7 Tips for Freelance Graphic Designers
I can’t believe it has already been six months since launching Spruce Rd. in January! Seriously, time flies. I thought it would be fun to share my reflections from these past six months, and be transparent in what worked and didn’t work for my business. I posted about the lessons learned from my first month of freelancing, if you want to check that out as well!
Stay tuned at the end for a FREE bonus, the Freelance Blueprint. This blueprint is definitely something that I wish I had starting out, and it provides a few steps for your freelance career to keep you on track.
Attracting ideal clients
One of the main reasons I launched my own business was to work with clients that were a better fit with my vision. I desired to work one-on-one with clients, who valued the design process, and wanted quality design. I didn’t want my portfolio to be passively influenced by the projects that came my way, so instead I opted for tailoring my blog content and portfolio to my niche market. I am still working on defining this audience right now, but I would say they love good design, are passionate about their small business, and are eager to get noticed online!
I can’t tell you how great it felt to finally work with a client who fit this profile to a T. I am SO thankful for these wonderful clients, and the joy of being involved in launching their business, and bringing it to that next level.
I have been blown away by friendships I have formed online through my business. It really has been one of the best benefits of going out on my own, and was entirely unexpected. It was amazing that the first time I talked to another fellow designer on the phone, I left feeling energized and as if we were long-time friends. Since launching Spruce Rd., I can say I have truly gained friendships that have pushed me both creatively and in my business. I would bet that behind most successful entrepreneurs, there is a team of supporters + cheerleaders that propel them forward. I can say that has definitely been true for my business, and I am forever grateful for it.
Prior to going full time with Spruce Rd., I knew that prioritizing my blog was necessary to get my name out there. The blog has brought in the most traffic to my site, most of which has come from Pinterest. If I didn’t have a blog, it would be challenging to build my business online. If you don’t enjoy blogging, definitely don’t pursue it. It consumes a lot of time + energy, so it is important that it aligns with your vision and is something you enjoy. If I didn’t have a blog from the beginning, I would have pursued guest blogging, webinars, or other social media to put myself out there. I am thankful that my blog has brought me clients, and even facilitated collaborations with fellow designers!
On a seemingly boring note, I have not been stressed about bookkeeping! I know this is a hangup for many freelancers, and I decided early on that I would not let it deter me from pursuing my business. I hired an accountant from the get go, invested in an online bookkeeping system (Quickbooks), that makes my accountant’s life easy, and made sure I kept it updated every week.
After spending multiple hours a week replying to inquiries with a custom proposal, I finally took the leap and started offering packaged services. Most of the inquiries were looking for similar services, so I created three tiers of branding packages. I even posted them online, which has saved me a ton of time! I no longer waste a potential client’s time in reaching out to me for a quote, and instead they can instantly view my prices and see if we are the right fit. I also spent too much time in the first couple months, emailing back and forth with potential clients, only to find out they weren’t sure what they were looking for. Posting my packaged services online has eliminated the email chains.
What I would change
Block out time for office hours
Since my husband is in grad school, his schedule is inconsistent between varied class times, and hours of studying. Because of this, I have guilt-free opted for a loose schedule. I worked-out mid day, worked a couple hours, took a break, worked into the night, etc. I had some structure to the day, but no specific set hours. Now that he is nearing the end of school and has a 9-5 field work schedule, I realized I need to stick to a schedule. I think a desire for a routine is innate in each of us, and I am realizing that more and more.
From now on, I plan to have set office hours, and structured daily blocks of time for blogging, bookkeeping, side projects, etc.
Start with a website template
Since launching in January 2015, my services have changed a bit. Initially, I thought I would offer only custom designed + built websites, and not offer theme customizations. Boy, was I wrong. I have designed a few sites before, but my role in the design did not involve the developer. After custom designing my site earlier this year, I learned that I honestly don’t enjoy designing for web that much. This came as a shock to me, since I really get jazzed about a great web design + UI. I learned that I don’t have to offer this service, and dread working on these projects. That is not good for either me or the client.
So, I took action and now only offer theme customizations. This is much more enjoyable for me to work in, and also it better fits my vision to serve small businesses. Website themes allow for an easier process to update the site on your own, should you need to add a page or change something. Win/win.
Since I only offer theme modifications now, if I could go back I would make my site a theme modification as well. Not that I don’t love my website (I do!), but it would better serve as an example to my clients.