This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

July 23, 2018

How to work freelance

If you're considering doing work for hire, and not having a regular full-time (or even part-time) job, welcome to freelancing.

I started freelancing in college, when I was studying graphic design. It's typical for graphic designers to freelance, and all it took was the application of what I was learning in my design classes combined with learning about business, and sales.

I've been inspired by all kinds of freelancers. I especially like the old movie hard-boiled detectives, who did a lot of waiting around for the next client, and then worked like crazy to earn their money. In the movies, they usually said something vague like "expenses are extra", but I would rarely hear them quote a firm price, or give an hourly rate. Unfortunately, in the real world, that's where you've gotta start.

Whenever I talk to someone who's considering freelancing, the first thing I ask is what their hourly rate is. If they can give that number, and estimate the time it would take to do a particular job, they have a bright future ahead of them doing freelance. If they hesitate for even a bit, or if they add some vague stuff about "plus expenses" or "it depends..." I know that no one in their right might would hire them. Of course that doesn't mean that they won't get hired, it just means that they'll probably be cheated. It happens all of the time.

For me, the single most important thing I did for my freelance business was to take a class in basic sales. I learned the techniques of interacting with clients, overcoming objections, being flexible. Then in the business classes I learned how to write an estimate, invoices, statements. When the internet was invented I learned how to accept money digitally, like from Paypal. My goal was to make all of that as easy as possible on my client, and myself. And this is where most people fall down, with the arrangements for money.

Money is very serious stuff. Making mistakes, even for pennies, can leave people feeling cheated. I'm kinda insecure about my math skills, so I conduct business with my trusty calculator on my computer handy. I write firm quotes, with no fine print. I've done enough of this to know that sometimes circumstances change, and I need to do a revised quote. I charge by the hour x time, so people know exactly what they're going to pay me before anything begins. I remember my greatest challenge was in the 1980s, when I quoted a very large project. But you gotta be able to do that!

I ask for a deposit of 50%. There are two advantages to that: it gets money moving right away, and it gives your client a very sharp understanding of exactly what they're going to pay. I'm no math wizard, but even I can multiply by two!

I hope this helps. In my lifetime I've seen a lot less regular 9-to-5 jobs, and a lot more stuff that I call freelance. It's also called contract work, or work for hire. It's all freelance to me.

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