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I am looking for more people who would be interested in taking part in Freelancer Focus please see this post for details if you are interested. I am also interested in design case studies too.

Freelance DesignerFreelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Jorge Goyco (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?
Jorge Goyco

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
USA, College Station, Texas. It’s sort of Central and East in Texas.

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Web and print design and production. I design in Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver and Flash. I started doing just print, but moved to websites when I wanted to promote my band.

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
Well, in High School in 1987-1989 I used PageMaker (when it was owned by Aldus) working on the yearbook. In college I learned Quark on a Mac IIsi, bought an LCII with Photoshop 2.0 and Illustrator 88. Clipping paths and drop shadows were such a pain back then. I’d say I worked for real from 1992 until sometime in 1997, and then started my own business in 2003.

5. How long have you been freelancing?
My first Paying Freelance job was probably T-shirt designs for the church I was attending some time in 1998. It wasn’t until I got laid off from a web design firm in 2001, and then fired from a Design Studio in 2003 that I went full time freelance. I was doing freelance jobs the whole time while working at those other jobs at home on my Performa 6300.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?

Well, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough work, but I had started to get more and more clients. When I got fired, I went to some friends of mine and they promised me $1000 a week for a month if I worked on anything they threw at me. They were very sweet to do that. They had been the ones hounding me the most about quitting and starting my own business. Getting fired made it easy.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
Honestly, it’s all mostly been word of mouth. I’ve never taken out ads in the yellow pages and newspapers. Basically, I went to Kinko’s and printed black and white cards and told everyone I knew that I had started my own company. Someone always had a brother in law who’s daughter’s husband needed a website for their company. Something like that. There are actually maybe 3 people I can pinpoint as to have started the network. I can look at a client I have now (5 years later) and go back all the way to the beginning, which leads me to one of those three people. Lately, since having moved from San Antonio, a new network has started.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
Really in the same way, sort of. Most clients come from either past clients, or from relations with agencies or design firms. For me to know design and html, I’m really a commodity. Next thing I need to lern is PHP and ASP, then I’ll have it all…well, not really. I contract out programming, I don’t have the brain for it much past simple Actionscript in Flash.

Although now I have a much better grasp on SEO and my website is much better than it used to be, much more focused, you know? I also have 2 blogs that drive traffic to my business site. One is a webmaster tips blog (http://jorgegoyco.blogspot.com) and the other is a children’s stories blog (http://papistories.blogspot.com).

Truth is, most of the contacts I get from the website are people who’s budget is very small, and I just can’t afford to chase those down. I tell them my prices and that’s usually the last I hear of them. My website is primarily for the portfolio and linking out to my other websites.

I’ve actually tried pounding the pavement, but it’s not usually fruitful.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?

I started charging like $25 an hour, but I quickly found out that it was way too low. The advice given to me by other designers was that I needed to up my prices for a couple of reasons. One is that it cheapens the quality of the industry. If they have a client that claims that they can get the same work from someone charging $25 per hour, it just muddies things up. The second was that people tend to perceive the work you do as better if it’s more expensive. I’ve found this to be true. Honestly, age has made me realize what my work (and time) is worth.

Lately, I charge per hour only if it’s maintenance or if the client requests it. I’ve got flat fees for websites etc. I’ve come to learn what people are willing to pay for my kind of services, and still satisfying my need to pay my bills.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I work from home. I’m on satellite broadband out in the country where the cables from the closest town don’t reach. I have worked in-house at a few places for a few hours a day, and also accept business from agencies.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?

I don’t usually work long hours. It depends on the deadlines, but I’m not a procrastinator. I try to give myself room with the client and add a day to when I think I can have it for them, then if I finish it, I have tome to tweak, I’m not in a rush, can juggle other small jobs around the big ones, and can even impress the client by getting it in early…not too early.

I work a couple of hours in the morning, and take lunch with my family, then work from after lunch to dinner time. Of course, it all depends on if I can smell what my wife is cooking or not if I come down early or send that last email at 4:59PM. My wife has been known to sautee onions and garlic to get me to come down.

After the kids go down, we come upstairs and browse. Sometimes I blog, sometimes I finish jobs, sometimes we just watch movies.

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
I take days off all the time. I usually try to start long weekends on Wednesday night until Sunday or Monday. I just make sure I’ve got no big deadlines and I’m good to go. The thing about working at home is that I can take a few minutes to help catch grasshoppers or race around the yard in our go-cart any time I want…almost any time I want.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I read blogs every day. I read how-to’s online all the time. I go to Flashkit.com regularly, I read about Photoshop tips and tricks, and even borrow books from the library. I learned a bunch from library books just recently on Flash 8. That or go and have a coffe at a bookstore and read for a while.

14. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
My wife and I have created a bunch of Excel documents that are all interconnected with formulas for taxes and hosting and invoicing. I do all of it. I’m more trusting of Excel’s math abilities than my wife is. She’d rather do it by hand. I like that I can make one change and five documents are updated. Excel is cool

15. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Back up your accounting. Actually, buy an external hard drive and back up everything at least every week. It is really, really expensive to retrieve information from a crashed hard drive. I had it fairly cheap, and it still cost me $1600 to retrieve the information of a 40Gb ibook hard drive, and all I needed was a few small excel documents.

16. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I don’t want to. Can’t say I never will. It would really have to be worth it. I’ve got it pretty good right now working at home.

17. Any thing else you would like to add?

It’s not going to be easy to get rich being a graphic designer, but it’s been fun. Invest in real estate too. Do something that doesn’t take electricity as well. Grow a garden. The trick with that is to plant it at the right time (it should say when on the package), and then water it. Try canteloupes…they’re yummy.

18. Where can we see some of your work (URL)?

http://www.goycodesign.com
http://www.papistories.blogspot.com
http://www.jorgegoyco.blogspot.com