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.

 

 

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.

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

logo design

Graphic design internships… what are they for?

It dawned on me the other day whilst searching through jobs through gumtree.com 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?

 

what I’ve been up to (freelancing mostly)

Well I’ve been freelancing awhile now and to be honest It’s now to the point where I get very little time to do my blog which I now decided needed a long over due update.

I’ve been working with a lot of food based clients over the few months some have been local and some have been not so local I’m enjoying this type of work and I think it is something that I am definitely going to continue with (provided I can find more food based clients who are willing to take me on!)

I’ve realized more and more that I am developing my own style its got to the point where I can look at my work and compare the similarities between each project (big or small)

The way I work is becoming more and more structured and even the everyday admin parts are becoming easier simple things like invoices ect are becoming second nature to me.

At the moment I am working on the development of my site at the moment as you can see my theme is not designed me. which as you can imagine as a designer frustrates me a little bit so my aim now is to customize my theme or create my own custom template which considering this. I’ve only ever predominately created websites using my own HTML/CSS I now understand why SEO is important and what It can do for me to be searchable to people.

Hopefully this will help me gain more exposure as a result.

I’m continuing to gain work from companies some I have consistent work with which helps me no end. I feel like I’m getting closer everyday but I know things take time and I’m to the point where I want things to be just right.

will design for money on cardboard

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 …!!

YES!

will design for money on cardboard

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 🙂

Ycn project do you dream in salad cream

How to offer full works to a client (when they are remote)

So today I am lucky enough to had a client who when we first met were in agreement we would do a flyer just to gain trust through both partys.
So I worked really hard at gaining the trust of my client although it seemed as if they had already hired another client to design some sticker and a logo for them, which was abit dissapointing because for me for my business having my design on a sticker on a car in the U.K, somewhere far away from where I even live if a big deal for me.

The client presented me with the work they had done for him which to be honest I felt sympathic for the designer because they had clearly lost the love for the art and I gave my honest opnion because thats just who I am and sneekly had a go at knocking the socks off this other company.

which I did and although I feel guilty about it know I am working as a small business, and this means alot more to me than them… clearly …. is it ok to be ruthless in this field? when you know you can offer better? but for me this give me a whole load more exposure and of course money, altough when I’m doing something I enjoy its not as much about the money its what I can do for the company.

I felt like I had earned it in a way, that they hadn’t. Either way its a fantastic project and I’m so chuffed that I was choosen over an agency….

The other day I was offered a job by my linkin in profile and I thought about what It would be like to work for someone as a designer again… I just don’t think I could do back to somebody else being the boss but at the same time. I feel I long for a steady pay and the security that it brings and even though I’m only working part time at the moment. I can still feel my libra tendencys of indesiveness setting in. They even told me there was a possiblity of working part time which would be great for me, because I sometimes feel the whole last one in first one out aspect driving me insane. so I guess that this is just going to be the type of thing that I’m going to have to ponder about.

I’ve come too far as a freelancer to give up now. I think I just need to fight on through and hope that I can get job satifaction from working for myself (which I know I can ) I just need to keep going and be supported by though around me its difficult.