It Doesn’t Get Better, You Do.
As a freelance graphic designer, you can imagine, every day is a struggle. Constantly trying to find and maintain work, having to produce quality design on things that were due yesterday, all while anxiously waiting on checks to see what bills you can pay next month. Amongst that stress is the need to be on top of your creative game, 12 hours a day. Not too long ago, I ran across this quote, “It doesn’t get better, you do.” At first I interpreted it as a metaphor for life, as I looked down at the calendar and realized 5 years have passed, and I’m still freelancing. But the quote is spot on. Freelance hasn’t gotten better; I’ve gotten better at doing it. Although living the freelance life may sound like a downer, there are also pros. For example, getting to work in the clothes you slept in, being able to work out in the middle of the day and possibly the most popular, be able to turn down projects that don’t interest you.
While trying to balance life and freelancing, I’ve learned a few things that may help others who are fighting the same fight.
- Get Organized – Sometimes creatives get stuck in their left brain ways, which is great for producing work, but not so great for trying to run your own business. Plan and prioritize your day as you would a regular job. Schedule breaks, lunch, and an ideal end of work day time. Keep all client information, files, paperwork and sketches, in an organized system. Stay on top of deadlines and project management by using online websites, like Basecamp. Keep your work area clean and simple as it will free your mind of clutter and anxiety.
- Stay on Top of Accounting – Find online software for invoicing, time tracking and bookkeeping that meets your needs. There are many free online programs like Toggl, but an invoicing system is a good thing to invest in, so make sure you upgrade to the pro accounts for better benefits. Make sure you have a system in place for past due invoices and put a late fee notice in your contract. Stick to your guns! Find bookkeeping websites, like Outright.com or software like Quickbooks to keep track of your income and expenses. When tax season comes around, you’ll be glad you did.
- Keep Networking, Online and Off – It’s easy to claim the hermit role as a freelancer, but there are a world of opportunities out there that you should take advantage of. Try to get to a co-working space or coffee shop to work a few days a week to change up the scenery and potentially meet other people. If you’re a Houstonian, be sure to check out C2 Creative and Caroline Collective. These places often offer services to help your creative needs. Make sure you’re promoting your services via social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Create personal and professional pages and start connecting. Most importantly, keep an updated portfolio or website of your work online.
- Stay Motivated – Step away from the computer from time to time and dive into other activities that spark your interest. Take a painting class, learn to screen print, practice your sketching, play an instrument. These things will help keep your mind engaged and improve your all around creative talents. Join Meet Ups or professional associations and engage with other design professionals. Find someone who will critique your work from time to time. Just because the client likes it, doesn’t mean it’s your best work. Keep learning, reading, and growing.
- Stay Positive – This can often be the toughest. Freelancing is a roller coaster of disappointments and celebrations, but try and stay positive and just keep working.
Whether freelancing is your ultimate goal, or if you’re forced to do it because nothing else has panned out, it’s important to keep pushing forward. When times are tough, take a deep breath, go for a run, or grab a nap. When times are great, celebrate with friends and family, pat yourself on the back, and post your latest work online. In the end, you will be a better designer for both experiences.
Are you a freelancer? What tips would you add to the list?