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,


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.

Graphic design internships… what are they for?

It dawned on me the other day whilst searching through jobs through to see if I could find a captivating piece of work that I would like to put my name to. The sheer amount of times the word “intern” comes up with the words “unpaid” and don’t get me wrong I guess I’m looking in the wrong place If I want paid freelance work especially seeing as most of these company’s don’t pay to put there adverts on gumtree. It clearly doesn’t give us hope and whilst there is paid work on gumtree which I am able to tap into due to my expertise and knowledge .I feel bad for the fresh faced graduates looking to make there mark in the world when jobs are vastly being replaced by people who are able (not sure who they are) to work for free. personally I think graduates everywhere should boy-cock the term “un-paid intern” in order to produce paid work for someone else?! is this even logical? surely this would benefit everyone but it seems to me that if you are rich and privileged enough to work for free than some guy (or girl) somewhere will lose his job…. maybe not in the big firms or the ones who have proper vetted graduate schemes but the small start ups with no intention of making that persons jobs permanent and stringing them on in the hope things will get better…. I doubt it..

But I’m talking to you the people who contact someone like me with the clear intention to rip me off and demean my work by asking for it for free…. your work doesn’t benefit me in any way. I already have a portfolio and I’m not looking to add to it just because you say I need to. I don’t need a reference as  I have respectable clients who pay me enough that I value there opinion on the way I conduct my work. So what more do you really have to offer me?


The musical impact of viral marketing

Recently I’ve been pondering about viral marketing. I love it the way you can capture peoples imagination and then spread it like wildfire (which seems to be something that at the moment in this country is quite recent considering the heat wave we have had.) and it occurred to me that sometimes its not always about the advert/video itself but the music becomes a big part.

For example take the first major viral advert that came out when people only knew viral as having a bad cold
Cadburys took to the scene with the gorilla playing the drums, obviously the guy playing the drums was in a gorilla suit, but the attention to detail was amazing and it quickly became the instantly coolest thing to watch on YouTube share and giggle about. But my interest in this is how although yes its a gorilla he is playing the drums HAHA! we forget that the main aspect that brings it altogether is the music of Phil Collins “Air tonight” which brings me to the question: Would this advert have been as successful if a slightly vintage popular song hadn’t been chosen to accompany it? Would the monkey have been just as successful if he was only playing the drums acoustically? and to a song nobody would have heard of? maybe the brand name would have still made it a success.

later on Cadburys decided to do another viral style advert using a queen song and cars which I distinctly remember although they choose a queen track that was very popular. The marketing sank without a trace despite Cadburys reputation I am finding it very difficult to find online. later they did another viral advertisement with children moving eyebrows to the sound of a ringtone and song in a photography booth that can only be described as hilarious, was just as popular as the gorilla although I think this will forever be the most memorable Cadbury’s advert.

After Cadburys took on world domination of the viral infestation. “3” a U.K mobile network released a viral advert which is still current and being use. I find this one interesting as like Cadburys gorilla advert they centre around an animal. In this case a horse and like the Cadbury’s advert the music was a vintage popular song “Fleetwood mac Everywhere” which also proved to be an instant hit.

What I find interesting in these companies is the way the viral marketing correlates with each other. It almost gives big brand a sense of mixing a cocktail of cute animals (we all love animals) doing unexplained things and add it to a feel good track and you have and instant internet sensation and just to thicken this plot it appears other brands are taking notice. 02 have brought out an advert called “be more dog” which features a cat behaving like a dog. the only thing that they lack is the music and I’m wondering the impact that it will have on phone networks such as 3 and 02 it makes me wonder what really is going on behind some of the world biggest company’s door and marketing agencies.

The tired designer

Apologise for my recent silence but it appears the moment you think you are safe from an acceptable amount of clients they all decent on you like a tonne of bricks and so I’ve been swamped with work!

Which I must say is fantastic although I am once again into exhaustion mode and so I am working 24/7 in not only my part time job due to extensive holidays taken by just about everyone, but also freelancing late into the night.

Right now I’m loving it being on the go is all about what being in london is all about although I’m working for company’s here there and everywhere!

I’ve had past clients asking me to do more work and new clients contacting me which I was beginning to think the old clients hasn’t like my work as much as I’ve hoped but it must be working or I wouldn’t have repeat clients I’m so happy I’m just hoping I can keep building my client list to make myself fully self sufficient.

I love being a freelancer. But don’t be fooled I’m still the beginner from my first blog post not there yet but slowly!

I’m off to Leeds again this week for another family event so it looks like I will once again be taking my show on the road!

The social issues of freelancers working alone

Today I’ve realised the social impact as a result of working as a freelancer. I was surfing gumtree looking for a one off graphic design job when I stumbled upon a graphic designer asking for a virtual colleague someone to instant message whilst working during the day.

Sounds like a great idea I sympathies with the guy he’s married with children so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to reply but I don’t have these issues anyway.

I work in retail now I know your think “what a way to spend your life” but I love it I’m not just a sales assistant I’m also an in house designer and social media manager for a small business which is very different from working behind the counter in McDonalds. But anyway the point I’m making is I get the social interaction with my colleagues when I work part time so I don’t get this need for social interaction when I freelance the rest of the week because I got that out of my system on Monday and Tuesday.

It something I would really have to consider if I did this as a full time job as a social person could I cope with this or would I just resort to advertising for a virtual colleague on gumtree!

Designer for sale

At the moment I am having an incredible response from gumtree almost 90% of the graphic design work I am getting is through a free ads service and the good thing about it is you can set your contact method and
How you wish to be contacted.

I’m finding this also a great way to find small little odd jobs for example an advertisement for redrawing an image I rang the person did the work and was paid in under two hours. It makes owning a small business that much more affordable I really am making money just sitting at home on my laptop and don’t get me wrong I’ve seen cheesy junk emails that say this kinda thing but really it’s so quick and easy to post a response or put out an advert it make real advertising so not worth while!

The thing is I’ve also tried generic ways of generating interest in the local area and to be honest I haven’t had much of a response I’ve had more local businesses contact me through gumtree than anywhere else! If anyone else has any great advertising tips for graphic designers I would love to here them! Common lets get a conversation In the comments section I’m all ears!

Learning to say no (when you really want to say yes

Ok so recently I’ve had a few of my continuous clients to get on with hence the lack of writing at my end. For that I can only apologise.

But I have been learning important freelance lessons which I can really use to improve my business at the moment I had be struggling to say no to people and when a job came up with a client I could really get on with I was ready to work and all excited about it, but as I further evaluated the situation I quickly realised the client was perfect but the job wasn’t for me and if I want the best results from myself I need to provide the best services for my client and in this instance unfortunately it wasn’t me.

So I explained how much I would love to work with her and how the job want for me and she was fine with it and you never know I might get work with her I’m the future with my specialisms from why she told.

She also gave me useful tips knowing I was new to the freelancing scene I don’t keep this a secret she worked with a great deal of designers.

I did manage to get a another freelance job the same day with a lovely girl from Sheffield who I completed her project to a high standard in under three hours .. She was a very happy bunny indeed!

Yes! Scoring the client score one to me!

Very excited today as I’ve scored myself a new client … A local one to which is even better in my eyes I find that when you have a local client they almost automatically feel at easy with Parting with there money for a deposit.

I’m really excited about this new client because its an app developer logo which is a new line of territory.I can make it very much icon orientated. Which is what the client wants.

I think winning this type of pitch comes down to a few things in my opinion after doing a few one on one pitches

Showing enthusiasm
Dressing correctly
Having a plan
Asking questions
Giving a back story about your expertise
How to work things from a time management perspective
Talking about the contract
Sealing the deal

These steps have worked for me if anyone has anymore please do share! Nailing a pitch and doing it well is crucial to the success of yours and my business freelancers.

Anyway I’m off got a lottttt of washing to do!!!!

Finally! Some freelance head way

Ok so I finally have a new client (well hopefully providing tomorrows meeting goes well ) I will be working on a new social media application icon. It sounds fantastic and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in with the work.

I also have another meeting lined up with another freelancer I’m starting to understand the need for having support from other freelance it means I can also take inspiration from them as well as asking questions about the type of business they are in.

The intention of the meeting Is to hopefully off load some of the heavy work load another designer has so basically out sourcing the work to someone I.e me so this is an exciting meeting and could set me up for permanent work if possible and hopefully all being well line me up for the full time freelance position!

Exciting stuff! I will keep you all posted how it goes