It’s Business

I know the best life lessons are those learned the hard way. But hey! there is no harm in having few advantages up your sleeve, right? So if you are new at this or thinking about being freelance designer, hop in! Maybe this will give you a nice head start.

I’m a freelance designer and I design websites. Who has this written in the first five sentences on their website, hands up! If you do, you are in serious trouble. Why? Because if you think about yourself as just a freelance designer you might just get a real job now, and save yourself some trouble.

I’ve been freelancing nearly ten years now. And most of that time I thought about myself exactly like that: I’m a freelance designer I do design work for a living. And I did. I had few of my own individual clients. But most of the time I worked for agencies as freelance designer. You know, that person who works on nights, and weekends, and holidays. All those crazy hours, no regular agency worker would agree. And get paid net 90? It was me. I charged by the hour, I lived through abundance of work, to not having any work at all, for weeks. I got well paid jobs and I did free work when my client took a project without paying. I’ve seen it all. You win some, you loose some. Because, you know, this is how it is, when you freelance, right? Well… It’s not!

Freelancing is fun, until it’s not.

It’s fun being a freelancer. You get to sleep as much as you want. You get to work in your pajamas. Get out in the middle of the day to run errands, catch a movie or go to a gym. No one tells you how to work and when to work. Until you deliver your job on time, you’re golden. Freedom baby!

You will also get sick to your stomach, when you are finishing work and there are no jobs booked in your calendar, for next few weeks. You will be terrified of taking a break or getting sick. You will feel absolutely helpless when the net 90 invoice isn’t paid on time.

When I’ve quit my day job and started freelancing, I didn’t think about the downsides much. I just knew I was good and I’ll get by somehow. I started to take in regular agency work right of the bat. You know, for this false sense of security. I didn’t see it than, but I merely switched the employer, and nothing really changed besides my working hours. I worked 14 hours a day instead of 8. My financial security was still in the hands of others.

I know I was young and stupid. And let’s face it. No one teach about business in art school, or in any other school for that matter. We finish our education crippled out of basic business skills. Therefore it took me few years to finally get it. And I hope this will help you take care of your future faster.

We are not freelancers we are business owners. And even if it’s just you in your pajamas, it’s your business. And you need to think about it that way. Otherwise you will hustle for scraps selling yourself short, forever. And no one respects a hardworking fool. Because if you’re not taking care of your business you are a fool. Takes one to know one, I know.

First order of business is…

But don’t worry I didn’t wrote all this to make you feel bad. You’re here, you are curious, you are looking for answers. You are good. Here are just a few tips for start, to get you going.

  1. AdvertiseAdvertise like there’s no tomorrow. Do it in the way that suits you the best, but do it constantly. And if you think of stopping because you have work for next month? Well, guess what? Hold your crown with one hand and open your calendar with the other hand, and until there isn’t at least two month waiting period for you, you write those names down. You will only get 30% of these jobs anyway. And if you calendar is full, you will now have a privilege to be more picky about your clients.
  2. Rethink your ratesFreelancers often charge by the hour for design work. Seems reasonable right? Nope! Let me ask you a question. How many hours of your work week you spend on actual design work? I have a feeling it’s about 20-30% of it. The rest is: project management, e-mails, client meetups, invoices, phone calls, preparing estimates, reading briefs, looking for clients, marketing, updating your online portfolio.

    News flash, you are not a freelance designer. You are designer/accountant/project manager/secretary/office supply manager/janitor. Why on earth would you charge just for design work? Don’t feel bad for charging more for your work either. Because if you will get paid well, you will still be in business few years from now. You will know why that matters, when your first client will want change that website you did, back in a day.

  3. Never stop learningIdeally you should spend on learning new stuff at least 1 full month out of 12. It’s important to stay on top of your game at all time. Cause if you stop you will be able to keep it going for a year or two, but that’s it. Think long term. Invest time and money in your own education and you will see it will come back ten fold.
  4. Stop waiting for something big to happen.When I work on something I tend to make plans or have expectations based on what will happen when I finish certain project. I tend to publish work and than wait for those happy new clients to come in. And let me tell you, you can grow a beard (even if you are a woman) waiting for big stuff to happen to you, but you will not grow your business. So if you want to be happy, successful “freelance” designer, better think about your next gig before you finish your current one. Do what you do the best and what makes you happy, just don’t stop moving.
  5. Love what you do!If you are waiting for the big thing and can’t wait to stop working that hard, like you do now. Get a job and do what you love, in your free time. Because if you want to be a freelance designer you need to love business and hard work.

I’m not just a freelancer. I’m a business owner, a designer, problem solver, that smart lady who knows everything, a writer, an illustrator, a shop owner, a housewife (yeah it’s a legitimate job title), an accountant, a janitor. How about you?

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