Freelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Will Howe (pictured left) is the freelance designer in question. If you would like to take part please read my previous post.
1. Your Name?
2. Where are you based?
3. What type of work do you do?
Illustration, Design for Print, Brand, Web, Interactive, Animation, Product Design (Multimedia).
4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
None – Jumped straight into the freelance pond and never came back.
5. How long have you been freelancing?
Nearly Three Years
6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
It’s something I’d always dreamed of doing from the start, I just somehow landed on my feet with some big clients and regular work. Being you’re own boss is something that suits procrastinating perfectionists like myself and is also very rewarding if done correctly.
7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I set up a website which I used as more of an online portfolio than a client grabber. Nearly all of my work came to me through word of mouth and recommendations.
8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I have a list of clients now that need regular design work, so incase of a ‘slump’ week I’m not desperate to find new clients and find it a good excuse to work on personal projects and get back to my actual ‘love’ for art and animation. I’m currently freelancing for a few agencies too so I get a good variety of work with good clients.
9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
When I first started out I was you’re typical student pushover, everyone I was working for was a friend or associate but I felt bad charging realistically for something I loved doing, a trap a lot of people fall into. There comes a point you have to realize this is a living and not just a hobby, the pressure of tax, rent, living and life all add up!
10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
90% of the time I work from home. I toyed with the idea of renting office space but it seemed a silly outgoing for a one man business. On big projects with design agencies I happily oblige to work in house, I’d highly recommend it to any freelancer as it’s a good excuse to work as part of a team and work with clients a little out of your scope.
11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
In the past I would put off work and do it last minute into the early hours of the morning. My sleep and work patterns would be sporadic but when you start to get regular work you realize the world turns on a 9-5 basis so you have to adhere to these hours wherever possible. Now I try to get up early and do paperwork and get emails out of the way before I do all my work, as well as keeping jobs on a monthly rota.
12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
Luckily for me I have enough work coming in to stay busy and earn a good living without being constantly stressed and turning clients away. It also means if I allocate myself work for the week and get it done early I can happily take a few days off here or there without feeling guilty. I still crumble and work the odd full day or two, literally 7am to 7am, which I wouldn’t recommend but it’s always been a sadistic pleasure of mine.
13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I have friends who work in the industry, both as students, freelancers, in house, and hobbyists which is great to keep you in the design ‘zone’. One of the hardest things you’ll find when leaving a classroom environment is the lack of peer pressure and the ability to get opinions and criticisms in an instant. Thankfully the ever growing internet is my constant resource for all things design. I regularly use firefox’s ‘open all in tabs’ feature to instantly pop up 100s of design blogs, which I couldn’t live without:
and of course:
Recently I’ve caved in to community websites, and the plentiful groups associated with them. Places like deviantart have some amazing artists, and it’s great to leave a quick comment with someone you admire, or ‘trade’ artwork to kickstart your creative juices. Community sites like Facebook also have huge group’s of young people interested in design, it’s a great way to showcase your art and services in a very busy talkative environment.
14. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I now have the saving grace that I call ‘jobs.xls’. This is a big excel file where I list every job I take on along with details and dates of completion, status, quote size, contacts, and check boxes for ‘acceptance form’, ‘invoiced’ and ‘paid’. It’s a great way of keeping track of my paperwork and jobs, and also dynamically keeps a record of all my earnings for the year. Within it is also a timetable of the current month that I constantly update to rota on my jobs throughout the week. With every new job I send out an ‘acceptance of commission’ form (including all the small print and legalities) and when ready for payment I send out an invoice. Depending on the client and the project I sometimes send out an hours sheet to breakdown the days and hours I worked on individual aspects of the project. I’ve been told I’m very thorough with paperwork – a lot of designers mayaswell write things on the back of cigarette packets.
15. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
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:
16. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
No. Freelancing is very rewarding to me, It makes me feel like I actually have a talent as opposed to being another monkey at a typewriter bashing out website banners and tacky flyers. If my client interest started to die I would happily use my time off to work on personal projects and new aspects of design.
17. Any thing else you would like to add?
Just to say never undersell yourself, I still do it to this day. Creativity is rare and underappreciated – there are far too many big design companies out there who pay $1 for stock graphics and plaster some text over the top for plentiful zeros on their invoices.