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:


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.


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.


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.


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: and mark the subject as “I’M A FREELANCER SHARE MY EXPERIENCE”

until next time budding designers,


Graphic design resources for freelancers!

Now I’m getting the hang of this freelancing thing I would like to share with you all a few places where I have found useful stuff! that have helped me in terms of various different things over the couple of months. Hopefully some of it can be useful to you as well!


A great website in terms of inspiration some with rights and some without it can also help you find other websites  to find the desired font you want which is also very helpful. Sometime you get a client who knows exactly what font they want and this website can be extremely useful for that.


I’ve had some interesting results from this website it’s a great way to showcase your portfolio as well as find useful information a lot of graphic designers post info graphics which from my research gives a higher re- pin rate thus expanding the amount of reach your work gains. I’ve also found out that by changing and adding in key words that you use and other people use most commonly your work will come up more often… (I hope that makes sense!) I also Like to use it as a source of inspiration there is a lot of very talented people on pinterest! check out my page


A great place to gain new brushes if there is something particular that you are looking for however I would recommend that you create your own brushes It can be done quite easily but this website is really useful.


This guy has some great stuff I’m actually really jealous of his blog. He has longs of hint tips and tutorials to help you expand your creative mind.

5. The freelance handbook – Computer Arts magazine

I found this magazine really useful over the past couple of month I have quite a few freelance handbooks but I struggled to find one that really includes UK based rules and regulations in copyright law and more it gives details of great places for resources as well as showing you which places need graphic designers and how to effectively promote yourself I personally think its a must have read for anyone in the UK also handy for thoughs of you in the USA but I’m not sure if they have this over there. They also have more in the same collection to buy which I think I may have to invest in you can get hold of them in Whsmiths.

Freelance handbook

The big push! freelacing when clients just won’t budge!

At the moment I am having one of those frightful freelance moments when I’ve realised I’ve made a fatal mistake in the way my contract is written and have hastily worked to correct it even though the contract part of the deal is already finalised.

How many changes can be made to an item once it is complete at the moment I have a client who paid me a very limited amount of money and demanded a high volume of amendments from move that there to change that into six different colour. It is now driving me potty and now it is clear I am dealing with a very particular client from hell and although I worked very hard on his work I now feel that my opinion is under valued but in my head I see it as the client is allways right I’m finding it difficult to put my foot down and waiting for the confidence in me to finally break through the wall and be compensated in cold hard cash for the hardwork that this project has entailed.

Don’t get me wrong I like the project I just don’t like being taken on for a ride …. by anyone but at the same time I’m trying to grin and bare it get the job done and just carry on with my life. but this is just relentless.

can anyone help me with advice on how to rectify this problem. I’m exhausted!

so this comes back to the old will design for money sign that I have been adding to my site …. OH the smell of desperation.

It also seems that gumtree has suddenly been swamped with designers posting this that and the other leaving chances of a deal even slimmer.

although I did come across a very useful bit of information online using twitter to find freelance work it appear this might be  working in my favour …!!


it happend….The dry spot in a vast freelance oceon

Ok so it happend the dreaded dry spot…. for the past two weeks I have had client heaven with lots of reply and now my phone is silent and my inbox is empty…. whats happened? I haven’t changed my advert nothing is different so whats going on?

I’ve decided to start on local advertising I’ve been following steps on one of the books I had a my previous post a chapter called “self promotion” so basically I’ve been going to all local shops the post office ect and posting and posting advertisements to see if I can attract some local business which would be ideal. I also have plans to put an advert In a local newspaper.

I know I must look desperate from the state of my featured image and the stench it probably gives off but I do actually have one client at the moment and a few I am still waiting for them to get back to me with payments for to go ahead, and besides If I didn’t document this then people might think wow shes getting loads of work how impressive but thats not what I want to do. I want to paint a picture for prospective freelancer’s so they know what they are getting themself in for think of it as an experiment if you will use my story to help yourself.

on the plus side I have done abit of cold calling and pushing from a few clients, I have in the loop and hopefully I might have set myself up with a company freelance job. Which would really help me get a bit more consistant income and although I’m already working I yern for the steady income that an inhouse designer would be earning and I know that I should just hold off and try to achieve my dream but when I’m stuck in one bedroom with the partner and a cat sharing a house with 7 other people its only a matter of time before I crack which I do not want to do. I love my current job and I want to commit to this even if full time jobs are knocking at my door and I have to be honest I am hanging my nose over them. although house hunting is allways abit fun 🙂

Freelancing books!!!! for the graphic designer!

I’ve just been doing some reasearch on books that you can buy as a freelance graphic design as an aid. I actually managed to find a few which I purchased that I thought I might share. although I must admit the ground is abit thin in terms of graphic design specific freelancing books. here are the books I purchased:

1.“The Freelance Design Handbook: Don’t Start Work Without It”      Cathy Fishel;     Paperback;

book description:

Working freelance is an attractive option for a sizeable number of both recent design graduates and seasoned professionals. The Freelance Design Handbook is a practical and inspirational illustrated desk reference for freelance designers hoping to develop a long term and successful career path. The book is packed full of best practice, practical business tips, and professional and creative strategies from successful freelancers, case studies, alongside industry reference resources, to inform aspiring freelance designers of their options. This book explores the different design fields open to freelancers, covering all genres of graphic design, including, branding, corporate identity, publishing, information design, and how each area is best approached from a freelance standpoint.


2. “Start Your Own Graphic Design Business”      Entrepreneur Press;     Paperback;

book description:

It’s time to make your mark in the world of graphic design. There’s no doubt you’ve imagined it-placing your name and logo on business cards, taking creative control and being your own boss. Why not turn your fantasy into reality?

Whether you want to start a part-time graphic design business, a full-time operation or build a substantial company with a full staff of graphic designers, everything you need to get started is at your fingertips. Learn the basic requirements, startup costs, day-to-day operations and even what to do when things don’t go as planned. Industry experts and successful graphic designers share what they’ve learned and give you the motivation and priceless tips and tricks to help you reach success. Learn how to:

  • Discover your market and their needs
  • Choose a business environment that works for you

3. “Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business”  Cho Ilasco;     Paperback;

book description:

As the hipster classic Craft, Inc. did for crafters, this book will teach all types of creatives illustrators, photographers, graphic designers, animators, and more how to build a successful business doing what they love. Freelancing pros Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho explain everything from creating a standout portfolio to navigating the legal issues of starting a business. Accessible, spunky, and packed with practical advice, Creative, Inc. is an essential for anyone ready to strike out on their own.
so these great read will be winging their way to me very soon for some fabulous freelance reading as I embark on my journey as a freelancer!
read read read I’ve been told so I guess I will have to just do that.
on another interesting note I had a client today who sent me a filled out a contract but neglected to send me the deposit or reply to my emails to inform me of what is happening and also didn’t add contact details to my contract anybody else had this problem? I’ve sent an invoice through to the email address they contact me on but I’m abit stumped on this one……. anyway.
Happy reading!

Welcome to the world of the freelancer (pure and utter chaos!)

Ok so I apologies for my lack of posts over the past few days but I have been working incredibly hard for one of my clients who requires a banner for there website and although I have offered my services to work just about anytime around my current job I didn’t really factor into it the idea that on sundays people will not reply to your email. which can draw all of you work to a halt especially if Sunday is one of your keen days to get work done which for me is.

So now I’ve been working hard to drum up some more interest and researching into other ways I can get my services and business and what I offer heard to the general public which can be difficult with a low budge. so instead I have spend £5 on the gumtree website adding my advert to the top of the list anytime somebody types in graphic design a key tip if your using gum-tree I don’t put my advertisement under services as gum tree charge for this so I put myself under the artist and community section which is kind of a similar thing which works for me and as well as having the one main advert I also post 3 other free adverts and this works incredibly well for me at the moment although I did get an instant reaction after adding my advert in the pay section I suppose it looks more like you are recommended by the gumtree being in this section and although its only £5 if I only get one job it will make the money back for me hopefully.

you will also notice that I have made a few changes to my blog page yesterday because I’m working on making my brand consistent I’m in the middle of creating a beautiful and compelling website which I will let you all know when it is up and running although I am still going to use this as my main blogging area as wordpress offers me the kind of things that will promote traffic to my site although to be honest everyone I have spoke to on here has been really supportive and given me lots of information about freelancing.

I’m also now focusing on different area’s of advertising a friend of mine works closely with people at our local newspaper who can do advertising insert or though at the moment the amount I am paying on gumtree is well worth sticking with for the moment when I can offer a job for £30 an insert in the paper would mean I could only break even.

I have a few business cards left over from my university days which I am going to use for the moment and then re design my cards after I’ve generated work for myself.

I’ve nearly finished my first job now and I’ve really enjoyed it I’m begin to realize what little time a freelancer has and with me still working part time Im constantly working to make a name for myself although I’m told by very knowledgeable people on wordpress that this is what I should be doing.

on another positive note I’m waiting for my contract to be finalized with another client so fingers crossed all will go through and I’m also reading my partners A level business books to help me out although I would really like to get hold of a freelance designers guide book if anyone knows of any of these please do let me know as I want to learn as much as I can to stay on top of the market!.

phew! a long one today maybe I should have spread my posts out abit! another long busy day for me!

moving swiftly on! freelancing mayhem!

Last night I got a phone call from a company in Leeds asking for a quote for a flyer.They were a little bit unsure what they wanted but they clearly needed guidance from somebody and being a designer they asked me for help.

The guy I spoke to on the phone had designed a logo himself which was not bad but definitely not great. How do you approach this situation? because the key things that popped into my head were do I….

  1. Be honest with him and tell him exactly what I think of his attempted logo and then pitch a great flyer proposal?
  2. tell him its amazing in order to get the flyer job.

well to be honest to do this job you need to have people skills to way up the situation and being an honest person I couldn’t help but do option one and then I followed it up with great proposal and told him of my expertise and the guy respected me for that and was even talked about further work after I completed the flyers which was a sensible thing to do. Although he did try to get me to do some illustrations for his logo which I respectfully declined until we had a deal, a contract and a deposit up front.

Disaster averted with the job in the bag and the contract being emailed over fingers crossed the job will go through but I have a feeling im going to spend a lot of time chasing up clients and less time actually designing something.

The reality of the freelancer

After having a few response’s to my ad I have realised the importance of having a contract in place before excepting any work from a cilent I had a cilent (who seemed very interested) ask me to send over some designs about a logo design that he needed doing for this website my first rection was yes! an actually freelance piece of work and began to brainstorm when my partner brought me back down to earth and realise what I was doing and that sending this work could do a lot of harm because with the rise of the intern landing a paid freelance job is becoming non exsistant for freelancing beginners like myself. So who’s to say this guy see’s my work likes it and takes the idea to recreate it with an intern or someone offering a cheaper rate than myself or worst still takes it anyway and claims the copy right for himself it sounds harsh but you don’t know the person you are speaking to so who knows.

so the moral of the story is don’t hand out any freebies accidently get something in place first.

I need to take some classes in Business before I fail miserably at this freelancing thing!