New freelancers generally face two large obstacles when starting out: your credibility and your costs.
So how do you go about becoming a freelance designer that can compete in a hugely competitive marketplace? In all honesty the title to this post should have been ‘How to be a freelance designer and compete with existing designers and design agencies’ but you can see, it’s not that catchy. Every day of the week we are emailed by young, hungry, and good designers asking how to go freelance. And therein I think lies the problem. They emailed me.
Do you remember life before the internet?
If you are too young, and can’t picture days before everything was at the end of a Search Engine then take 5 minutes, sit down and look at your feet. They are the answer. It’s very hard to make your email stand out from the myriad of applications any established designer, or design agency, will receive. We can’t detect the tone of voice, we can’t see the hunger in it’s eyes, or the passion that is used when describing a piece of work. So take the hint, get on your feet and go knock down some doors. Ditch the email and get out there and meet people.
Be imaginative. It’s your job.
If someone turned up at a Design Company, and confidently handed over a box and said ‘Can you pass this onto the right person please’ you would probably think, hmm. This box was different however. It was a childs toy. Noddy in fact. But something was different about it. It wasn’t called Noddy, it was called Jimmy – and the box it came in didn’t actually describe the famous toy, but a doll that could design. Bloody well it seemed. Inside was a small comic book, handmade, and tailored to that company. Guess what, the phone call came, an interview followed and the rest, as they say, is history. That was me and my first job.
Make yourself stand out.
This applies to both young designers and experienced one’s going freelance for the first time. Make yourself different to the rest. Your design skills are just one small facet of this. As are your prices in all honesty. The rest comes down to your level of service, your level of personal interest in each client. As a client you can very often feel part of a conveyor belt, just there to pay their bills. If you take an interest, go the extra mile, actually get involved and ensure each project get’s not just 100% but everything you could possibly give, then the client recognises this. And tells their friends.
Yes you love designing. You spend alot of your day designing – That is until you reach a certain tipping point and then you discover much of your day is spent in meetings, or doing admin jobs and accounting. Being organised from the start means that when that tipping point comes, you will still be able to manage without having a breakdown. There are enough time management pieces of software on the market to help with this so use them. Trust me, you wont regret it.
The most difficult subject for any self-employed designer. This subject crops up time-and-time again across the internet, in forums, even in the pub between designers and no, you wont find the answer. ‘What should I charge for a website design’ has no set answer. But one thing you can almost guarantee is you are charging too little. However, balancing that with the knowledge you could lose a job if you charge too much makes most freelancers bank on the side with caution so they go in with less.
And finally, your credibility.
How do you gain credibility when you have no work to show? You’re starting out, looking for that first job after all. The answer lies in all the points above. Your price, married to your level of organisation, commitment, imagination and hunger will make you credible. Especially if you are talking face to face. On email it is hard to gauge each of these separate elements, but in a meeting us humans make decisions based on a ‘gut-feeling’. We do that on meeting people, reading their body language and listening to their voice. So arrange a meeting. Be confident – and be natural.