Wanna dance (freelance)?

I’ve met up with a few designers over the last couple weeks to discuss design and its challenges. One topic that came up repeatedly was on the business of going independent. The how and the why, the pros and cons. Questions around such things always seem timely, especially as the workforce in general continues to be filled with more independent contractors. 99u has a good article on the subject, including a lot of stuff I’ve discussed before and certainly agree with.

So to supplement, if I were to distill down the main points I want young (and old) designers to consider before going freelance, I’d want you to focus in on these points:

  1. You get the clients, you retain the clients. And you should have a few before you even think about going out on your own.
  2. If you’re worried about where your next projects will come from or if you’re worried about delivering on the projects you currently have, that’s good. That worry will never go away. Get used to it.
  3. When you work for yourself, you work more, not less. And not just on the “cool” stuff. But on administration, project management, proposals for work you don’t get, paying taxes, selling the work, making changes, getting feedback, doing QA, instructing the printer, responding to emails, and juggling and juggling and juggling. That last one is a metaphor.
  4. What if you say yes to this one project, a project you’re pretty into, you get all booked up and busy, and then another project comes along that’s even better, in fact you’re way more excited about this new one, but the timeline is way too fast, you can’t do both, and because you’re already committed, you have to say no, and it sucks, and you feel terrible about what was lost that could’ve been. Yep, that’s a thing. Deal with it.
  5. Come up with incentives to get clients to do what you want. Whether that’s related to timelines, budgets, or both.
  6. And finally, this list has gone on long enough, you need to get back to work. My final thing is this: Before you go out on your own, you need to know how much design work costs a client for them to utilize your design skills on any number of projects in varying degrees of need and complexity. If you don’t, it’s going to be a rocky, uncertain road. It already will be, but more so.