7 Damn Good Reasons Why Being a Freelance Designer is the Best Job In The World!

View Comments by on 23 April 2014

Whenever I sit down to write a blog post, the first thing I do is put a giant pen and a piece of paper in front of me and ask myself: 

“What mistakes have I made that I can warn my readers about to save them heartache?”, “what dangers are there out there?”, “what advice can I give that will help them avoid getting into strife?”

And then I think "geez, I'm all doom and gloom aren't I?! Well no more!

This week I’m going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to break the rules of blog writing (Shock! Horror!) and instead of lecturing you about the right and wrong way to get things done, I’m going to celebrate why being a freelance designer is positively the most awesomest thing you can ever do.

You see... I love running my design business and my ProPartner program, but there will always be that little part of me that fondly remembers starting out as a freelance designer. It was so exciting, such an adrenalin rush, I loved it!

If you haven't taken the plunge already, you might contemplating whether you should should become a freelance designer, so below are my 7 reasons why being a freelancer is such a special time in any designer’s career.

1) You can choose your favourite jobs

Oh hell yeah you can. The problem with starting out with some design companies is that they choose the work you do. Unfortunately this means they may give you, the rookie of the office, work that you dread doing.

In fact I know of many designers who work for large companies and design agencies, and even though they had been there for two years, were still getting the jobs from the bottom of the pile. URGH! Who would want to stay in that job?!?

Quick tip: Sadly you can’t ONLY accept your favourite jobs (especially when you start out) but start out by drawing strict rules as to what you will or won’t do. If there is a particular job that you hate or is massively time consuming,  then don’t do it! But try to get a nice balance of jobs that you love Vs jobs that are “ok” to do.

2) You can create a speciality for yourself

If you go down the freelance route, then you have the power to either offer a general design service, but you can also specialise.

In fact most of the most successful (and profitable) designers I know have made their fortunes by pushing themselves forwards as gurus in particular areas; such as logo design, web design, banner design, social media design , etc.

After all, if you stick yourself in your client’s shoes and you get two quotes, one from a generalist and another from a “specialist”, who do you think they are more likely to choose? The specialist obviously.  

By specialising you can increase your chances of getting the work that you enjoy most, and less of the jobs that you hate.

Quick tip: Just because you decide to specialise in a certain area does not mean you are doomed to do that specialist work forever. For example, I used to primarily work as a graphic designer, but once I had a client’s trust, I was able to cross sell them onto other jobs, such as websites, SEO and online marketing campaigns.  

3) You can set your own project deadlines

GAH! If there is one thing that made me want to tear out my own hair, it was unrealistic project deadlines. As part of a company, not only are you competing again clients who “wanted it yesterday”, you're also dealing with fellow employees who:

  • (a) don’t know how long it takes to do the design and...

  • (b) promise the delivery of the work by a certain time and put pressure on YOU to finish it.

It’s a war on two fronts. But when you’re freelance, YOU get to choose the deadlines. :D

In fact if you join my ProPartner program and check out my video on timeline agreements, you can learn how to manage your clients and give yourself enough breathing room to do a job to the best of your abilities.

Quick tip: 99% of the time design projects overrun because clients take forever to give you feedback and then wonder WHY their design isn’t complete. Admittedly I have no proof it’s 99% of the time, but it sure feels like it sometimes!

One thing I did that changed my life was to introduce ‘timeline agreements.’ It’s a simple document that states when your set to deliver key milestones for your work, but more importantly, when your client needs to send you complete feedback. That way you’ve put your client on notice, and can politely backup your reasons as to why a project is delayed.  

4) Feedback is more open

If you work for a large company, chances are the feedback given can be lost in translation, or sometimes lost entirely.

When you’re a freelancer there are only two people in the loop... you and your client. This reduces the amount of miscommunications (though they can still happen) and ensure that your more likely to hit the home run for the majority of your clients.

Quick Tip: Actually I’ve got two for you this time around! Working directly with your client is a pleasant and wonderful experience... when it’s going well. However when that little bit of turbulence occurs it can be a frustrating time, and on rare occasions, be very costly too.

So how can you avoid the terbulance? Well I’ve got two bits of advice for you which I’m sure you will love.

  • 1) Where possible keep all verbal communication between you and your client confirmed via a followup email. And I mean everything! When you’ve had a meeting or a chat over the phone, make sure you send the client minutes of anything that was agreed.

    Trust me... being able to go back to written emails will save both of you a lot of aggro and allow you to proceed more quickly when disagreements occur.

  • 2) If you’re freelancing for a company, make sure you only have ONE point of contact. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘design by committee’ you’ll know exactly what I mean!

    If you’re doing a design for a company, more often than not everyone in that company will want to have their ideas implemented, from the CEO and all the way down to the cleaner’s Mum. What's worse, all of them may start to email you directly.

    Insist that you only have one point of contact and make him/her responsible for all communication from your client. If anyone besides from him/her emails you, politely inform them to go through the original point of contact. This will reduce the number of headaches when working for larger corporate entities.

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5) You can charge what YOUR work is worth

Let’s face it, one of the reasons many of us consider going freelance is the financial freedom that comes with it. If you start out at a design company, it’s your boss who will choose how much to charge for your work and the number of hours you will get to complete it.

Remember, it's not always how long something takes to complete, it's the value or what it's worth that matters more. 

Becoming freelance admittedly starts off slow, but when you start to pick up more and more clients, and start to acquire new projects through word of mouth, it can eventually become very profitable to be your own boss.

And when you get to that stage, you have much more flexibility in regards to how much you charge for your services.

Quick Tip: If you need any help knowing how much to charge, then why not sign up to my ProPartner program and check out the section in my Get Smart Program on ‘Sales and Quoting.’

But let me give you one key tip... always calculate exactly how much your time is worth. And by this, I don’t mean “I want $XX an hour so that’s how much I’ll charge”. Instead you need to calculate your true costs, including your time, office rental costs, utilities costs, etc.

Then add a specific profit margin on top. By taking a mathematic approach to building your quotes, you won’t find yourself stuck at the end of the month when you realised you only made $10 profit to live off of!

Oh and speaking of money...

6) Develop other sources of income

Just because you’re a designer, does't mean you can’t expand your sources of income. Design work can be profitable, but if by supplementing additional incomes sources into the mix you can take a lot of the sting out of the start-up period of your freelancing, whilst also preparing for a more affluent future for yourself.

But what do I mean by “other sources of income”?

Typically this will vary depending on what type of designer you are, but if you work in the digital realm such as myself, then you’ll quickly learn that design is often the first step for a business trying to reinvent themselves.

So if a company is trying to digitally reinvent themselves, what is the next step? More often than not the next thing that businesses will need is marketing services.

Now I’m not suggestion YOU should do their marketing for them (you have enough on your plate), but there’s no harm in working with third party marketing companies and getting a referral fee from them for recommending their services to your clients.

Quick Tip: If you become a Web123 ProPartner,  then not only will you get the tools to help you become a designer, but you will also have access to our additional services which you can offer to your clients, giving you extra pennies in your pocket but for minimal extra work.

Services include SEO, PPC, copywriting services, and more. To find out more, sign up, then check out our rate card.

7) You can continue to develop your design skills

I’ve decided to save the best till last. This.... this is why I started out as freelancer. I was able to build up my skill, knowledge and confidence until I was in a position to run my own business.

When you work for a company, sometimes you can end up getting pigeon holed. What do I mean by pigeon holed? That’s when you get stuck doing the same work over and over (and over) again with no chance of breaking out into anything new.

Your skills stagnate, you actually end up earning ‘negative experience’ whilst working, and frankly... it can be incredibly depressing when you realise the design world passes you by.

I had this friend from college, and when he finished his design course he very quickly got a design job with a very large well known Australian company (who will remain nameless).

At first, he loved his job, but after a few years he realised that all he was doing was the one single job (designing basic one page sites for very basic businesses) over and over again. In fact, the template he used was the same, all he did was switch around colours and move a few images around. That’s it.

He was in a financially secure job, but BOY was he bored. Then one day he snapped... he just stopped working and went into the world of freelance design.

His skills had declined... but with a little bit of practice he was able to get back into the swing of things, and now he’s a running a satisfying freelance career and designing for a wide range of projects. I’ve never seen him happier.

By becoming a freelancer YOU give yourself the freedom to do a wide range of jobs. But never rest on your laurels; design is always evolving, so make sure you keep reading design blogs, joining the conversation in forums and following new design tutorials. That way, you can keep up with the pace.

Quick tip: Although I came from a freelance originally, I now run my own business (Web123... obviously!). However I like to keep the spirit of the freelancer alive in my business. Which is why I always send my designers relevant design trend articles and encourage them to improve their skills via design tutorials or courses I find around the web.

And I strongly suggest you do the same! What is popular in the world of design is ALWAYS changing, and you don’t want to get left behind in the dust.

Looking to expand into freelance for yourself? Here’s how.

First of all if you’ve got any questions, you’re welcome to get in touch with me and hit me with your best questions. I’d love to answer any and all queries you might have.

And if you want to freelance into running your own web design company, then why not check out my ProPartner program. I’ve designed the program to help you guys become truly independent freelancers, allowing you to run a professional and profitable business to support yourself and your future.

With Web123 ProPartner program you will:

  • Get the tools you need to run your own design business.

  • Get free resources to allow you to attract and manage high spending clients.

  • Over 100+ videos guides on how to run your new freelance empire.

  • Access to over 75 web layout designs to get you started.

  • Access to our all powerful designer-centric web builder.

  • Exclusive add-on services to boost your profit margins.

  • Free 14 day trial so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Doesn't sound bad huh? Get started on your 14 day free trial, simply by clicking here. And remember, I’m on hand if you have any questions.

What do you think? Share your comments below.


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