1. When did you realise you wanted to be a freelance designer?
It’s actually kind of corny. I had my first daughter while I was working at Pentagram. They gave me three months off for paternity leave and when I came back to work full time I was so bummed that I had to spend all day in an office instead of around my kid. So that was the main driver. We also looked at what potential work we might have if we left and estimated that we could survive for the next 3 to 4 months.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
We just did it. I left my job at Pentagram and my wife (and now business partner) had left her job at Addison so one day we just woke up, went down to our basement where we had our office and started working. She already had freelance work and I had a couple of projects that Pentagram asked me to finish on my own. As horrible to say as it may sound right now our biggest hurdle was finding time to do all the work we had; we were flooded and had to turn down work. This was 2007. Good times economically. Perhaps more useful: the hardest part was getting all the administrative stuff in place. Bank accounts, health insurance, proper contracts and proposals, and getting good at billing.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
Referrals. There is no better way. And just to clarify, since 2009 we have been doing almost no client work. About 90% of our income comes from our blogs and own projects.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
I’m nice. Very nice. And I do the best work that I can. I had one client for whom we did an identity and early on there were a few hurdles; the biggest being that they changed the name of the organization halfway into the first round of design work. When she called me to tell me the news and I just said “Fine, no problem” she said “You are always so calm; I’m freaking out”. A big part of what we have to do as designers is shepherd our clients through their stuff, because it’s likely we’ve seen it before.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Yes, all the time. When we get paid on time it’s like a party around here. We just have to be constantly reminding people to pay up. We set calendar reminders when the 30 days are due and follow on the spot.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
5:00 – 7:00 am: wake up and work on blogs
7:00 – 9:00 am: take kids to school and go for a run
9:00 – 12:30 pm: work, work, work
1:00 – 5:30 pm: work, work, work
5:30 – 8:00 pm: dinner, bath time, put kids to sleep
8:00 – 9:30 pm: answer the day’s e-mail, work on one of the other blogs
9:30 pm: sleep or TV
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at Freelance Unleashed?
With new clients: Upfront payments (30% to 50% of the total scope). And payment before delivery of milestone. With existing clients that are nice, 30% upon initiation of work, then payments after completion of each phase.