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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and mark the subject as “I’M A FREELANCER SHARE MY EXPERIENCE”
until next time budding designers,