Freelancer 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?
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)?