When I started working as a freelancer I’ve struggled to establish my rules, workflow and rates. I made so many mistakes and, at the same time, I learned so much. Right now I know how to be grateful for every bad experience. And one of the important lessons I took is… we need to go through hard times from time to time to grow and improve.
After years working as a designer, I know this process can be much faster only when we share our stories and learn from each other. That’s why I decided to write about the things I did before, but I try to avoid now.
You believe you’ll always have design projects coming
You know this situation, right? After a few months of struggling, weeks of sending proposals and hearing nothing in return, finally you find your perfect client. They seem like a well-established company with regular workflow and concrete plans for the future. You get a bunch of projects that will fill your agenda. You don’t have to worry anymore. You are so excited that at some point you start to spend money you don’t have and plan a vacation that you missed for the last few years. You own the world!
After a few months of perfect collaboration, you feel so comfortable and cosy that you forget about old, dark times.
But suddenly something changes again and your email turns silent. First, you think it’s a server error and you wait patiently. But days passing by and you still don’t get any new projects.
Feeling a comfort of regular assignments lulls you into a false sense of security. But remember, as long as you don’t have a long term contract signed in your pocket, you are never safe. I learned this lesson very fast. Be prepared that being a successful freelancer or even having your own company doesn’t mean you’ll have projects coming regularly. Better be prepared! And here are a few things you can do:
– Never focus only on one client. Always have spare time to welcome new ones, so you have a life ring close at hand,
– Charge right money for the projects, so even when you have less work you always have enough money to pay your bills,
– Have savings…
You don’t save money as a freelancer
Having your own business requires a lot of planning. Financial safety is one of the things you have to consider. Start right away. Make sure you always put some cash aside, even if it’s just a few euros. That will help you to develop the right habits. As soon as you can, increase it to 15-30% of your income. It can be very useful when you have fewer design assignments. When you’ve established your position and you have enough savings, start to invest. Spend some money on courses, conferences and new gear. It’s important to make your money circulate. This will definitely help you to make your services even more attractive to potential clients.
You lower your prices hoping a client will appreciate it
Design market is very saturated and it’s hard to break through. When you see the prices on the internet it’s hard to believe that people make living from offering logos for $50.
Sadly clients don’t know why your work is more expensive and they think it’s better for the business to choose a cheaper option.
That’s why it’s very tempting to lower your prices and we hope clients will appreciate the effort. What about if I tell you they will not. While it might work with your regular customers, new ones, who don’t know you, will think you overcharge them and will always expect a discount. They will not know how much your time and skills really cost. I can guarantee you that in the future you will never be able to rich a rate that satisfies you.
You don’t show your projects online
I remember going to my first job interview holding print out of my portfolio. It was back in 2006 and I didn’t even have internet at home to send it online (I know, shocking!).
For 10 years I’ve never had problems to find an in-house position. I was sending my PDF portfolio and that was everything that was required. But the reality changed so rapidly. Sharing my work online hadn’t made much sense to me until I started to work as a freelancer. I realised how far behind I was (especially compared to people much younger than me just starting in the graphic design industry). Facebook, Instagram, Behnace seemed like a foreign land. While so many people were masters of a jungle, jumping here and there and picking up juicy fruits from the high trees, I was still crawling somewhere around the bushes.
It took a lot of determination to learn how to use all the new tools and if I could start one more time I would definitely begin to work on my online presence much sooner.
These are several mistakes that I made as a graphic designer and as a fresh freelancer. Of course, there were many many more. Although I believe every single experience is crucial for us to grow.
And what’s your experience starting as a freelance designer (or any other freelancer). Have you gone through the same challenges? Share it with the comments.
Hi, my name is Magdalena. Freelance graphic designer with a passion for creative thinking, travels and coffee. I'm inspired by new challenges and every day life. I observe, read and listen. That's how I learn and gain experience to use it in my works.