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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 Brian Yerkes (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?
Brian Yerkes

2. Where are you are based (Country/Area)?
Florida, USA

3. What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
Web Design, Graphic/Print Design, Logo Design, SEO, Flash Programming, HTML, ASP Programming, E-commerce

4. How many years had you been working in the design industry before you went freelance?

5. How long have you been freelancing?
About one year really working at it…spent about one year previous playing around with it, designing logos for friends, websites for collegues and such.

6. Why did you decide to go freelance?
After working for the company I worked for (web designs, intranets etc for real estate industry) , I realized probably one of the most valuable things a potential entrapreneur can learn when working for a company……I learned what not to do as web design company if you want to be profitable! Every decision made, the clients we took on, the wasted programming hours and much more, taught me the many ways you can become unprofitable as a design firm. So far, those lessons learned have proved to be extremely valuable and have helped in my early success.

7. How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning – (online portfolio/brochure/direct mail/email/phone etc)?
I joined the local chamber of commerce, networked with friends and family, and most importantly, I got my site to the top of Google, Yahoo and MSN for every keyword I was targettng. Getting top of Google is gold for me right now, and has been for the past year. I now dedicate about 20 hours a week to maintaining my position and building on the base I have created.

8. How do you market yourself (find design work) now?
I don’t really have to do much right now to market myself…I receive most clients from Google searches, and also referrals from past clients.

9. How did you decide what to charge? What was the process?
I feel like I have a good process set up for pricing…I consult with the client for at least one hour , find out their needs etc. If they have a budget, I determine how much time I can put into their project. My basic fee is $100/hour, and for certain things like a basic 5 page website, my minimum fee is about $1500. I believe that the websites I design, logos, etc are of a high quality , and that cost is justified. There is a huge difference between a basic 5 page website developed by one company , and a 5 page website created by another. The difference in graphic design skill, search engine optimized pages, layout, usability, functionality, full css-based or tables, and all of the other aspects that make a website good or bad. I want to give the best quality, and I don’t think freelancers should cheapen their product to clients with little budgets, just to help them out.

10. Do you work from home/have an office/work inhouse at design agencies?
I currently work from home, but I am trying to build it all up into a company with an office…a few employees. The lot. I think it would be great to build a young team, and provide an atmosphere of innovation and fun in the office.

11. How do you organise your workload, do you work long hours?
When I was working as a freelancer, and at the full time job, I would work about 17 hours a day…I now work the normal 9am – 5ish…or whatever I feel like really, or my workload requires. Dream come true. I don’t have to answer to anybody apart from clients that pay me well (and the money goes into my bank account, and not a boss’!) and I can work in my boxers if I don’t feel like wearing pants that day!

12. How much holiday do you give yourself?
No more than 6 weeks a year probably. Really depends on family requirements, events I need to attend, and various things like that. I don’t think I will ever be one of those people that gets comfortable with a certain level of income, and takes it easy. I like continually challenge myself, and enjoy all sizes of projects. Each client presents a new challenge.

13. How do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I have recently started reading a lot of blogs on a regular occurrence, and learning from fellow designers, seo’s and general business people, has helped greatly in my development and growth. I think it is also extremely important to constantly surf the web to understand trends in usability and design.

14. What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to?
I recently discovered David Airey’s blog, which I really enjoy now on a daily basis. I pop over to Matt Cutt’s blog every now and again to keepup with any SEO news and updates, and I also search around for other design blogs displaying other designers work…partly for inspiration and partly to just enjoy the creativity of some really talented people.

15. How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity?
I would say that my main technique is to observe EVERYTHING. I keep my eyes open, and take in my surroundings no matter where I am. I wish I was one of those people that have the ability to look at a specific scene for a few seconds, close their eyes, and tell you what color coffee mug was on the second table on the right. I try to develop this skill as much as I can…but it is hard. The world surrounding us can provide plenty of inspiration if you just take a good look. Shapes, relfections and angles seen in everyday living give good ideas for logos.

16. What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it?
I use Quickbooks for invoicing and receiving checks…and I manually deposit the incoming checks into my business checking account. As for my taxes, I will be hiring an accountant to help me out this year. After a successful year, and a nice amount of income, I would love for an accountant to be able to write off a large amount before I send in my taxes!

17. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing?
Be determined to continually learn and increase your knowledge base. The more you know, the more you can sell yourself.

18. Would you ever go back to fulltime work?
Only if I was the manager of my own company in an office. I would work full time no problem. Work full time for someone else? Never again! (I hope!)

19. Any thing else you would like to add?
Always make sure that every project is profitable. Even if it is pro-bono work for charity, or your community , make sure that you profit from it somehow. After all, bills need to be paid, and the more profitable you are, the more success you can create for yourself and others!

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