Join me and Give a Free Design Day for Charity

I have been thinking for a while that I should offer a day or two of my design time free to a registered charity and thought perhaps others would like to join in. During the summer months and with a slow economy I am sure many designers and design companies are finding a little more free time on their hands. Of course also during the recession charities are suffering as people just can’t afford to give as much money to them as they used to. So why not put these two together?

I would like to offer a day or two of my time free (working/ briefing remotely) to a UK registered charity. If any charity is interested they are welcome to contact me through my contact page and I will select one to work with. Why not join me, if you are a designer/design company who would like to offer a day or two free design time to charity why not make a post on your blog with what you are offering (and perhaps the type of charity you would like to work with) and if you let me know by commenting on this post I will link to you at the bottom of this post.

Maybe together all of us can may a few spare days design time increase the profile of some charities and give us all some fresh design inspiration working on something new. If the idea works well perhaps its something that we could continue on a regular basis every few months a year? What do you think?

Graphic Design and the Recession What do you Think?

Its been a long time since I last posted, and I have no excuse except to say I just ran out of steam, short attention span and all that. My site was also taken down for a few days by my host provider due to heavy usage and I had to try and trim it down a bit.

So how is the world of graphic design in the recession? How is it for you? For me, I see ups and downs, a manic June with loads of work to a quiet July (although holiday season generally slows things down a bit).

I have tried out a few different methods this/last year to promote myself with varied results:

  • Blogging – yes the blog bought in a few bits of work, but as you know I have been a bit lazy on that one 🙂
  • Directories/Google local – I have found a couple of new clients purely through then finding my design website (not graphic design blog) online through a google local search or being high up in google through being listed in a design directory.
  • Mailshot – creating a postcard and dropping it in letterboxes of local firms found me one small job, but overall wasn’t particularly successful
  • Advertising in a business magazine – not successful for me at all.

What are your experience of graphic design in a recession and what are you doing about it?

Freelancer Focus 12th September 2008

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Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing.
This week Belinda White (pictured left) is the freelance designer in question.

1. Your name?
Belinda White

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Newcastle upon Tyne

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
All aspects of creative design – illustration, flash design, website design, packaging, advertising, retail display, literature, direct mail, logos and branding, magazines, presentations, motion graphics and flash games

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
20 years

5. How long have you been freelancing?
4 months

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
Flexible working, I have two beautiful children, a four year old daughter and a one year old son.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Website, direct mail, networking events, telephone calls.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
As above.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
Work out all costs and outgoings and look at local market forces.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
Both.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I have a bespoke Excel worksheet planner and I work long hours.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
None.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Trade magazines, networking events, online.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
Creative Review, Computer Arts, .Net, Design Week, Drum plus networking sites online.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
Visits to art galleries, general design magazines including architecture, interior design.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I have a complex Excel spreadsheet set-up.

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Promote yourself as much as possible, try to find different business angles and network, network, network!

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Yes. When my children are older.

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
Its hard work, but great to feel in control. Plus I get lots of family time.

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
www.arttia.co.uk

Freelancer Focus 11th July 2008

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Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Teddi Deppner (pictured left) is the freelance designer in question. If you would like to take part please read my previous post. Any designer or illustrator can also take part in Design Case Studies.

1. Your name?
Teddi Deppner

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Sacramento, California, USA

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Primarily web design, with supporting services like logo design and small print design projects (brochures, flyers, identity materials)

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
Over seven years.

5. How long have you been freelancing?
Since 2006.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
I’ve always valued the idea of staying at home with my children during their early years. I have two children under 6 years old, and freelance is an excellent way to stay in the groove and bring in some income while nurturing and training impressionable young minds.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I had an online portfolio, which brought in a few new clients, but most of my work came by word of mouth. Previous clients I’d worked with, friends and extended family or church contacts — people who knew I did web design were interested when they heard I was freelancing.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
Pretty much the same. Word of mouth usually brings enough clients to keep me busy, but occasionally I mention my work and drop a business card to people I run into casually who sound like they could use my skills.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
It’s a work in progress. I’ve done the calculations that factor in annual expenses, taxes, desired profits and all that to determine an hourly rate. I’ve searched the Net to see what’s being charged for what quality work, what corporate web design salaries are like. With all that in mind, I consider at least two other factors: what is the client willing to pay (always a guessing game, but you get a sense for it after a while) and what is my time worth to me for this project? Some projects I charge more for simply because they’re not my favorite type of work. That’s my privilege — it’s the client’s privilege to look elsewhere for a cheaper designer on that project if they don’t like the quote. And above all, I *never* cheat the client or lie about my hours or break a contract. Trustworthiness and proven reliability is part of my “services”. If the client is willing to pay for that, then I don’t need to feel guilty charging more than the guy down the street. I know that I’m offering more than just the face value of a website.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
Currently work from home.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I try to fit the bulk of my design work into my kids’ daily nap and play times. This gives me 2-4 hours a day as a starting point. When under time constraints on a project, I may work long hours — later into the night, weekends, etc. Our household is a geek place — my husband is a computer systems engineer / architect / programmer — so we don’t generally look at work as an 8am-5pm M-F sort of thing. We work extra when needed, and other days we don’t work at all. When I accept a project, I keep my preferred schedule in mind (no more than 2-4 hours a day, at the moment) and schedule things so I don’t have too many happening at once. I do a lot of personal Internet publishing projects, too, so it’s not just client time that I need to schedule, but all my computer-based projects. As the kids get older, I’ll have more time to devote.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
Holiday? What’s a holiday? Just kidding. We take family vacations (road trips, camping trips, day excursions) regularly — maybe 2-3 per year that are longer than 4 days. Maybe one every two months that are day or weekend excursions. Since I’m still so involved with my kids, we spend a lot of a time playing outside, going to the park, working in the garden, so I get time away from the computer whenever I need it.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Primarily reading online. Blogs and RSS are great tools for this. I’d love to network with fellow professionals in my area again someday, join some local user groups, etc, but it’s not a priority right now.
What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
Whew. Let’s see. No paper magazines, except spiritual types. A sampling of my blog subscriptions:
www.laughingliondesign.net/
www.moleskinerie.com/
www.davidairey.com/ (and his www.logodesignlove.com)
www.10e20.com/blog/
www.writetodone.com/
www.courtneytuttle.com/
www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/
www.webdesignerwall.com/
www.obsidiandawn.com/blog/

14. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I often explore logopond.com, startdrawing.org, cssdrive.com, csszengarden.com, cgbrainchild.com and places like that for inspiration. Browsing the magazine section of a bookstore works, too. Then I sit down and sketch the ideas that appeal most to me for the project at hand.

15. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
Ugh. Not so fond of this side of things. But my business is small enough to do it all pretty easily through handwritten ledgers or Quicken Premier Business version.

16. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Be honest. With your clients and with yourself. Included in honesty (for me) is the idea of integrity — following through and doing what you say you’ll do.

17. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I’m not vehemently opposed to it, but it’s not in my current plans. Not at all.

18. Any thing else you would like to add?
Find a way to do what you love and keep working hard at it, and you won’t regret it.
Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
www.creativewebguru.com/

Freelance Focus 6th June 2008

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Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Erin Behrenhausen (pictured left) is the freelance designer in question. If you would like to take part please read my previous post. Any designer or illustrator can also take part in Design Case Studies.

1. Your name?
Erin Behrenhausen

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Denver, CO, USA

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
I basically do it all, but tend to do more print work than anything else.

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
I’ve been freelancing since I graduated from college 11 years ago. (yikes!) I’ve also been working full time at an in-house creative department for 10 years.

5. How long have you been freelancing?
11 years

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
I haven’t cut the salary job umbilical cord yet, but ideally I’d love to just be doing freelance design work. There’s nothing better than working for yourself.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I’ve left my business cards everywhere, scoured freelance websites and job websites, and encourage friends to drop my name to potential clients. I also sent out emails to small businesses and individuals, which usually resulted in people angrily telling me to stop emailing them.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
The same way. Only now networking has become a little easier with a larger client base. Also, I’ve joined a couple freelancing websites, which I DON’T recommend. Employers on those sites usually want you to do work for next to nothing.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
Usually I charge by the hour, however I will also charge on a per-project basis. If I’m really interested in the work, I’ll offer to negotiate my rate if it’s too high for the potential client.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work in-house at design agencies?
For my freelance jobs I work out of my home office. My full time job, as I mentioned before, is an in-house creative department downtown.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I work regular hours for my full time job, but my freelance hours are sporadic.
Most of the freelance work I do happens on weeknights and during weekends.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
4 weeks

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Surf the net, attend occasional AIGA meetings, chat with other designers in town, read design mags.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
A billion it seems. To name a few: blogs – Design-Muse, Design Observer, HOWDesign blog, ENN, Design Sponge, Decor8, Tiki Central : magazines – HOW, Print, Sunset, Entertainment Weekly. Not into podcasts.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
A good cup of coffee usually gets the wheels spinning. But usually I either peruse through a HOW or Print mag for inspiration, or even just surf the net.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I try to keep everything digital as much as possible, as I’m a strong advocate for green business practices. As a result, I find it much easier to keep track of these sorts of things when they’re in my computer and not in piles on my file cabinets.

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Pimp yourself out. Seriously. Look everywhere for work – the net, friends, business associates, the newspaper, craigslist. Leave your card at coffeehouses. Start your own blogs and MOST importantly, give yourself a serious presence online – aka. your own website complete with resume, client list and portfolio. Do it right, don’t be half-ass about it. Make it look great.

18. Would you ever go back to full-time work?
Like I said, I’m still working full-time at present, in addition to freelancing. And honestly, I’m not sure I’m ready to leave the cushy corporate world just yet. My plan is to build up enough clientele to justify striking out on my own.

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
Lots of individuals, small businesses and even corporations will try to get you to do design work for next to nothing. Don’t subscribe to this mentality. Your time is valuable, just as much as theirs. Agree to only what you think is fair and worthy of your time. If the tables were turned, these businesses would do the same.

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
My personal design site is at www.erin-b.com
My freelance business site is at www.villaindesign.net
And my blogs are at www.dorkusmilorkus.com and www.designgeeks.wordpress.com

Advice for New Freelance Designers

As part of a regular feature called Freelancer Focus one the questions that freelance graphic designers are asked is “What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?” Brian Yerkes made a great suggestion of creating a post with all the answers the freelancer designer who have taken part gave. Their names are linked to the full Freelancer Focus interviews they gave (apologies if I have inadvertently missed anyone). Where better to get advice on freelancing than from the freelancers themselves?

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?

Be confident in your own work, and don’t make the mistake of believing everyone else is doing something better than you – they’re not!
Rob Turpin

Never sit still.
Joseba Attard

Don’t under value yourself. Many starting designers do this and in the end, do it quite rough!
Jacob Cass

Get a clear idea of who will be your source for work. Have at least 3 months of finance in the bank to cater for those inevitable lean times. Get an accountant. Don’t feel you need to buy the latest kit. That reliable G4 Mac running OS9 may well be all you need to start. Structure your day to include at least one follow up call to a potential client. If you want more control over your working life, then give it a go.
Alex Newbery

Be determined to continually learn and increase your knowledge base. The more you know, the more you can sell yourself.
Brian Yerkes

Don’t be afraid to make the jump but be sure you’re committed to the idea and to putting in the hours. If I didn’t work the extremly long hours sometimes, I don’t know where I’d be. Every hour you put in is worth it though in the end. You wake up when you want, be your own boss, and get to be constantly creative. I don’t know of a better position to be in, really. Also remember, there is always places to find work. When I was desperate (many times) I would even google search “logo needed” followed by the recent date and hope to find a forum where someone needed work. You have to be resourceful.
Michael McAlister

There are several small bits…
Be confident when talking to clients and agencies.
Be confident in your own skills and work.
Be organised, both when doing work for clients and keeping records of everything.
Set a rate/price for your work and stick to it. By all means negotiate a rate for a longer term project but be careful of projects overrunning!
Use a contract for all your work! I’ve included a couple of useful documents in a blog post on my site here if you need them
James Young

Always put the customer first, and try to see things from their perspective. Don’t take it personally if one customer doesn’t hire your services, your design style may just not have fit his market and needs, or budget
Astrid Mueller

Put together a good website (well designed), and make sure there are links to it in as much (appropriate) places as possible
Aleksey Voznessenski

Make sure you have an online portfolio/design website before you go freelance and if possible start sending out letters/emails introducing yourself and before you leave your day job. Ideally have a few months wages in the bank. I regret having not gone freelance earlier, the more you start earning in a fulltime job the scarier it is to leave.
Tara – Graphic Design Blog

You will never know ’till you have tried, experiences is another income, experience in managing everything by myself thats is the biggest thing I got so far.
Chazzuka

Perfect while you move. I’ve witnessed many people painfully trying to get everything perfect and in place before they actually start doing business. This is a weird form of procrastination as far as I’m concerned and though it may seem like the professional thing to do it just doesn’t work. Pick a starting point, a very simple one and get moving, meet people, write proposals, whip up a simple website or business card, just start somewhere even if you don’t have anything first and fore mostly know that even without a single resource you can add value immediately just by knowing what you know. Get moving, perfect as you go.
Nur Ahmad Furlong or nomad-one

It’s tough. And there are about 10-100 others out there who are freelancing against you. You have to take your work and make it special; make it stand out; make it so unique that people stop and look and go “Wow”.
Mitch Canter

Don’t make freelancing as a main activity if you are unsure with your budget planning. If you are making freelancing as a main activity, make a budget for several months in advance. Who knows what you might run into, it could be a recession month, or even a harvest month.
Didik Wicaksono

Keep receipts for EVERYTHING and have a professional do your taxes.
Have six months of expenses in the bank before you quit your day job.
It’s nice to have an opinion but not a massive ego.
Mark Gonyea

If you have a job, stay there. Don’t announce you’re going freelance. Just do your job and start saving money and paying off your debt. Get those credit cards paid off. Don’t buy anything expensive. Save six months of living expenses or more. Live as frugally as you can. No debt and money in the bank is a HUGE confidence booster and will help you make better business decisions.
Dean Rieck

Keep your receipts for EVERYTHING – its so much easier later.
Know your market.
Do your market research.
Know who your competitors are.
Be utterly professional in all your dealings.
Believe in yourself 200% – confidence is so much more marketable and saleable than lack of belief. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to believe in you. people are buying you as much as your product.
Helen McGlasson

Keep drawing. Stay happy. DON’T GET AN EGO! People like working with nice, easy going people who are excited about the work. Doesn’t matter if you’re the most brilliant person on the team – they’ll never hire you if they don’t like you personally. Having said that: Have a bit of Bitch inside you. Learn to stand up for yourself and what you know is right when is needed. The last thing you need/want is for people to think they can walk all over you.
Christine Mercier

Network like crazy, keep your clients satisfied and have ”can do” attitude.
Milosh Zorica

Be prepared for the lowest of lows but the highest of highs.
Richard Baird

Don’t think you cant do it just because you dont have experience in the design industry, build up your portfolio yourself in the evenings, get it online and sign up to freelance websites, hand out your buisness card, drop off a flyer with your skills on it at local shops/buisnesses. Keep at it and if you go through a quiet stage just keep creating your own work to showcase on your portfolio. Read and learn as much as you can about maintaining your own website.
Sarah Elizabeth Yates

Don’t wait until your slow to promote. Do it when your busy. That way you may have slow times but you’ll never be absolutely dead in the water.
Von R. Glitschka

Be prepared to spend at least half your time finding clients and networking for that purpose.
Stephen Tiano

Just one piece? Hmmm that’s very hard! Can I give a few?
– Do lots of marketing and don’t neglect your marketing when you are busy with design work.
– Paid advertising rarely works as well as methods such as networking and search engine optimisation, in fact I’d go so far as to say don’t bother with paying for adverts, especially in directories.
– Be very very organised…deliver your projects on time.
– Don’t underestimate the importance of customer communications; be very clear in what you offer, ensure that a written acceptance of your ‘terms’ is in force and that the customer fully understands what exactly and specifically is on offer for what price, don’t forget to specify what happens for changes and revisions. Ensure that you take a deposit for every project before you start work, and that your attention to detail about your terms is also applied to your design brief information gathering; good design starts with good communication and research; listen to your client properly.
In fact that last one – all of that is probably the most important advice actually.
Amanda Vlahakis

I set up a company to do business in the US, so there was some legal and accountancy advice necessary. The best part of freelancing is knowing you’re getting paid for everything you do – the harder you work, the more you earn – but you have to feel confident in yourself and be prepared for some slow times. Doing nothing is the hardest thing to do.
Jason Fisher-Jones

Make sure you’ve got a spare £1000 in the bank.
Rob Cubbon

Back up your accounting. Actually, buy an external hard drive and back up everything at least every week. It is really, really expensive to retrieve information from a crashed hard drive. I had it fairly cheap, and it still cost me $1600 to retrieve the information of a 40Gb ibook hard drive, and all I needed was a few small excel documents.
Jorge Goyco

Do it for the passion, and not for the money. If you stay focused on the former, the latter will follow.
Verne Ho

Be ready to hear no from clients, and be ready to say no to clients.
Ambert Rodriguez

I guess my biggest piece of advice would be not to be afraid to take that jump and don’t let people knock you down for it. As long as you understand what you would like to achieve, plan how you want things to work and what you plan to offer and be certain that you can get work its all generally a learning curve after that.
Graham Buckley

Go and speak to an accountant or startup company straight away. I didn’t for at least a year or two and during that time I was very amateur about everything I do. When you start to understand the backend aspects of you’re new freelancing career and all the pressures that come with it you will be a lot more organized and productive. I’d also highly recommend this link for aspiring freelancers:
www.freelanceswitch.com
Will Howe

Be confident and work out your rates well before you begin! Set everything in paper, always!
Pawel Grabowski

If you are going to work from home, make sure you have at least 3 months salary put aside to sustain you. I learned the hard way.
Bryan Zimmerman

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