Freelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Jason Fisher-Jones (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?
2. Where are you based?
Los Angeles, California
3. What type of work do you do?
Commercials, On-Air Branding, Network Promos.
4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
9 years – I was at my first full-time job right out of college, the same company for 8 years. The idea of not being employed terrified me, never mind in another country. A couple of other full time positions followed.
5. How long have you been freelancing?
6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
I’d moved to New York from London to work for Razorfish back in 2000, right as the bubble was in mid burst. Oblivious to the fact the company was falling apart around me, I continued there for 2 years as the office began to dwindle. When I was finally (and mercifully) laid-off, I realized I had an incredible network of contacts who’d all got laid off before me.
7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Despite working for Razorfish for 2 years I had no idea how to make a website, so a DVD showreel was the only way to get my work seen. Though in reality it was entirely word of mouth (see question 6). I was rubbish at sending out reels, people would call up and I’d forget to send anything.
8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
The internet is a wonderful thing. I sat down with a book and taught myself basic Flash one weekend – being able to email a simple link is proving much easier than mailing a DVD. I just moved to LA, and in doing so thrown myself into completely alien territory. The contacts I had from New York are still there and I can work remotely, but my intention is to develop new contacts. It involves emailing my link to friends of friends, meeting with agents, getting recommendations from previous clients. And it’s not proving easy.
9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
I’d heard what day rates freelancers were charging at Razorfish, and they all seemed to be getting so much more than me, so I based it on that initially. I also charge a flat project fee, and that depends on the client who often comes in with a budget first. The nature of the job also reflects on the rate – live-action direction commands far greater fees than design or art direction, and that’s usually negotiated with a production company to industry standards.
10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
Divided between home and in-house, and which I prefer is usually the one I’ve spent the least time at. Home offers so much freedom, but in-house provides human contact and often inspiration.
11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
For a long time I’d take on multiple jobs and work into the night, but recently I’ve become better at turning down work. That said, a new town and finding new clients has meant some serious down-time, and I’m all too ready to jump back in.
12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
Leaving the UK has meant most time off is used traveling home – christmas, weddings etc. But I’ve always made a point of planning a trip somewhere other than home at least once a year.
13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Despite the ubiquity of the internet and wonderful blogs like this, I find a wander into a design book store is one of the most inspiring things to do. Physically picking up a book or periodical and flicking through it is just a more immediate experience. Oh, and watching TV.
14. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I keep it very simple – usually a verbal agreement on the phone regarding fee, then an invoice at the end of the job. If it’s a long project, I bill every 2 weeks, or a first 50% on a project fee. I have a text file with a list of what’s paid and what’s pending. Once a year I spend a day adding and organizing my receipts. That’s it. I have an accountant who does the rest.
15. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
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.
16. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I’d consider it in the short term – perhaps a year or two. Joining a company often means access to higher profile work, especially in higher positions as companies are usually more interested in building their own employees portfolios (at least that’s my experience).
17. Any thing else you would like to add?
If you don’t try it you’ll never know.
18. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?