If you’ve decided to go solo and become a freelance designer, congratulations! There are certainly a lot of benefits to working for yourself. You’ve got the flexibility to set your own working hours and to choose who you want to work with and how. There’s also no annoying boss or co-workers and no stressful daily commute to contend with.
However, working for yourself means you’ve only got yourself to rely on to become the go-to freelance designer in your field, with clients coming back to you again and again. To help you start out on the right path, read and learn from the following six most common mistakes that freelance designers often make.
Although you may love what do you, you should not see your career as a hobby, it’s a business. It’s crucial you maintain a professional image and act as if you were a part of a top design agency. If you take yourself seriously, clients will too and this is how you’ll gain respect in the freelance designer arena. If you’re completely new to running your own business, it might be a good idea to attend a short course or read up on small business management. This should help you to get foundations like a solid billing system and project status worksheets in place.
Always, without fail, use a contract, no matter how small a project may be. Contracts are there to aid and protect both you and the client during the project, ensuring that all parties are fully aware of the scope and terms of work. Without this safeguard in place, you open yourself up to so many potential problems and have nothing to protect your interests if, for whatever reason, the client simply decides they don’t want to pay you. Whether it’s a basic template from the Internet, a purchase order or a legal document prepared by your lawyer, it’s crucial you have something in place to use for every piece of work that you do.
The field of design is dynamic and ever expanding with new techniques and applications. Don’t become complacent and think that you know it all or that what you know will always be enough. Ignoring new developments in your field will make you and your work stagnate and could be career suicide. Keeping up with industry trends is absolutely crucial in offering current and prospective clients the best possible services and remaining competitive. As well as keeping the latest copy of ‘The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook’, get online for the most up-to-date news on your industry and to follow respected designer blogs and attend webinars.
Being a freelancer often means an irregular flow of work, but don’t make the mistake of taking on too much to compensate for quieter times you might have had. Overloading yourself with projects at any one time means you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin, delivering work that’s not up to your usual high standard and as a result creating unhappy clients. Keeping a good reputation is critical to building your brand and making your mark in the freelance designer world. Regularly missing deadlines and/or delivering shoddy work will damage your reputation and have lasting effects on your career.
It’s all too easy to make assumptions about your client and jump too quickly into a project without properly understanding their needs or expectations. Whether you meet them in person, conduct a phone interview or get them to fill out a questionnaire, it’s vital that you dedicate adequate time to getting to know your client. Having a better understanding of where your client is coming from and what their vision is will enable you to get the best results and at the same time help to build and maintain better working relationships.
Your client has come to you because they regard you as an expert in your field. They want you to use your creative skills to bring their visions to life. However, often your client will have a strong vision of what they want and you’ll feel your creative wings being clipped. You can try to gently explain your point of view and offer what you think is a better alternative. In most cases they’ll trust your judgement. However, if they still think they’re right, then you must do what they want. Refusing to deliver what the client has specifically asked for isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Avoiding these six common mistakes will enable you to run a successful and respected freelance designer business, allowing you to work more efficiently, more creatively, and more profitably.