Becoming self-employed is a fantastic way to gain creative freedom of your projects and your time. But what happens when you make a mistake, get lonely, or don’t chase an invoice? We’ve put together a selection of tips for self-employed designers everywhere – novice or experienced!
Keep Busy and Keep Learning
As designers, we are always able to develop our skills and push them further. When you’re self-employed, this is no different if you want to get to the top and stay there. Even if you are not getting paid client work, try to create your own projects or work for free on projects for charities or family; and the most important, never stop learning. This way, you are always busy and you’re building a portfolio at the same time. You’ve probably noticed that there are hundreds of designers floating around the web that aren’t particularly any good. These are the types of self-employed designers that will fail within their first year of going it alone. If you are honing your craft – you won’t be one of them.
It Can Get Lonely
Speaking from personal experience, working from home can get lonely. There is a dramatic shift from general office surroundings to the silence of your study and you will miss even the most annoying of colleagues. Make sure you continue your social life and hobbies in the evenings and on the weekends. Nothing is more detrimental to your business and your health than becoming a recluse. You work hard so enjoy yourself!
Don’t Panic Over Pricing
It can take a while to understand your own work and how to price it. But don’t spend days and nights worrying whether you are charging the perfect amount for your skillset. Sure, you can lose clients for pricing too high – but don’t undervalue your work or you begin to get accustomed to low pay just to bag clients. If you price yourself too low you will start to attract clients that want something for nothing, don’t value you as a creative or simply don’t have a big enough budget and will be reluctant to pay. As you start to take on projects you will understand how long specific elements take and how much those hours of your time are worth.
Don’t Feel Guilty Over Pricing
When you start quoting prices to clients, take into account all of your time that won’t be design work and factor this into your hourly rate. Things such as:
• Meetings, phone calls, email correspondence
• Searching for stock images
• Setting up social media channels
• Purchasing a domain, sorting out hosting
• Chasing for content
Many clients and designers forget about these points, myself included. If you had to live off the money made by design work alone, you wouldn’t last very long.
Mistakes Will Happen
It’s a natural part of life. How can we grow and learn if we never make any mistakes in the first place? It’s not the end of the world, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on.
Publish Blog Articles
If you are getting fed up of designing, accounting, administration or any of the other facets of running a business, a fantastic way to revitalise is to write a blog. Finding a topic you can get your teeth into will distract you from any stressful projects for allow you to relax. It will also keep visitors coming back to your website, providing your blogs are of quality content and show potential clients you know what you’re talking about.
You Will Wear Many Hats
Following on from my last point – you will have to take on many roles when running your own business. From book-keeping to administration your time will not be spent on design alone. The majority of your time will probably not be designing at all, particularly in the early stages. If you aren’t willing to take all of these responsibilities on, then becoming self-employed may not be the right option for you.
A major headache for any designer is a client that won’t pay. As you start to gain experience you will begin to notice these types of clients in the earlier stages and will be confident enough to pull the plug. Though, you will also get lovely clients that have been great to deal with throughout the project that still won’t pay at the end. I suggest you take a percentage of the overall estimated cost up front and split the project into deliverables, allowing you to be paid when you deliver each section. This covers you for the future and you won’t end up completing a whole project only to be told “I’m not paying for that”. If you do find yourself in such a situation, take action. You have done the work and the money is yours, the client has no reason to withhold the money. A gentle reminder for an overdue invoice is fine, but if a client starts taking you for a ride, consult a solicitor and see where you can go next.
Being self-employed is definitely a novelty at first. No boss to answer to, working the hours that you want to work and that sense of freedom you love. Unfortunately, it can easily become tempting to sleep in, work in your pyjamas and take lots of time off. Resist these urges! Try to always be available to clients in standard office hours (9-5), get dressed every morning, have a shave, make your bed and keep your study tidy. You will feel much better for it – you never know who will show up at your door!
That concludes my tips for self-employed designers. Whether you are just starting out or are an experienced business owner, there are always areas of yourself and your business you can improve and I hope I’ve encouraged you to do at least one of these today! If you would like any more advice please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as I can with a hopefully helpful response!