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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/