1. When did you realize you wanted to be a freelance designer / self employed?
I first started thinking about it around 1998 or so when I had my first art rep and was doing a lot of freelance illustration work while I worked at Upper Deck in California. Then in 2002 when I was an art director at a small local design firm here in Oregon I was fired from my job by a paranoid boss who thought I was going to quit and go to work for another firm in town.
Long story short: I caught my daughters cold and called in sick on a Monday. My boss decided to read through my deleted email and found one from another firm offering me a job. I had turned that job down two weeks prior but he got nervous and overreacted. So when I showed up to work on Tuesday an hour early they had my boxes packed. My wife suggested I just go out on my own. So that is when I officially did so on February 12th to be exact.
Not everything worth doing is planned. Sometimes the best way to start is to embrace the fear as it were.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
Biggest hurdle is a lack of a consistent paycheck. So establishing a cash flow you can not only live on but expect can be difficult to start if you have no established business relationships in the industry or local community that would need your services. Thankfully I had worked for other people for 15 years prior to going out on my own so I was able to draw from that to start. I also immediately plugged into the local business culture and joined a small business group and landed a few local clients to keep me busy. In the beginning I did pretty much any type of work just to pay my mortgage, bills and support my family.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
With each year I figured out what type of work I did best and purposely pursued clients that aligned with that. Started budgeting for advertising and promotion in areas that reached out to the genre and niche I was best suited for and enjoyed. The areas I wasn’t well suited for I didn’t turn down, I just managed the project and farmed the work out like bigger agencies do and thus was able to grow more by doing so.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
Create work that is truly effective for their business and needs. Sometimes this means ignoring their requests and showing them what you know they need to do even though they may not be asking for it. It’s a relationship like any relationship. If a friend is action like an ass hat and you’re a good friend you’ll tell them “Stop being an ass”. Well, the same principle is true in a designer/client relationship. I’ve found that being forthright in this way garners trust and facilitates long working relationships.
That said, like ad agencies, client attrition is also part of the overall game so you have to be keeping an eye out for new work potential all the time.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
This goes hand in hand with question 2. Clients paying late has always been the number one hang up in cash flow for me. I do better now than when I first started but freelancers in the mind of bean counters are low priority in paying outstanding invoices. So you need to make sure to get half upfront as often as you can. Most agency work you can’t do that and it’s automatically a 60 days process to get paid. It’s slow but so far I’ve never been ghosted by an agency. I have been ghosted by private businesses over the years however.
So I have a work agreement I make any new contact sign I haven’t worked with before and this protects me from being ghosted. If someone neglects to pay I can file a legal claim locally and the client has to legally respond to it locally. In other words it’s more cost effective to just pay the bill than pay the legal costs to avoid it.
So talk to a business attorney and get that done to protect yourself.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
My creative groundhog days:
– Wake up and grab iPhone
– Browse Email, RSS Feeds, Article Feeds, News Feeds
– Respond to anything needed
– Look at “To Do List” for the day
– Do a Coffee Run
– Do any Project Prep Work
– Sketch Out Ideas
– Tweet Something Sarcastic
– Begin Vector Work on Project
– Listen to Audio Book While Working (Or Watch Netflix)
– Respond to any Email
– Manage any Other Projects Details
– Hang With Family
– Go to Movie with a Friend
– Go on a Date Night with Wife
– Juggle Midgets
– Browse and Read on iPad
– After Family Goes to Bed Head back to Studio
– Make Glass of Sparkling Water and Lime
– Sketch or Draw for Fun
– Continue Working on Current Projects
– Make New “To Do List” for next day
– Read some more on iPad
– Go to Bed
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
If you don’t draw on a regular basis, start drawing. Drawing is designs best friend and will improve your design because drawing taps areas of thinking not possible without the skill set.
You can see all my skill-based design courses on Lynda.com here: https://www.lynda.com/Von-Glitschka/189112-1.html