Freelancer Focus is a regular feature, where freelance designers are invited to answer a series of questions about themselves and freelancing. This week Graham Buckley (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)?
England, Oldham (Manchester)
3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
I do design work for both print and web
4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?
I had been working for a local web design company as a designer for almost five and a half years before deciding to go freelance.
5. How long have you been freelancing?
I’m very much a newbie and have been going for around 4 months.
6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
A mixture of reasons influenced me to go freelance. The main one being that my role in my previous job had changed taking on the needs of my previous company ie more as a project manager as opposed to what i wanted and enjoyed doing which was production. I guess the idea of working for myself and having that independence as well as control is very much something that appealed to me, along with the fact that personal circumstances ie not being dependent on anyone meant i could afford to take that risk.
7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
This has been a culmination of factors, as at the beginning I had already established alot of contacts which were willing to pass on work and therefore gave me belief that there would be work there and that i’d not be bashing my keyboard wondering if anything could relieve the boredom of being confined to my PC and contemplating the dole queue.
8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
Although not much time has passed since beginning I’ve been very keen to try and be pro-active in getting new design work and not just rely on word of mouth. I have already produced a mixture of marketing material already and plan to do a direct mail campaign very shortly. I’ve also done what I can to promote my services whereever possible. I guess you could say alot of it is trial and error yet I think that is the only way you’ll get to understand the learning curve of working freelance.
9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
My decision in terms of what to charge people came from speaking to other freelancers and learning what would be a competitive rate for the area i was planning to work within. I had also had experience in terms of quoting from my previous job and basically learnt that it would be more beneficial to have an hourly rate as opposed to a fixed price system. I invariably find any 2 jobs are the same as you have to factor for what the client expects. I like to keep things flexible in terms of as long as the client is happy to pay for the time necessary for me to do the work then that works best for both parties.
10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I work from home at the present time which is something I’ve been used to when working for my previous company for the past year or so. Potentially is has a mixture of advantages and disadvantages in terms of how you are perceived and also from a personal point of view too.
11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
My workload is organised due to what work i have on and the priority it needs. This is always under constant review as potentially you never know when a new job opportunity will arise. I’d say that I work long hours at times yet try to find a balance between work and play. I think its important to put the time and energy into what you do, i guess it all depends on what motivates you.
12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
What’s a holiday? Admittedly i try to give myself a break as its important to recharge the batteries every now and then. I’ve so far not taken any long breaks as the company is still within its infancy and therefore requires lots to be done. I’m someone who will usually schedule a days holiday every now and again which doesnt particularly cause any major problems from a work perspective. I guess as things grow financially you can cover for a weeks holiday just as long as it doesnt affect your client base.
13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I try to keep up to date with what is going on through contacts that I have made through previous employment or people I’ve met, as well as spending time reading other people’s blogs to see what people are talking about and what is new.
14. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
The invoicing part has never been a problem, admittedly the accounting and bookkeeping is very much of a distraction yet still an integral thing to do. I think the key to this is to have systems in place before you start and then stick to it. I basically took advice before starting as freelance as to what i needed to do in terms of invoices, expenses, etc. What I tried to do was implement a method that was simplistic as it could be yet something that suited me and that i understood. It very much becomes routine after a while. Still if you can afford to pay someone else to look after that, even better.
15. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
I guess my biggest piece of advice would be not to be afraid to take that jump and don’t let people knock you down for it. As long as you understand what you would like to achieve, plan how you want things to work and what you plan to offer and be certain that you can get work its all generally a learning curve after that.
16. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
I would say never say never, unless you can predict the future. Freelancing is a complete new lifestyle i’d say and therefore if you enjoy it, why go back.