Survival Guide to Freelance Design

by Oct 22, 2013

Freelancing is a big world and can be brilliant, but also be complicated. There are many different ways you can freelance and I’ve tried them all! Whether you’re helping out a “mate of a mate” with their new business venture as a side-line penny maker to your perm job, or you decide you want to experience new agencies and take up freelance work as your main income, there are certain things you should know. Here’s my 7-point guide to swimming, not sinking, in the freelance pool:

1) Let’s get the nasty one out the way: putting pennies aside for the taxman – First things first – whether you are freelancing part time or full time, register yourself as a company. You can do it at HMRC (that was pretty painless wasn’t it?!). Now for the painful part… save some money for the tax man. It can be devastating receiving a tax bill you simply can’t afford because you haven’t paid on time. Keep invoices in order and get an accountant if you plan to freelance for a long period of time.

2) Find your place in the market – Do your market research and find what price bracket you fit in within the market. Negotiate with clients or agencies, but don’t be greedy. At the same time don’t sell yourself short.

3) Chitchat, network and make allies – We all know its time consuming, but as a freelancer you have to network one way or another, so put your glad rags on and get down to some networking events or industry parties (Glug is a great one to start with). Talk the talk, sell yourself, and dish out a business card or two. You never know, it might just land you those priceless contacts you have been searching for! Failing actual human contact at events, there are online sites available that are almost as good as face-to-face chitchat. LinkedIn is an under-rated, but invaluable source for industry desirables – it will surprise you who you can find on there! Twitter is also a great tool to find interesting, like-minded individuals along with recruiters.

4) Immerse yourself in everything design related – Be on top of, below, around and beyond the trends. Use Pinterest, Behance and Pocket as tools and sources of inspiration. Read Computer Arts and Creative Review like they are a bible. Keep up to date with blogs (thank god you’re here) like Smashing Mag, Abduzeedo and FWA Keep learning and teach yourself about emerging technology. Make sure your portfolio is up to date and advertise yourself on social sites.

5) Manage your workload – Don’t spread yourself too thin, especially if you are a moonlighting freelancer. It’s easy to take on too many projects as you think of all the mullah you could be making, but everyone needs that valuable “me” time to sit in a cocktail bar and try everything on the menu, or get more than 6 hours sleep. Overloading yourself can result in work lacking sparkle and dreaded ‘missed deadline’ client emails. Learn to say no – take on what you can cope with and only that. Be picky and choose work that is interesting and worthy to be seen in your portfolio.

6) Get advice from others – When you are freelancing you’re your own boss, but it’s good to get advice from peers and clients to keep you on track. Show your fellow designer friends your work to get fresh eyes on a project you’ve had your head stuck in. Ask your clients, or the agency you are in, for feedback so you can see where you are doing well and if there’s anything you can improve on. Stay on top of your game.

7) Talk to the men in suits – Recruiters. You can’t live with or without them. Personally I found and find work though my own means, but regularly keep in contact with an array of recruitment personal to keep my eye on the ball (it’s always good to know what’s out there). There are hundreds of companies with a vast database of agencies fighting over people like you. They don’t bite (much), so why not give it a go. The key is to find ones that understand what you do and how you tick.

Always be professional. Regularly meet people. Continuously promote yourself. Good luck!

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About Natalie Jahangiry

Natalie is half Persian with a Geordie accent. Although small in stature, she makes up for it with a big personality! As a Graphic Designer you will often find Natalie gushing about her passion for all things creative and sharing her ideas with everyone and anyone who will listen. If she’s not decorating her house you will find her cooking up recipes from her foodie family or propped up in a cocktail bar in town.