Designers want to create, it’s as simple as that. They are passionate about their craft and are obsessed with pixels to the slightest detail. They make the world more beautiful, more functional, and even safer. A single-minded devotion to craft is one of the reasons why many designers are driven to working for advertising agencies: They can concentrate on their trade.
However, although many designers choose to work for large corporations, they can often find the work under tight restrains more frustrating than rewarding. In fact by 2015, 53 million Americans were freelancers - that's a whopping 34% of the workforce today.
There are a lot of advantages to it, like a more flexible work schedule and more creative control. But there are also greater challenges.
If you're looking into quitting that desk job for good and going into sucessful freelancing the key today is to think like a businessperson, while still keeping the creative core designers have.
Why Successful Freelancing Depends on a Businessman Mindset:
Most entrepreneurs understand the ins and outs of starting a business, but may not necessarily have the skillset of a trained designer. In fact, it can be rare to find an entrepreneur with both business savvy and a strong design background. So, designers who can do both -conceptualize creatively- and participate in product development, fundraising, marketing and the recruitment of a dynamic team of talented professionals, have actually the upper hand in the market right now.
One of the first things people come to you for, as a designer, is to create a cohesive brand persona for them. Do the same for you - a consistent image, that is flexible enough to meet your client's needs, will help you stay on track and take on projects that you love, instead of doing ones you end up hating just as much as the ones the agency forced you to do.
Know the Reason for Starting Your Business: This is true for designers or anyone who is thinking of “going solo”. Identifying your “why” is the most important step to take. Motivation usually comes from different areas and to achieve successful freelancing status, you need to keep momentum and stay motivated. Perhaps your motivation comes from the desire to become your own boss, financial independence, spending more time with your family, creative expression, or philanthropy. Whatever the reason, knowing what drives you is what will keep you committed to your dream when things get shaky.
- Have a Defined Vision to Avoid Burnout
An entrepreneur’s job is basically to lead. They have to be ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty, often doing the work no one else is willing to do. One day they are working on fundraising and hiring, the next day it’s answering calls. An entrepreneur has to figure things out on the move, and solve problems every single day. Entrepreneurs walk a fine line in order to meet the needs of their customers, development team and shareholders.
Since you'll likely be wearing many hats at first, create a system that prioritizes your time and find balance between making calls and answering emails and the actual creative work. When you're a freelancer all aspects of the business are equally as important, so if your design is picture perfect, but your clients are angry due to lack of responsiveness your business will suffer at the end of the month.
A successful freelance designer finds a balance between the needs of their clients, the marketplace and their work.
- Work on Your Problem Solving Skills - Prioritizing
Sure this may sound like a cliche, but you can never stress the need to commit to your dream and seeing it through enough. Committing to your dream means you are making a binding obligation, and implies you are “all in”.
You look for solutions when faced with obstacles and, more importantly, you never quit – no matter what. Many entrepreneurs make this pledge to themselves, and then tell the people in their life in order to have an increased sense of accountability.
- Stick to Your Dream
Getting exposure is hard, especially because there are a great deal of designers out there. The good news is that there are also a myriad of ways to stand out. You can make amazing products and showcase them in your Pinterest, Etsy or Instagram feed, add a portfolio to Dribble.com or Behance.com, network with like-minded artists on DeviantArt.com. You can work trade shows and fairs and so on, try low-price partnerships to get exposure, doing small projects for small businesses and non profit organizations.
- Brand Yourself Constantly
Place your name and logo everywhere, join every network you can, print cool business cards
and even wear your own self-designed apparel. Get noticed by wearing your own uniform and such.
If your passion is strictly the art and creating innovative designs and logos, then entrepreneurship may not be up your alley. On the other hand, if you are interested in every aspect of the design business from acquiring clients to developing products and all the problem solving that goes with it, then you should seriously consider pursuing entrepreneurship and freelancing. Here's to your Success!