So You Want to Freelance: Part 2

01 Apr 2013

This is the second post in my series on freelancing. Here are the first, third and final posts.


From my observations and thoughts, here are some of the things one should keep in mind in order to be successful.

  1. You must be able to communicate well. Many times, this means knowing how to write effectively. Whether that is crafting a coherent email or a headline for a website, communication is the key (and learn how to spell). If you found yourself questioning why you were forced to take a writing class in college, then stop. Read a lot, read people who write well and study how they do it. I don’t know if people are just born writers, but it is a skill that can always be improved. If you’re still in college, start writing and putting it out there. I regret not doing so earlier; it will take a while to find my voice and learn how to say it. The sooner you start, the sooner you get there.

  2. Be prepared to be a lifelong learner. The graphic design industry has undergone tremendous change in the past decade or two. I have been fortunate enough to enter it at a time where I feel the opportunities are almost limitless. Desigers who were resistant to change and only wanted to work in print have found themselves in a tough position. In order to compete, you have to be prepared to keep learning, because change is the only thing in life that is permanent.

  3. Learn how to network and market yourself. Admittedly, this does not come easily, especially to those of us that are more on the introverted side. If you aren’t willing to enter a room and start talking to strangers about what they do and what you do, then you will have a tough time. I’ve often found myself in a situation where I look at a group of strangers and instantly form an opinion of what they must be like. Once I start talking to them, invariably they are genuinely nice people. Break through your hesitance to start a conversation; many of the leads I have gotten for work have come through starting a conversation with the person sitting next to me.

  4. Do great work. This goes without saying, but do great work. Your work will get you more work, it’s as simple as that. If you’re doing mediocre work, you’ll probably get more mediocre projects to do. This is probably the hardest part, and your ability to do great work is something that you should think hard about. It’s not a question of can you do great work right now (I don’t think I do), rather it’s whether you have the potential to do great work and can you rapidly improve the quality of your work (I know I can)? How did you try and make your current project better than the last one you worked on? How will you make the next one even better? You’re not going to succeed every time but that’s no reason not to try.

  5. Be fiscally responsible. If you don’t follow a budget or know your expenses or carry a credit card balance, then you’re not ready. If you haven’t been saving for a rainy day, you’re not ready. Think about retirement, learn the difference between a 401(k) and a ROTH, index funds and mutual funds, and figure out what your long term plan is going to be to pay for retirement. There are tons of free and very helpful resources out there. This control over your finances is going to be extremely important when you’re your own boss. Look into talking with an accountant to see what your options are.

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