AIGA Design Salon: Freelancing

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Graphic Design

Since last year, I have kind of made it my business to volunteer at AIGA DC’s Design Salons. They are intimate, pertinent discussions about the design industry. Although this occurred a few months ago, I believe the information is relevant for everyone at any time in their career. Heather Miller-Cox of MillerCox Design provided six, strong points regarding freelancing:

  1. Pick a swim lane: Choose a specialty that you are comfortable with to help narrow your competition. This is scary because we often juggle as many hats as possible to appeal to a broad audience, but it can be more beneficial to find a niche market. Don’t let this keep you from working outside of your specialty—you can definitely do other work—but don’t get stuck working on projects you do not enjoy.
  2. Consider your mission carefully: To give your business a direction, decide whom you wish to serve. Cox posed this question, “Who do you want to be a hero to?” Answering that question will aid you in deciding what your core values are, and make it easier for your employees to understand your purpose.
  3. Develop a marketing strategy: Don’t expect your clients to automatically know who you are and what you do. Decide how you will market yourself and do it. It might be helpful to have a tagline, something simple that explains your purpose easily and clearly. It can also work as a jumping off point to pitch your business.
  4. Block time to network: Nothing is as important as knowing your field. Communicate with others in the industry and share best practices. It can also bring in new business as your network might be able to suggest you for a project if they cannot handle the workload or know you would do it best.
  5. Take coaching classes: Being able to design is one thing, but leading a business is another one. Learn how best to lead your company. One suggestion Cox made is to look around (and you can check the closing resources at the end of this post for more on coaching).
  6. Invest in your business: Don’t just do work—become more of a consultant and less like a commodity. Educate your clients, and they will become the clients you want.

There were a few other takeaways from the discussion that I will quickly run through. One of the most uncomfortable things about freelancing (at least, in my opinion) is dealing with pricing. Two very good sources can help you out: The Graphic Artists Guild’s Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and Jessica Hische’s post “The Dark Art of Pricing”. When you are expanding your business, make sure to put a system in place for your process—it’s even better if you can brand your process and name it. Lastly, if you cannot handle the role of Human Resources manager, hire a consultant. It will give you time to focus on other things and keep your business moving as it should.

Closing resources to research: E MythBuilt To Sell, Shel Perkins, and Cameron Foote.

Do any of you work freelance? Are there any points you would add?

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