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

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.

Freelancing into the night

The title of this post is totally reflective of what I’ve been up to recently I’ve posted a few adverts online to gain some more lovely client and so far I can’t believe the response I’m literally swamped in graphics work and I havent paid a penny for the advertising. Which is good I’m guessing people must like my work which is good. I think my work has developed and changed over the past year or so I’m learning to take things in there stride and I realize that the only way to get any where is to be pro active and just keep going which is sometimes hard.
I’m look for way to expand my horizons in design and more unique ways to find clients.
I do however feel that graphic design is a very male centric kind of profession and with turning 25 this year I’m worried that being female and of child baring age will go against me. Which is sad but I must reiterate I am not having children for a loooonng time and I would very much like a career but I guess I’m not the only female designer out there all I need to do is show my skills to the best of my abilities.
I’m currently updating this on my phone so at risk of providing sub standard images I will show all my new designs in my next post… Or even multiple. I’m going away next week and it looks like my little Mac will be joining me.

how do you feel about doing a test piece of work? (freelance)

(how do you reply) This is a difficult subject one of which I’m not sure how to answer but I’m looking at it from  both perspectives.

A client come to you asked you to do a piece of work as a test to see if he likes what you can do. in a job based interview this is ok. but is it acceptable for someone who earns money on there pieces of work alone to do on a freelance basis? should a client take into consideration portfolio before he or she takes the plunge or does the client have a right to give you a test run.

I’ve done these test runs before and while for me it has been sucessful I’m wondering are there freelancers out there who will only give the ok when they have there deposit and no test for cash flow reasons can simply not afford to give away there work (if brief) for free?

I sometimes feel that the designer feels cheated they worked hard to get qualifications a portfolio and to ask for more… well to be honest I’m just not sure on this one.

I think sometimes its good to test the water it also gives the designer a chance to understand if they will get on with the client or if it will be doomed from the start by which time you aren’t at a point of no return.

If any of you freelancers out there see this post (and my lovely followers) please do share your experiences with me i’m interested to know how you have dealt with this situation and if this is something you have come across. Have you gone along with it or point blank just refused?

 

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

The summer freelance frenzy

ok so as you have probably seen on tv we are experiencing a heat wave here in London/England which has resulted in an increase of U.K citiziens taking a well earned break! (who can blame them)

which is greatly improving the need for little freelancers like me to make their mark on the industry I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for work in studios and various other in-house departments needing a designer to fill in for there over worked designer to take a well earned break to relax in the sun.

so needless to say I’ve had a fair amount of work on I still have consistent work from my northern clients which has only fuelled my desire to work north. What with high house prices and earning staying the same the need to live in a more low price society is still something I would like to pursue and what with family being in a close proximity and clients this would be great for me. Lets just say I’m more of a tea drinking that a latte drinker (tea houses should be on the increase in the south us northerner can never get a good cuppa.)

anyway back to the freelancing I’ve gained a more consistant client recently and I’m hoping that the relationship will develop into constant work (fingers crossed on that one)

but at the moment I am looking for work in leeds so if anyone knows anyone who would like to work with me up north give me a bell…./email.

Freelance females and graphic design ladies!

On my way back from Leeds now after a fun packed 3 days! And on reflection after taking my laptop with me I have to admit I haven’t done an awful lot of work whilst away.although I have been waiting for my client to get back to me on the colours of the logo that he wants.which has set me back with the banner designs.

They finally got back to me today which is the one day I don’t have decent Internet connection I’m on a 4 and Half hour journey back to London now! But they did have some additional paid work they wanted me to do which is good.

In other news I did enlist the help of my partners 9 year old sister to help me think of ideas that are about London for my banner work which was very helpful and it got me thinking about the advantages of woman doing this type of work and how they can involve their children and how this can give a positive effect on their life’s as well as the mothers.
I find now in a society where there are less jobs and woman often feel pressured about having or not having children, this line of work takes the edge off when woman have less chance of rising the top of the career ladder. being self employed gives them a sort of empowerment it gives woman the flexibility and choice to do work that they can work around them as well as involving their children.
even if they do say, as my partners nine year old sister says graphic design is “pretty pictures” than that’s fine by me as it also means I’m doing my job

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