Written by Chloe-Louise Lloyd, January 2012
Chloe-Louise Lloyd, graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a BA (Hons) in French. Here she discusses how to explore and utilise the world of freelance work if you're a graphic or web designer.
Starting out as a freelancer in any industry is difficult, especially in graphic design. You are leaving the structure of study and work, and your university days, behind you. In your student days, lecturers would issue deadlines and 9-5 work placements. With the sudden change, you may think that graphic design is no longer for you or that you won´t succeed and what is the point in trying?
Your true foe here is your own motivation and fear of failure. By keeping motivated and busy with project applications, you are bound to succeed. Even though the industry can be tough, there are things you can do to motivate yourself and make sure that your degree, talent and passion aren´t wasted.
As a freelancer you will probably be working from home and often you will be surrounded by multiple temptations and distractions, especially when business is slow. Make sure that you have a specific working space and desk that is yours alone to work on. If you are still living in student accommodation or at home and only have your room to work in, try and remove anything that is likely to distract you, or even try to segregate a working area from your personal space. This doesn´t mean making your working space as boring as possible, it just means making it feel like you have arrived at work. If you need music to get you going, try making a work playlist. Decorating your work space with a brighter colour may help.
Set a schedule for your work hours, though this will obviously depend on whether you work full time or part time to support yourself. Make sure you have dedicated hours for freelancing. Make sure friends and family know this schedule so that they don´t call or invite you out during these hours. It may feel like a sacrifice to start with, especially if you already have another job, but it will be worth it in the end when the job offers start to roll in.
Remember, it is all about who you know and how well you know them. Stay in touch with all of your professors and other staff from your university. They will know about any events and job opportunities that are available. They will also be more than happy to hear how your career is going and will offer any advice about going forward.
Also stay in touch with former classmates, as they will be going through the same processes as you, so it will be encouraging to know that you are not the only one who may be struggling to start off with. Don´t neglect your family and friends either, but let them know that you are freelancing. In turn, they may know someone else who could use your creativity and expertise.
Through networking you should build up a list of useful people you can contact for pitching ideas or collaborations. Keep all of your contacts in a safe place, with a brief bio of who they are and what they do. This will reduce time spent searching for contacts later. Don´t forget to keep up to date with industry news and developments as well, through websites such as Dexigner. Also, look online at useful online platforms, such as twago.com, where you can post a portfolio of your work and bid for jobs anywhere in the world; when you have completed a job you can also be recommended for other jobs and receive references.
Dedicate time to working on a portfolio that you can be proud of. There´s no point trying to convince someone to work with you if you don´t have an up-to-date portfolio. And while you may have only just graduated, don´t be afraid to put personal projects or university work in there as it all counts. Most of all, be proud, share your work with your peers and through your social networks. The more social media presence you have and the more people know about your work, the more work you are likely to acquire.
This, more so than any economic barriers, could be the most damaging factor to your career. If you fear failure you will never do anything. Come to the realisation that you may not win every project, or your ideas may not be to everyone’s tastes, but by trying, failing and trying again, you will eventually climb a ladder to success. As Henry Ford said ‘failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.’
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