Whether you’re interested in designing logos, building websites, or helping clients to create incredible PowerPoint presentations, you may find that working as a freelance graphic designer appeals to your professional sensibilities and your distaste for traditional job markets. There certainly are a lot of benefits to working for yourself; no annoying bosses or coworkers to contend with, no frustrating commute, and the flexibility to set your own hours and take the jobs that interest you. But like any other job, there are also drawbacks. You’ll have to hustle for work, self-motivate, and probably work a lot harder to make the same amount of money you could at the corporate level. And you will make mistakes. However, you can keep stumbling blocks to a minimum if you simply know what to look for, so here are a few common mistakes that graphic designers often make when first entering the freelance arena.
1. Snubbing Forums.
When you’re first starting out, there’s going to be a lot you don’t know. You’re going to have problems that you don’t know how to deal with, not to mention all kinds of questions about how to promote yourself effectively, reach (and secure) clients, and basically keep your enterprise afloat. Forums frequented by industry professionals can offer everything you need when you don’t even know what you need. So don’t think you’re too good for them; at the very least you should be networking as a way to get the hookup for overflow work.
Yes, you are now your own boss. You can get up at noon and work for two hours or work all night and sleep all day if you want. But what you’ll find is that you get out what you put in. And since you’re trying to earn a living here, it behooves you to be responsible and treat this like a real job. That means setting work hours and using your time effectively.
Unfortunately, a smile and a handshake don’t quite cut it anymore when it comes to business transactions. You need a contract to ensure that you deliver what the client wants within their timeline in order to get paid. It can be as simple as a purchase order template that you fill out for client approval or as complex as an ironclad legal document prepared by your attorney. Whatever you choose, you absolutely must take measures to protect your interests in case a client decides not to pay.
4. Failing to Reinvest.
So many businesses fail (and especially freelance operations) because the owner treats the earnings as their own personal piggy bank. Okay, so self-employment means that all of the money coming in is technically yours, but if you want your business venture to stay afloat you need to take some of the income you earn and reinvest it in your business. You have to spend money to make money, after all, and considering that anything going back to your business is a write-off, it’s worth investing in equipment, software, and promotions that are going to ensure you stay gainfully self-employed.
5. Borrowing Too Heavily.
The notion of plagiarism is likely not foreign to anyone engaging in artistic pursuits. And if you choose to take inspiration from your competitors in the graphics arena, keep in mind that there’s a very fine line between borrowing and stealing, and a difference of opinion on the matter could land you in court.