately leads to more work.

1) Contact In my experience working with someone local to you can be way better than working with someone on the other side of the world the key reason for this is communication. (unless you can travel and work on the project in there country) or vice verse contact can be difficult. Skyping can be a great way to make things work although you also have to consider time difference. but the best client relationships that I have are the ones that I live on there door step. They know that they can phone me when I need to and that I will respond or we can meet in person, which gives them peace of mind. It makes sense they are investing there time in you and they need the confidence that you can do your job ect.

2) Pixel Perfection essentially this one is probably the most obvious but the way they see it is the better the perfection the better it looks on them. For example if you are designing a poster for them and there is a tiny bit out of place and there customer, client or whoever notices this. This can look bad on the company and instantly look unprofessional the same thing goes for a website. You have to think carefully one little thing out of place can send your customer on to another site, because imperfections can make you look sloppy and what customer would put money in your hands to do something, when you website flyer or whatever isn’t up to scratch.

3) Time Management  They say time is money for a reason I believe that this is true especially from a freelance perspective from the clients perspective the work should be done quickly and efficiently thus saving him or her money and getting just as much work done. This isn’t all ways easy when a client wants a lot of changes and lets face it we’ve all been there. working until the early hours of the morning is normal for the freelancer (yes I am referring to a freelancer as a hunter gather someone has to put food on the table!) but the main thing is the longer the project takes the more money we receive from the project (hopefully or not in some cases) but the more agitated the client would be that you didn’t just finish the project in the first 20 logo examples you gave them.

anyway I hope my little life experiences are of us to someone and if anyone has anything more to add on this please do so in the comments.

My Latest Branding Project

This week I’ve been working on a branding project. Logo design, Business card and brochure just wanted a little bit of feed back from you guys if you can help I really like it, but an unbiased second opinion is always good!.

The client is a 1 on 1 high end teaching and project management specialist.  which looks better out of these two?  after looking at it for awhile my mind just boggles.

 

moving forward-2-02

Results of the t-shirt design poll and other various things..

Okay so if you remember a couple of weeks back I did a blog post on T-shirt design and what kind of things you liked minded designers like in terms of t-shirt design. Un surprisingly now I come to think about it the results came to animals.. Which makes sense seeing as my best designs and designs I’m currently working on are animals so I guess. If your reading this then you like my work, then there is also a good chance you like my animal designs. so lets just say my designs have made the response abit bias and the only way to get an accurate result would be to potentially guest post on another blog where perhaps the writer isn’t an individual with design styles that reflect the people who follow them. The results were interesting… that is all and thank you to all who kindly voted in my poll.

In terms of what I’ve been up to this week its been a crazy week. I’ve been a combination of working in my many jobs organising designing and re-organising my portfolio which I feel will never be finished because as soon as I create a new piece of work that I think is amazing I want to add it and I feel I need to learn that less is more make your decision stick with it and don’t agonise over it for hours. portfolio-2014

I also created the case for the portfolio which is an paper envelope that I have turned into a folder wrap and stitched the corners to make it look like material. I wanted to create something both eco friendly that challenges the way we see material things yes its essentially just an envelope but its the inventive idea and change of something simple that makes it compelling. although I must say the practicalities of paper in the rain aren’t great but it sure beats plastic and more to the point I could just make a new one!

This week I’ve also had some continuing freelance work which hasn’t been easy  as I’ve had two make a trip to the printers as my printer broke down which was incredibly annoying so not only did I have to do mock ups but I also had to print the final item. It’s surprising when you realise that to fix and or buy new ink for your printer that it works out cheaper to get them all done at your lovely local printers. Than It is worth bother to sort the thing out. I have a lexmark printer… it’s ok when it works but when it goes wrong and your test printing something and it has lines all over it. no matter how much ink your force into it. It’s still going to look this same. Anyway my printers did a grand job at a last min  (I mean I emailed at 11 o’clock at night and picked them up at 2pm the next day)  so if your looking to get a good print a reasonable price and good customer service visit www.sbsprinters.co.uk I would throughly recommend them.

In terms of my clients this week I’ve had response from a few previous clients which I’ve been prioritising. I had some interested from people over seas which is positive and all in all I’ve just been very busy!

ohhh and before I forget I went for a quick look in waterstones this week and brought a book I’d heard alot about.

“know your onions graphic design”

I’ve found it quite an interesting read it gives quite valid points about how you can become a better graphic designer and preachers that you can learn 25 years worth of graphic design experience so when I saw that I thought yea that’s something I could do with. its informative and entertaining and thats what I think I need in a book. its a good size for your to carry around so in that sense it’s also very practical It has a slip in the back so you can put notes and sketches in and all round I think it makes a great read. It’s not one of thoughts reference books that you will read a bit of and get bored. It makes you feel comfortable enough to read from start to finish and steps away from that occasional reference style. love it!.. not finished it yet but I brought it yesterday and I’m now half way through… good read buy it!

know-your-onions

 

 

a fox in a box thsirt design

fox t-shirt design #ohhdeer

As most of you have probably seen from my slightly crazy twitter feed. I have been promoting my t-shirt designs the last post I did on this I only had two designs finished but now I’ve gone onto my third and final design. I hope you like it.

I decided to illustrate a sleepy looking fox that gives the impression he is coming out of the t-shirt not really sure why but for some reason I just felt the need to rhyme.

you can buy this T-shirt design here!

 

 

 

fox-upload

Should you design a covering letter?

I’ve been doing some searches on how to make my CV look beautiful. My previous CV was how do I put it…. A little bit boring just plain black and white like a corporate CV. So I’ve designed my CV to be in sync with my website and my blog to keep my brand consistency, which is a sensible move. but the question I’m wondering is if applying directly (obviously in a creative manner job) with a fully designed covering letter can effect the decision of the hiring manager or does it simple just say “PICK ME, PICK ME” and provokes bad attention toward the candidate.

Covering letters are defiantly a bit of a blank subject for graphic designer at university they tended to miss off the covering letter part and skip to the interesting CV design. Which considering the lecturers are designers themselves who can blame them they didn’t get into lecturing about there favorite subject to talk about copy writing or maybe we should have all just taken a creative writing class!

But in a serious note the covering letters that I see online seem to be branded and very simplified but in tone with the graphic designers branding. but then I come across others that have the same cookie cutter style and then the word “I CAN DO IT” embossed in the centre. or a designed post about why they would like to work with them. But my question is do creatives on hiring teams enjoy this kind of thing? well I’m sure it provokes some entertainment but is acceptable. Would that covering letter be seen as “trying to hard” or “lazy and inappropriate” whats creative and acceptable and what is stepping the mark?

anyway I’m sure you all have your own opinions. Take a look at my CV design and tell me what you think.

CV design CV design CV design

Design portfolios what is the norm? or is there not one?

I’ve been thinking about design and recruitment recently and the type of things that must go through there minds as they see a portfolio.

Things are getting more and more digital so does this eradicate the need for a print portfolio although I must say (PRINT IS NOT DEAD)… ahem… but it must be difficult when you have to compare one to another. in different types of medians we now have to view work.

In my experience I’ve been asked for various different things from supplying them with 5 to 6 pdf examples under 5 mb (which I’m sure most designers find quite hard when they want there work to be shown in the best possible light shrinking it down to a small size and not compromising the work quality is tough)

print portfolio

To just being asked to provide a link which is simple enough and makes sense for video and animation positions. But I ask myself are there print designers out there sending promotional pieces of work to companies in order to seek work and what is considered the norm or does the organized savvy designer out there just prepare for every eventuality and hope for the best.

animation portfolio

Its made me realize the other day recruitment is tough in the design industry… large amounts of people after one job being sifted through recruiters before you get to go on to the next round  and most of the jobs have a shelf life meaning there career is often uncertain and lets face it … its hard to find a stable job in the design industry because it feels like companies are always on the look out for hot new talent… (at least that’s my opinion anyway) being freelance puts your career in your own hands and puts you in control even when jobs are out of control and you can’t find any leads. I guess thats why people consider it as a career …. you know what to expect when you get out of bed in the morning!….. unless of course you are rudely awoken by the sound of a client ringing your mobile!…

portfolio image 2

Logo design

Creativity vs Cash: A graphic designers work flow..

It’s come to my attention recently that I haven’t really discussed what is going in terms of my work and freelancing for a while at current I have 2 clients. which they are both going pretty smoothly one only initial wanted me to do a logo and business card design and now I am doing there website as they are so happy with the results which is good. The other is a packaging based project which I am very excited to be part of.

It is great to have a clients that lets your creativity flow.

I mean some client already have an idea and a vision in there head which they want you to materialize other have absolutely no idea what they want and are happy to let you as a professional in your industry lead the way, as to what is appropriate for their target market.

Most graphic designer prefer the latter (at least you would think) although sometimes the one that know what they want can give you an idea if you can execute it correctly. So if this is the case then in theory in terms of money and turn over which one would you decide option A or option B

A. The client know what they want you can execute it much more quickly meaning that  your quote for the project would be better off because your shooting above your time scale.

B. The client doesn’t know what they want. You get the creative control but It may take you longer the client could be indecisive and therefore your turn over would be less if you gave a quote that didn’t take this into consideration

It’s a difficult option basically creative vs cash but this is the kind of world we live in and as a freelancer who’s constantly learning about new things every day. It makes me stop and think about projects option A or option B which is best for me as a designer one feels like the easy route and the other creative but maybe financial less.

Basically and this is the “deep” part everything boils down to our decisions and risks sounds psychological but maybe its true. are you a risk taker or are you safe and now from analyzing my client base I guess I’m the risk taker in option B. but the question is who has the better portfolio? and at junior level anyway surely its quality not quantity … maybe I will get to option A In the future… perhaps design and experience will change the way I design in the future who knows.