Freelancer Focus 28th March 2008

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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Alex Newbery (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?
Alex Newbery

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
West London, England

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc) Design title sequences, content graphics, logos and print based design (posters, business cards, flyers etc)

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
16 years, though I had been freelancing for the last 3 of those 16 years, in preparation to go fully freelance. So I could hit the ground running so to speak.

5. How long have you been freelancing?
Just a little over 6 joyful months. Love it.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
A combination of reasons. Mainly because I wanted to have more of a say in how I worked, with whom and how often. I wanted more time with my family and next to no commuting (my studio is at the bottom of the garden so the most stressful part of the journey is feeding the birds and chatting to the garden gnome.) Also, my employer at the time was offering voluntary redundancy. What’s not to like?

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
A lot of my initial clients came via word of mouth (worth it’s weight in gold) from an initial contact made from a colleague who used to freelance. Since then, it has been a combination of cold calling established production houses and keeping my ear to the ground. Impersonal mail shot/sending show reels doesn’t seem to have paid off so far.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
Via my website, and established freebie webs specializing in advertising creatives for TV and film. I have also continued to call on established small production companies who tend to use freelance designers. Sometimes I’m invited in for a quick chat and other times just asked to leave details.

9. How did you decide what to charge?
It’s based on the size of the job, the turnaround time (is it urgent and will I have to work into the night) and how often I’ve received work from that specific source. If they are regular customers, then deals may be done. What you must not do is undervalue yourself. I would never do a loss leader or something for nothing . What was the process? It’s an ongoing process based on all of the above.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I ostensibly work from my studio in the garden (a lovely converted brick shed with a coffee machine). I also often work on site if the client needs quick reaction to the subject matter, as with live transmission in a news broadcast, for instance.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
Long hours are something I try to avoid. In my mind, you become less productive if you are constantly burning the midnight oil. I try and get as much of the creative thinking/design done in the morning which is when I’m at my best. Then the rest of the day can hopefully be spent implementing what I have spent the morning taxing the brain cells with.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
So far, I have not had any difficulty in taking time off to suit. I’m lucky in that I have regular clients who are well organised and therefore flexible. I take the “free” in “freelance” at face value where my chilling time is concerned.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I often work with a number of other designers in the business on site, so they are a good source of information. Also, trade mags for technology and just watching the box can be a good source of showcasing the latest in design.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
Don’t subscribe to any. Just buy on the fly and when it suits.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
All things are a potential source of inspiration. Passing by an interesting texture on your way to the shops or doodling whilst on the phone have both worked for me. For title sequences, the actual title name can be inspiration in itself, especially if it’s evocative of an initial image. Keeping an eye on the competition is also good.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I keep an ongoing spreadsheet, invoice clients as soon as a job is signed off, keep all POs and Invoices together and employ an accountant to help me with my end of year tax return. It’s important your accountant understands your business so he or she knows what you can claim for.

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

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I consider I am working full time, but not to some one elses rigid agender. If I can continue to make a decent, positive living, then I hope to continue to have an annual Christmas Office Party where the only guests are the birds and the garden gnome.

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
It has it’s ups and downs like any regular job, but mainly it’s up.

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

Freelancer Focus 29th February 2008

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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Brian Yerkes (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?
Brian Yerkes

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

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Web Design, Graphic/Print Design, Logo Design, SEO, Flash Programming, HTML, ASP Programming, E-commerce

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

5. How long have you been freelancing?
About one year really working at it…spent about one year previous playing around with it, designing logos for friends, websites for collegues and such.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
After working for the company I worked for (web designs, intranets etc for real estate industry) , I realized probably one of the most valuable things a potential entrapreneur can learn when working for a company……I learned what not to do as web design company if you want to be profitable! Every decision made, the clients we took on, the wasted programming hours and much more, taught me the many ways you can become unprofitable as a design firm. So far, those lessons learned have proved to be extremely valuable and have helped in my early success.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I joined the local chamber of commerce, networked with friends and family, and most importantly, I got my site to the top of Google, Yahoo and MSN for every keyword I was targettng. Getting top of Google is gold for me right now, and has been for the past year. I now dedicate about 20 hours a week to maintaining my position and building on the base I have created.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I don’t really have to do much right now to market myself…I receive most clients from Google searches, and also referrals from past clients.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
I feel like I have a good process set up for pricing…I consult with the client for at least one hour , find out their needs etc. If they have a budget, I determine how much time I can put into their project. My basic fee is $100/hour, and for certain things like a basic 5 page website, my minimum fee is about $1500. I believe that the websites I design, logos, etc are of a high quality , and that cost is justified. There is a huge difference between a basic 5 page website developed by one company , and a 5 page website created by another. The difference in graphic design skill, search engine optimized pages, layout, usability, functionality, full css-based or tables, and all of the other aspects that make a website good or bad. I want to give the best quality, and I don’t think freelancers should cheapen their product to clients with little budgets, just to help them out.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I currently work from home, but I am trying to build it all up into a company with an office…a few employees. The lot. I think it would be great to build a young team, and provide an atmosphere of innovation and fun in the office.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
When I was working as a freelancer, and at the full time job, I would work about 17 hours a day…I now work the normal 9am – 5ish…or whatever I feel like really, or my workload requires. Dream come true. I don’t have to answer to anybody apart from clients that pay me well (and the money goes into my bank account, and not a boss’!) and I can work in my boxers if I don’t feel like wearing pants that day!

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
No more than 6 weeks a year probably. Really depends on family requirements, events I need to attend, and various things like that. I don’t think I will ever be one of those people that gets comfortable with a certain level of income, and takes it easy. I like continually challenge myself, and enjoy all sizes of projects. Each client presents a new challenge.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I have recently started reading a lot of blogs on a regular occurrence, and learning from fellow designers, seo’s and general business people, has helped greatly in my development and growth. I think it is also extremely important to constantly surf the web to understand trends in usability and design.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
I recently discovered David Airey’s blog, which I really enjoy now on a daily basis. I pop over to Matt Cutt’s blog every now and again to keepup with any SEO news and updates, and I also search around for other design blogs displaying other designers work…partly for inspiration and partly to just enjoy the creativity of some really talented people.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I would say that my main technique is to observe EVERYTHING. I keep my eyes open, and take in my surroundings no matter where I am. I wish I was one of those people that have the ability to look at a specific scene for a few seconds, close their eyes, and tell you what color coffee mug was on the second table on the right. I try to develop this skill as much as I can…but it is hard. The world surrounding us can provide plenty of inspiration if you just take a good look. Shapes, relfections and angles seen in everyday living give good ideas for logos.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I use Quickbooks for invoicing and receiving checks…and I manually deposit the incoming checks into my business checking account. As for my taxes, I will be hiring an accountant to help me out this year. After a successful year, and a nice amount of income, I would love for an accountant to be able to write off a large amount before I send in my taxes!

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Be determined to continually learn and increase your knowledge base. The more you know, the more you can sell yourself.

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Only if I was the manager of my own company in an office. I would work full time no problem. Work full time for someone else? Never again! (I hope!)

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
Always make sure that every project is profitable. Even if it is pro-bono work for charity, or your community , make sure that you profit from it somehow. After all, bills need to be paid, and the more profitable you are, the more success you can create for yourself and others!

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
www.BrianJosephStudios.com

Freelancer Focus 15th February 2008

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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Michael McAlister (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?
Michael McAlister

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
USA – Chicago, IL / Milwaukee, WI

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
I design mostly identity. Logos, stationary work, and anything else a new company might need. I also do web and print design.

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
I was working a day job for 4 years before I decided it was time for change.

5. How long have you been freelancing?
I have been full-time freelancing for almost 5 months. I have been doing freelance at night for 3 or 4 years.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
I was at a point in job where everything was very stale and the pay wasn’t worth the work I did for the company. They didn’t appreciate the creative direction of anything. They would literally bring me marketing materials from other companies and ask me to copy them!

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I started out doing a little bit of local work so I didn’t need much marketing. Shortly after, I started working strictly online. About the same time, I found SitePoint and that really helped me out a lot. I won enough contests to keep me afloat and at the same time got my name out by word of mouth.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I still don’t have to do too much marketing. Working through SitePoint has gotten me a few solid clients that pay me to do continuous work. I do pass out business cards whenever the chance presents itself (and sometimes when it doesn’t!)

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
This was the hardest part of freelancing for me. I was always so stuck because I desperately needed the jobs. I would try to reason with myself like “If I charge less, they may be more likely to give me more work.” I guess I was sort of right in the end. You really have to take in every aspect of the situation and decide off that. Don’t dip too far down below the average design rates. I did a lot of research on the net to find what people were charging, and tried to follow that. I still have a hard time with rates.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I work out of my bedroom, couch and any coffee shop with free internet now. I had an office a few months ago but had to downgrade for a short period of time. Can’t wait for a few more months to get my office and all my stuff back into it! The workspace has to be really clean though, otherwise I can’t get anything done.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
It is currently 3:12 am., you tell me 😀 . I work extremely long hours. I’m trying to get on a better schedule but right now I work from about 12pm-4 or 5 am. I work on and off though, so it’s not SO bad. I would like to get on a schedule where I get up around 9 am. That way it’s not like a dayjob, but still have some structure in my life 😀 .

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
I operate based on how my clients come and go. Like for Christmas, I had a little work to do but most everybody was gone with family so I did the same. I did take a trip to Europe a few months ago where I just told my clients I was going, and that was it. I did minimal work while I was there, when it was absolutely necessary.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I stay on the blogs, books, and bandwidth. You have to be in the know, otherwise you’ll be left in the dust.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
I just recently found Freelance Switch which is great. I also check out Wake Up Later, The Paragon Muse, and PSDTuts amongst others. As far as books, Rockwell always puts out cool logo books, which I always buy.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
Everything stimulates creativity. I see things when I’m out always try to make a note of it. Sometimes you have to write it on napkins to remember, whatever it takes to get the idea. I really get inspired from others work, so it’s important to check out your competition. I love music too. I always have to find some new artist to give me inspiration.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
That is not my strong point. Some clients request an hourly rate, so I have to keep a little stop watch thing (Toggl). This is really my first year where I will have to record everything. I always PDF an invoice to the client and keep one for myself though.

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

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Not unless I absolutely had to. I’d rather live somewhat comfortably and be my own boss than to make more money and be a robot again.

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
Don’t always compromise your sense of design or skill for a client who thinks they know what they want. If they want purple, yellow, and red on a logo you tell them “Hell no!” :D. You just have to set them in their place sometimes. If necessary, give them the colors and then your alternative. They will go with your design 98.1% of the time. Sometimes though, I understand you have to cave if it means paying the bills. Gotta do what you gotta do, no doubt about that.

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
My temporary site is up at www.sixonefivedesign.com

I just started a design/music/art/everything blog too, check it out at www.upriseart.com

Freelancer Focus 1st February 2008

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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week James Young (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?
James Young

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Web/UI design and xhtml/css web production (front end design and build basically), mostly for agencies in the Leeds area but also deal with some direct clients too.

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

5. How long have you been freelancing?
Since Jan 1st 2007 – Just finished my first full year being properly self employed.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
Couldn’t stand the idea of working for someone else any longer. Was a big decision because I was in a job and in no danger of really going anywhere with it but not worrying about security. However, it was 3 hours commuting a day to do something I wasn’t enjoying at a truly uninspiring company.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I guess I was really lucky, I read all the time on freelance forums and blogs that the best way to market yourself is word of mouth and by contacting past clients or people you’ve met in passing who are in agencies and this is what I did.

I certainly didn’t have the “pull” of some of these big name designers who leave an agency to go freelance and take a range of big name clients so I mailed everyone I knew who was in the design industry and told them I was now freelance and give me a shout if any work ever needed doing and luckily hit the ground at a canter and haven’t looked back since.

I keep in touch with a number of recruitment agencies even when I’m unavailable because it’s always good to keep your name fresh in their minds so they’ll call you back if something comes up. It might not the right type of work for you but it’s easier to say no to something than miss out because they don’t call!

It’s also important to make sure your portfolio link is up to date and ready to send to a potential client or agency straight away (or tell them the link if they call you)

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I don’t really market myself at the moment other than the occasional call or email to recruitment agencies. Most of my work these days is repeat bookings from clients who have been happy with my past work.

If you’re new to freelancing though, writing a blog is a useful marketing tool if you write about things related to the industry you’re in and is a useful way of generating traffic. Don’t forget the word of mouth though, send a christmas card at the start of december to all the clients you want to work with again (don’t bother with those who you had a bad time with!)

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
I actually got some great advice from a good friend who used to own a large agency and has since set up again on a smaller scale and he told me not to mess around with small, low paying jobs because you’ll get into the habit of undervaluing your work.

Pick a rate that you’re comfortable charging (a reallistic rate in Yorkshire for good designers is about £25/hr or £200/day for example) and stick to your guns. I did that and while it’s difficult turning down these clients who come to you and always seem to sign off their mails “we’re on a tight budget” I’ve been much better off financially and with much less hassle dealing with people who want a champagne website on a beer budget.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I am based at home (the commuting was one of the big reasons I left full time work) but I do travel to clients if needed. I prefer to travel to them to take a brief if it’s a bigger project and then work from home.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I don’t work long hours, I feel sorry for freelancers when you see posts on design forums saying they’re working 80-100 hours a week. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve put in the time in the past if a project has run close to a deadline but I think so many clients and agencies don’t spend enough time at the initial briefing stage planning out work/projects and how long they’ll take then expect you to spend your nights and weekends working on it because they didn’t plan it out properly.

Normally I work from about 9am to 5.30-6pm these days and I don’t bother with weekends. There’s enough stress in the world and I don’t need more of it! Again, it’s a confidence thing, especially with freelancing, my contract specifies a maximum of 8 hours a day so if clients want to overrun a project then at least I get a lot of overtime!

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
I don’t have a specified amount of holiday, last year I took about 4-5 weeks off. It really depends though, last year 2 of those weeks were because we got married although probably I’d look at taking a similar amount of time off. Life is too short to spend behind a computer!

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Usually forums, mainly http://www.qbn.com and then following links.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
I don’t think I subscribe to any design related ones any more. I used to do but found I wasn’t really reading or listening to them. Now I listen to the arseblog (arsenal) footy podcast once a week and read national geographic.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I’ve recently got back into sketching rough layouts rather than having the idea in my head then forgetting them. As for inspiration, I’ve got my “inspire” bookmarks folder. I usually check out places like http://www.w3csites.com and the excellent Patrick Haney flickr set of sites http://www.flickr.com/photos/splat/sets/981332/

I like to take photos and get out and about but in reality, if I’m stuck with a design block, I don’t tend to get out.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I’m just looking for a decent accountant to do my first years worth of books at the moment so I can cut down the amount of tax I’m going to have to pay!

I try to keep my invoicing simple by working to a day rate or at least half a day, then you end up with more money and fewer small invoices for an hour here and there. I must say in terms of invoicing, you can’t beat http://www.blinksale.com. I’ve used before when I did work on the side and I’ve upgraded to one of the paid services so I can send out more invoices and it’s well worth the money.

For bookkeeping, keep any and all receipts for everything, even things you might not think are business related. You might be able to claim (as I am going to) that those new trainers you bought were for a client meeting so you can write the cost off your tax. Keep it simple though, I have a folder for invoices, a folder for expenses and a folder for stuff from the inland revenue.

Do get an accountant to look at your books though, if you work from home, you should be entitled to cut a percentage of your mortgage or rent out as a business expense. The same with other household bills. A decent accountant should be able to tell you what is what though. Not to mention of course the cost of hiring the accountant will be tax deductable.

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
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 http://www.welcomebrand.co.uk/blog/freelancing/useful-resources-for-freelance-designers/

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Not if I can help it!

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
I think I’ve waffled on for long enough thanks…. 🙂

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
http://www.welcomebrand.co.uk

Freelancer Focus 25th January 2008

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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Astrid Mueller (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?
Astrid Mueller

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Switzerland

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Main focus on illustration, but also offering graphic design

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
about 5 years doing graphic design

5. How long have you been freelancing?
Full-time since April 2006

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
Some may call it fate – a set of lucky circumstances led me to dare the “jump”!

In Switzerland, people tend to be careful, and most of the voices I heard before thinking about going freelance were cautious, recommending me to start with an employed position first.

Today, I see the advantages of this, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. If you have enough savings as backup, the design knowledge, and a feeling for customer service and marketing, I don’t think it matters how you got this knowledge. The result is what matters. Of course it will probably be better if you’ve had on-the-job experience in an actual job, but some people may acquire their experience with other means and/or freelance jobs on the side.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Website, business cards, flyers, phone calls to make appointments, and I met as many potential customers as possible. I travelled to London, Hamburg, Munich, and Zurich, and met about 12 magazine art directors or advertising agencies in each city.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
The preparation time and travel expenses of personal appointments are very high, and I’ve now reverted to marketing myself with other means: online portfolios, a mostly search-engine friendly website, an email newsletter, fair visits, follow-up emails, participation in illustration and design books, postcard mailings, and specialty mailings to a selected audience.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?

  • I calculated how many actual work hours I have per calendar year, and how much I need to earn to survive (or how much I’d like to earn). If you divide the wanted income by actual working hours, you get a base for the hourly rate you need to meet that goal. It’s important to also calculate non-billable time such as sick-leave, vacations, office-work, fair visits etc.
  • I asked other designers what they charge. In Switzerland, people tend not to talk about this openly, but when you ask, usually people don’t mind to share.
  • I tried getting marketing and design guideline books. There’s a great one for the U.S.A.: Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines.
  • I always keep track of my hours spent on design projects, and compare that with what I charge
  • I take into consideration which usage rights the client needs for my designs. Apparently, usage rights are often neglected when designers write their bills. They can add considerable income though! I consider if a client needs one-time rights, use in one country of international, exclusive rights, copyright transfer, or even work-for hire (total transfer of rights, not recommendable), which media the design will be published in, etc. The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook recommends to charge up to 300% for work-for-hire contracts! For more about this, I strongly recommend to purchase the book.
  • I take into consideration how large a client is. I charge less for private customers than for international corporations.
  • I don’t have a “friendship” rate. Real friends know that I design for a living, and have to be able to live with my earnings. If the lowest hourly rate that barely covers my costs is not affordable, I usually don’t do the job. Exceptions: gifts or trades of favours.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
Right now, I work from home. I’ve subrented an office space for a while though, and can only recommend it. It’s a personal decision and some people work better alone, but others – like me – need to get out. In my case, it greatly helped me to get going every day, instead of just taking it easy at home where it’s easy to get distracted too. Another advantage I had was that I subrented in a design environment – thereby opening possibilities for tip sharing, collaboration, or even just someone to say hello to.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I use Mac iCal, and as soon as I get a request in, I plan in actual work hours in my calendar. I often fall prey to fully booking the days, which doesn’t leave room for unplanned events. In my experience, everything takes about 1.5 as long as the time I originally allocated for the task. This is individual experience though, and may vary with everyone. So yes, I work long hours if I have client deadlines. Depending on how busy my social life is or how big of a marketing drive I have at the time, I sometimes work night shifts even without pressing client deadlines.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
I try to take vacations whenever my boyfriend can take vacations, sometimes more – I’ve also taken time off in low seasons before, but usually I get stuck in front of the computer instead of just getting outside when there’s nothing urgent to do. I’m estimating the total vacation time in my last year of about 4 weeks, excluding holidays.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?

  • I subscribe to interesting blogs in bloglines.com, which makes it easy to keep an overwiev of all my favorite blogs, and to get a quick impression of which new posts are interesting to me and which not.
  • When finances and time allow, I try to go to trade fairs.
  • As an alternative, it’s a cheaper alternative to browse trade fair websites. Often they give a list of the exhibitors including contact addresses, for nothing or just a small fee.
  • I subscribe to design magazines such as computer arts
  • I buy products (in my case mostly women magazines, because I illustrate for them), to learn about the market, what the competition is doing, what’s in fashion, and to get contact addresses of the art directors
  • I browse portfolio websites, and see what other illustrators are doing
  • I look at successful illustrators / designers and see how they are doing it
  • I network with other designers, and exchange tips and sometimes promotion projects and costs

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
insprational blogs:
www.drawn.ca
www.linesandcolors.com
www.colourlovers.com
www.illustrationfriday.com
www.siongchin.com/blog/

artist blogs:
many illustrators and designers that I like
art business blogs:
www.adbiztip.blogspot.com
www.artcompetitionslist.blogspot.com
www.businessofdesignonline.com/index.php
www.tradesecrets.wordpress.com/
www.graphicdesignblog.co.uk/
www.livingthecreativedream.com/
www.danidraws.com/
www.logoblog.org/wordpress/
www.mikerbaker.com/knack/
http://www.ifreelance.com/

fashion blogs (it’s my market):
www.shoeblogs.com/
www.shefinds.com/blog/index.php/weblog/index/

and magazine websites of vogue, style.com…
magazines:

German design magazine PAGE
UK magazine COMPUTER ARTS, and COMPUTER ARTS PROJECTS
Swiss magazine PUBLISHER

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I try to get as much input from the client as possible. The more I know, the better I can design to reach their purpose and target group. To brainstorm, I read the briefing thoroughly, then sometimes go for a walk. That’s a good way for me to start ideas coming. Sometimes they come when I’m in the shower too. Sometimes, ideas start flowing as soon as I start my research on the internet.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I have a bookkeeper who does the taxes for me and reviews my bookkeeping. I try to prepare as much as possible on my own so that these costs stay as low as possible, with the nice side-effect that I always have the overview. So far, I’m only outsourcing this, but I’m looking for ways to possibly outsource more to be able to maybe eventually expand my business.

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

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Not if I don’t have to. I love my business!

19. Anything else you would like to add?
If anyone has more questions or suggestions, just send me an email, I’m always open to sharing and exchanging tips and thoughts! astrid@PotatoMammaDesign.com

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
website: www.PotatoMammaDesign.com
shop: www.cafepress.com/potatomammashop
blog: www.potatomammadesign.blogspot.com

Freelancer Focus 18th January 2008

freelance logo

I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Aleksey Voznessenski (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?
Aleksey Voznessenski

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Sydney, Australia (down under)

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
I am predominantly an 3D illustrator. I basically make all that 2d work look a hell of a lot better. I have worked on projects where i make rendering of a design students mp3 player, stock 3d models for Nike.inc, create illustrations for Museum Newsletters (sydney Jewish Museum), currently I am working on the graphics for a flash game for “Sol Beer”. I am also attempting to develop my skills 3D/flash web design (with success, but still no clients for that). Would like to get into Corporate branding, but have to read some books on that first.

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
A big Fat zero, no education in design ( at school i studied, advanced (4unit) maths, Chemistry, Physics, and Economics.) Haven’t gone to uni yet. Everything I learnt from the internet and browsing some books while drinking coffee at Borders (love that shop).

5. How long have you been freelancing?
Around 2-3 years, small projects while I was at school, and now I’m doing it full time.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
Well I was doing 3d graphics and design as a hobby, and then i started realizing the job sections of forum boards, so I stuck together a website and started applying for them. It was a great way to earn pocket money during school. Now, It’s a job that pays nicely (for someone with no degree) and i can do it in my spare time at home. ie. I can work another job simultaneously.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Get your resume and a link to a portfolio to every possible design agency, make sure they know you are interested in contract work, as many are reluctant to hire anyone.But mainly forum Boards. The work I have Right now I got through Australia inFront.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
Pretty Much the same way. I am currently Thinking of putting together an Article of why design agency need a 3d artist, as i think many right now still think it is only for games and such, and not just fancy 2d graphics.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
Initially, I didn’t decided. The posts consisted of the work required and how much they will pay. Later on it’s just matter of discussing it with the employer. I need around $600 to $1200 a week, so I charge $1200 for a weeks work. And then see where it goes from there. Generally i believ ethe process to be as follows. Keep raising prices until clients start declining, at which point you can drop them and find the equilibrium. Do some research on the client to, that way you can see it it’s a company that really doesn’t care (ie very big one) or if it’s a small, one for which you would charge less.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I work from home, as i have a set up that I like, and most design agencies lack multiple monitors. I am looking to getting an office as I want to open a fully fledged creative agency. But that can wait for now.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I work whenever there is work that needs to be done. And whenever there is nothing else to do. Generally I just write everything I need to do in a notepad and go down the list

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
Haven’t been working for long enough to give myself a holiday, but then again, with this work life is like a holiday, so you can say, I am always on holiday.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Forum Boards, magazines, clients. I don’t know to be honest not too worried with it, haven’t been in the industry for long enough to fall behind.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
Don’t really subscribe to anything, but I buy Computer arts and 3D world once in a while. also Sometimes read this once called Desktop*

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I go do laps at the pool at the beach. While i walk there and back I usually come up with all the solutions that i need.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
There are those payments, that go through paypal ( so I don’t have to worry about anything, as the money is in some remote location) The rest, I have a folder with invoices, but to be honest I have not been in the industry for long enough to actually get around to this. At the moment my income is below the threshold for paying taxes. I’ll probably pay an accountant in the future though.

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Put together a good website (well designed), and make sure there are links to it in as much (appropriate) places as possible

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Haven’t been there, and to be honest do not really want to go there, as well i prefer to get paid for the work I do, rather than the amount of time I sit in an office.

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
For anyone starting out I highly recommend to broaden your skills as far as possible, use the internet, it is an amazing large source of free education.

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
www.ace5studios.com – I am currently trying to design to take advantage of all the new flash action script skills i have aquired over the last week.Will probably be a full flash site. Oh yeah click portfolio button as the front page still has some old links
www.vozzz.deviantart.com – Kind of my blog, has pretty much everything i have ever done.

Oh yeah and the flash game will soon be on www.solbeer.com.au/