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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 Tara (who runs this blog) (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.

I realised I had never answered the Freelancer Focus myself so here goes…

1. Your name?
Tara – Graphic Design Blog

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Northamptonshire, UK

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
The majority of my work is design for print with emphasis on logo design, brochure/leaflet design and package design.

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

5. How long have you been freelancing?
About 4 years

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
I had a small share in a company in Herfordshire but when my business partner (who did the sales side) decided to move abroad I decided to go freelance and base myself from home.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Initially I set up a simple portfolio website and then sent out letters and emails to previous people I had worked for (including design agencies). I also expanded this to letters and emails to other local design agencies and freelance recruitment agencies. In the letters and emails I directed people to my portfolio website. I didn’t have much success via the recruitment agencies who didn’t seem to have much work available near to me.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I do very little marketing now, though I should do more. Most of my work is from existing clients and referrals though I have recently gained new work via my blog.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
I knew what sort of prices local freelancers were charging and varied this depending on whether I was working direct for companies or through agencies. When you are working direct you need to build in extra for the management time involved.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
When I started out most of my work was inhouse for design agencies, but now I mainly work from home

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
I usually type myself up a schedule (work planner) with all the work I have on and the days I am going to do it. I then update this everyday as things change, more work is added etc. You can find examples of work planners at www.graphicdesignblog.co.uk/design-downloads/

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
My boyfriend gets 25 days off a year so I usually take a similar amount of holiday to him.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I am a real sucker for books, I must be Amazons best customer and read up a lot about design and web, I also buy a lot of magazines – Computer Arts, Mac User, Digit, Mac World etc. Of course I also read a lot of blogs about graphic design too.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
There are too many to list them all but a few are:
www.inspirationbit.com, www.creativecurio.com, www.randaclay.com, www.ilovetypography.com, www.designadaptations.com, www.davidairey.com, www.smashingmagazine.com, www.laughingliondesign.net/blog/

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I am a big fan of spider diagrams (brain mapping) and creating moodboards (a mount board done scrap book style with magazine pages etc stuck on with the right “feel” for the job you are doing)

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I do all my invoicing at the end of each month. I keep a job book so his is just a case of going down the list and ticking of as I bill a job. My accountant has set me up with a spreadsheet in Excel, but I have to say Excel is not my strength so my boyfriend helps me with the book keeping and sorting out my VAT returns (yuk).

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

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I hope to never have to.

20. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
Right here on graphic design blog www.graphicdesignblog.co.uk/portfolio