10 Lessons Learned from Freelancing

10 Lessons Learned from Freelancing

I have been 100% self-employed for almost 8 years now. Freelancing as a graphic designer has been (and still is) my full-time job and main source of income. As any self-employed person can tell you, it’s a bit of a bumpy road. Especially if, like me, you never planned on freelancing and kind of fell into it. Not my recommended course of action, by the way. 🙂 If you’re considering doing freelance work, do some research and make a plan before wading in. In that light, here are 10 things I’ve learned over the course of my freelance career that I wish I had known when I first started out:

  1. Two necessities: a good website, and a good business card. What are the two ways you make a first impression for your business? Your website when people find you online, and your card when you hand it someone. Make sure both represent your business well, and are up to date, and quality. (If you need help with either, those are services I offer. 😉 )
  2. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t hear back from a bid or quote. The ratio of quotes you send out to projects you’ll actually land is ridiculously skewed, especially when you’re first starting out. If you’re really interested in the project, follow up. The polite ones will let you know they’ve decided to go with someone else, but in most cases you just won’t hear back.
  3. Always get a percentage of the project fee as a deposit up front. My usual is 50%, but it depends on the total fee and the timelength of the project. It allows the client to reserve your services/time, and it allows you to weed out the bad apples that like to disappear come time to pay the invoice at project end.
  4. Contracts, while intimidating, are your friend. Use them. Or at the very least get something in writing, even if it’s email. If you make an agreement over the phone, send a contract or email afterward laying out all of the details of payment terms and what’s included. Some written record, however unofficial, is better than none.
  5. Don’t depend on projects that haven’t started yet for income. A project isn’t landed until the deposit is received or the contract is signed. If you have a great project lined up and the client is excited about using your services but needs to get a few things in line first, don’t start counting on that money just yet. That project can still disappear into thin air.
  6. Have some sort of system for organizing and naming digital files. Even if you’re the only one that can decipher it. When a client asks you for the most updated version of something months later, it’s good to be able to know at a glance which file it is.
  7. At least 10% of every paycheck into savings. At least. You’ll thank me come tax time, or slow business times.
  8. Find an accounting/bookkeeping program you like and use it. Consistently. Frequently. Keep on top of your various accounts and invoices. This will save you many headaches. And if down the road you want to turn it all over to an accountant, you’ll have nice neat digital files to hand over to them. I personally use MS Money, which has been great for me.
  9. Heed your gut warnings. If a potential client is already throwing up red flags just in the quoting process, chances are good they’re also going to be a problem client when actually working with them. These are rarely rarely rarely worth the time and stress. Which leads me to my next point:
  10. Taking a project just to make money is the quick way to burnout. I know, when you’re first starting out, you pretty much take any project that comes your way, just to have some money coming in. Even if it’s boring. Even if it’s for a company you couldn’t care less about. But the sooner you can get away from doing that, and reserve your time for projects and clients you actually like, the happier you’ll be in the long run.

Admittedly, some of these took me longer than they should have to learn or put into practice. But better late than never, right? 🙂

Are you a freelancer, or considering it? Anything you’d add to the list?

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10 Ways to Make Life Easier for Others

10 Ways to Make Life Easier for Others

This originally appeared as a guest post on Lena B. Actually. Life can be stressful, am I right? Aside from the normal work and money and relationship stress, there are a lot of things in the everyday rush outside of your control and likely to go wrong. But doesn’t it make your day when all of the little things go right? Or when someone does something nice that lessens your stress just that smallest bit? Well, we’re all in that boat– and we could all be that nice person for someone else, too. Here are ten simple but easy ways […]

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Getting Past a Creative Block

This originally appeared as a guest post on Hello, Clementine.We’ve all been there. You’re working on a project and it’s going great, and then suddenly… you’re stuck. And nothing you try helps move you forward. You can’t think where to go next, your momentum has flatlined, and a deadline is probably ticking nearer. I wear a lot of titles (designer, blogger, screen printer, writer) and I can get hit with creative blocks in any one of them. So I’ve had plenty of opportunities to narrow in on a few ways that help me get past those blocks: 1. Switch tasks/projects/focus. […]

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Tips to Make Gmail Even Better

I am an avid Gmail user. Not only do I have a regular old Gmail account, but I run both my professional and blog email addresses through Gmail as well. (In other words, even though I send and receive mail as moc.s1568837815maerd1568837815thgil1568837815fnoga1568837815rd@ad1568837815nama1568837815, I’m doing it all through Gmail). And for the most part, the vanilla Gmail gets the job done well. But there are a few add-ons I’ve come across that make my email life even better/easier, and today I’m going to share those with you. 1. Undo Send Activate under Gmail > Settings (gear icon) > Labs > Undo […]

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The Importance of Date Night

This originally appeared as a guest post over on The Observant Turtle.     There comes a point in most long-term relationships where the romance starts to fade. Not the love; one would hope if you’re sticking around there’s no problem on the love front. But at some point the excitement and conscious awareness of that love (aka. the romance) moves into the background. It becomes everyday. You’re used to it, you’re comfortable with it. For my boyfriend and I, this started to happen after we moved in together. We’ve been together over 3 years now, and the moving-in happened […]

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Tips for Insomniacs

  As some of you might know, I struggle with insomnia pretty regularly, and have for several years. Since I know I’m not the only one out there with this issue, I thought I’d share some of the things that help me. The combination of the below has helped me go from lying awake 2+ hours after bedtime and waking up multiple times in the night, to falling asleep within an hour of going to bed, and only sometimes waking up just once during the night. I know, still not perfect, but definitely a huge improvement for me. Here’s my […]

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