• Julie Nicholls

What I learned in my second month as a freelance designer



A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about my first tentative steps as a freelance designer. Now I'm a couple of months further in, I thought I would write a follow-up blog on what I have learned.

Firstly, I discovered going freelance is no holiday. It's hard work. Picking and choosing when you work, that's a myth! At least it has been for me. If the work's there I am going to take it. So far I've worked weekends, had crazy early starts and still been at my computer gone midnight. Now if I had to do that in my previous agency life, I would be bemoaning my choice of career and my non-existent work life balance. The difference here is that it was my choice to take on those projects. It was my decision to put in the extra hours to turn the jobs around. I chose to give up my Sunday to work on a presentation. There is something strangely satisfying about that.

Secondly, it's easy to lose track of time. I've done the 9 to 5.30 for nearly 25 years. Not having that structure, timetable or conventional working week takes some getting used to. It requires you to be more disciplined. And it certainly means you need a lot more self-motivation. The work bit – hey that's easy. A job comes in, I'll happily sit at my computer for hours and create something to knock the client's socks off. It's the bit's in between that are more tricky. It's not like I'm on holiday. This is my livelihood so if I'm not working I feel a bit guilty. I feel like I should be doing something proactive all the time. Maybe that feeling lessens over time.

The third thing I learned – referral is key. I know it's hardly a startling insight but it's still worth acknowledging. I've been lucky to work with some great clients and colleagues over the years and their recommendations have started to open doors for me that I would not have been able to open on my own. However, where I am finding the greatest opportunities lay is with internal referrals. Someone in the Dublin office of a client I have been working for recommends you to their Hong Kong office. And then you get introduced to their London office... Slowly your reputation for doing a good job grows and so too does your workload.

So that's my secret weapon. Make the client's day just a little bit easier. Help them meet their deadlines, do great work and make it easy for them to want to work with me again. And hopefully, compel them to tell their colleagues, bosses, partners, friends, hairdressers... I know, I should have been a rocket scientist right?

I have learned a few other valuable lessons since I started:

  1. Always follow up in writing exactly what your costs include. Lesson learned!

  2. It's easy to become a busy fool. Just because you are freelance doesn't mean you have to take on every job that comes your way. Don't risk losing money for the sake of remaining busy.

  3. Keep detailed timesheets and keep on top of invoicing. That stuff is literally what brings in the money!

So in conclusion, I survived another couple of months in the land of freelance, and whilst I may not yet be thriving, I am doing Ok. And I'm still enjoying it. I'm working on some cool projects for a diverse bunch of very nice clients and I'm getting to enjoy more of the summer sunshine than I ever have before. Now tell me you're not just a little bit jealous!

WARNING: Shameless self-promotion bit

If I've worked with you before and I've done a good job, feel free to tell your friends, colleagues, partners...

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SHOWREEL

My 85-second pitch...

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