This month, Envisage Design director Simon Owen celebrates 20 years as a freelance graphic designer. He shares his thoughs on professional freelancing from Soho Ponsonby to Auckland CBD. Continuing to service clients throughout Australasia, his busy studio is now located in beautiful Nelson NZ.
Being your own boss
Life as a fulltime freelance graphic designer is pretty sweet. Being your own boss is the absolute ultimate, although not something that should be taken for granted. You need to be totally focussed on meeting deadlines and very good at time management. It’s not all design glamour, remember who has to also put out the rubbish!
Why a freelancer?
People often choose a freelancer because they want to deal directly with a creative person. Larger design studios tend to have layers of command. This can lead to wasted time, money and effort. A good freelance designer is a natural creative who has an instinctive knack with colour, shape and composition. As a creative person who uses technology, try not to ‘talk tech’ with your clients. Keep the language on their terms and listen carefully to the given brief. Your delivery of concept should hit the nail on the head and aim for a clean and timely conclusion. Being a freelancer means total and utter control of your own time. Keep track of it and charge accordingly.
Your own creative space
Your studio needs to be your sanctuary. Place framed images on the walls that inspire you, keep your desktop clear (as with your screen!) and have the essentials at your fingertips. Make sure you have a comfortable area away from your Mac. This is important for reading, sketching and general time-out space. Clean and tidy is good, as your client may well want to sit on your shoulder for an afternoon while you put some finishing touches to a project. Let’s not forget who you are working for, as a professional office promotes professional practice. This is where the work gets done!
As a creative professional, you need to have absolute faith in your work. This is often a bug-bear with self-employed designers. If you are unsure of your ability, the client will most certainly pick up on it. Present your work with pride and be prepared to explain your creative decisions, hopefully with market-driven incentives!
Keep your eyes open
Reference often. Find out why other designs are successful and put your creation in a similar context. Do not underestimate market trends as they are what client often seek. Understand that trends come and go, so don’t be araid to chop and change your creative style over time. Don’t box yourself into a particular look.
Follow your nose
Surround yourself with what you love. Do what you enjoy and your work will shine. Love music with a passion? Design for it. Dig pop culture? Create some yourself. Clients will be excited by your passions as these are your creative strengths. Develop your own website or blog, and give it a strong sense of personal style. If you can’t design something from scratch use a WordPress hosted blog. It’s free.
As a freelancer I am proud to support a family though my own creative endevours. They in turn give me confidence in what I do well every day. At times it has not been easy juggling self employment with busy family life, but modern business practise is more forgiving than it used to be.
Broaden your skill and network wildly
Develop your own ideas and look for additional sources of income. I have multiple income sources built over years of work including property, shares, and a few online shops. Grow through your client’s success (due to your outstanding design assistance) and a keep up with old networks. Twitter is great for this. Freelance Switch has a very good forum to share ideas in.
Creativity be praised
The last 20 years have been quite a ride. Beauty leads to inspiration, which surrounds us every day, you just need to look for it in the right places. Nature (thanks Nelson, NZ) and professional endevour abound.
To celebrate 20 years freelancing I will be posting some classic past designs to this blog for the remainder of 2011. There will be some real snappy gems in there!