Nov 13, 11:57 PM: The Freelance Life, Part 2

So you’ve followed the guide from our last lesson, but you’re still not successful yet? Well don’t blame me, I told you I wasn’t finished. There’s a lot more to freelance design than waiting for people to call you while you sit around in your pajamas talking about last night’s episode of Lost with your little sister (literal example). Exposure is key, and if you can’t get your name out there, you’re finished.

Remember what I told you last time. One great client can mean never having to advertise again, but most of the time that won’t happen right off the bat. There are, however, a few key ways to get your name out there, while still keeping your creative juices flowing. First and foremost, you’re going to need your own website. And if you think you can get by with a free hosting package from Geocities or something similar, you’re dead wrong. Potential clients don’t want to see popups and obtrusive advertisements while trying to browse your portfolio. It’s time to shell out some money for a real web host. I suggest either Dreamhost or Media Temple for all of your needs.

Now, when creating your own portfolio website I suggest taking your dear time with it. Make everything look perfect and don’t be afraid to label your website Beta Test 251. While it may take those 251 test runs to get everything right, your clients will feel good knowing it will always look right no matter which way they view it. If people can’t access a collection of your work easily, then they won’t hire you at all. Most likely, they’ll be too busy to go out searching for past referrals, so having a nice website is key for quick showcases. As for design, that’s up to you. You can use Flash, tables, CSS, or whatever you want, as long as you’re satisfied with the final look. Also be sure to update your website frequently. Try adding some cool stuff like a journal, mailing list, or maybe even a discussion board where clients can chat with each other.

Now having a website isn’t going to bring you overnight design fame, unless you have friends in high places, so getting clients is going to require some physical work too. Decide what companies you want to work for and seek out the art directors. Create a nice resume with a link to your portfolio and send it to them. This is where you may want to get creative and design your own stationary and envelopes. Flickr has a great new service that let’s you create your own stamps, so that’s a nice creative option. Even if nothing comes of it, at least you’re putting a name to a face for future job opportunities. Who knows, maybe they’ll pass your resume along to another company.

One thing to remember is not to have an arrogance attack. Don’t start turning things down just because you’ve landed one big client. If you’re not careful, Karma will come back around and you’ll pay dearly. Ana a broken hand is not something a designer wants to experience. If a job pays little, but it’s for a big client, take it on anyway, because the exposure will far outweigh the fee. And smaller projects, like flyers for local bands, though they don’t pay much, can mean regular work, and somebody big might see them somewhere too. One thing to remember is to stick your name on all work you do, unless the client specifically requests that you leave your name out. But you can always add it to your portfolio!

Another great tip, be an exhibitionist. Show off your work any way you can. Wear your own t-shirts, enter lots of contests, and make some other designer friends. Collaborations are always fun and allow two creative minds to work together instead of just one. Back to exhibitionism. If you win a contest then the sky’s the limit. You get instant exposure and probably some quick fame too. Just try to get your work in front of as many people as possible. One great tip, make some cool t-shirts and have some very social people wear them. Say you have a friend who’s always at the mall. Chances are, if the shirt you made him is nice enough quite a few people will ask him about it and you may get some business.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get a gimmick. Gimmicks are a great way to show your true personality and spirit. As for myself, I don’t hand out regular sized business cards, instead I hand out postcard sized ones. And I guarantee you that 9 out of 10 times somebody sees one of my cards they say something like, “Wow, that’s really cool!”, and I end up getting some exposure right there. Do something special for your clients. Like deliver your resume with a flood of balloons, or throw a big party when a project is finished. This ensures that client will always remember you.

So at this point you should have a pretty good grasp on the freelance life, but I’m not done yet. Next week I’ll go over monetary control. This includes how much you should charge, how much to spend, and how much you should save, along with some useful money management tips.

Comment [5]

Comments made

  1. Ahahah nice idea with the postcard-sized business cards. Some very useful information here. Looking forward to part 3.

    Nov 15, 03:38 AM
  2. Awesome guide. Can’t wait for part-three. Now I’ve got some house-cleaning to do :)

    Nov 16, 03:49 PM
  3. Postcard-sized business cards sound cool but some people collect business cards and put them in a little book and call upon it whenever they need a service/product.

    Or they can’t keep them in their wallet.

    Not to diss your idea, because it is a way to get noticed and you are probably doing a better job than me at this point in time.

    Nov 16, 06:32 PM
  4. Chris, actually, you’re probably doing better than I am. I’ve visited your site a few times (I live in Florida, wanted to check out the competition) and it looks great, btw. Anyway, I cary around alternative cards as well just for people that don’t want to carry around something so large.

    Nov 16, 09:12 PM
  5. Having been a freelancer for the past 5 years i can relate to the story your telling. I guess the main thing is to be realistic in your expectations with, projects, clients and money.

    Keep up the good work!!

    Nov 17, 11:47 PM

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