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4 Tips for the First-time Freelancer

As the world changes, so does the way we work. Professionals can now work from a palm-fringed beach in Sri Lanka or a skyscraper in Tokyo; you can run your business out of a Paris bistro and jet across the world, all while generating an income.

Freelancing is a growing industry for millennials (with 38% freelancing in the U.S.) and young professionals, both full-time and as a means of earning some extra money on the side (aka side hustle).

While freelancing often seems like the dream, and your friend on Instagram who travels the world by the seat of his or her laptop looks as though she is having the time of her life, there are a few things you need to consider before jumping in.

It’s not as easy as it may seem, but if you take good care of your finances, have a good business head and stick to some self-made rules, you have the potential to go far in the freelance world.

Taxes

As a freelancer, you are responsible for your own taxes. Your clients will not hold back a percentage of your payment to cover what you owe at the end of the year, so it will be up to you to set aside around 25–30% of your income yourself.

It is recommended that you put your taxes in a separate bank account which you cannot access so that when the time comes around to pay, you won’t need to worry. Make sure that you are on top of this and that you file your tax return on time.

Although you won’t get the likes of Antonio Horta Osorio (he’s a banker in the U.K.) knocking on your door, you could wind up with a hefty fine if you don’t meet the deadline.

Holiday pay? What holiday pay?

Holiday and statutory sick pay don’t really apply to freelancers, and it’s important to budget carefully so that if you do fall ill or want to take a couple of weeks away from your emails, you won’t be out of pocket or in trouble.

It is good practice to put away a portion of your monthly income for a rainy day (10 – 15% minimum), so that you and your family are covered in the event of sickness.

Time management

With no boss keeping tabs on you, it will be down to you to manage your time well and efficiently. Focus your working hours on when you are the most productive.

For example, if you are an early riser then start your day by cracking on when you wake up and finish early; if you like to lay in in the mornings, start later to allow for snoozing, but work later in the day.

Ultimately, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want but be sure to honour all contracts and meet deadlines.

Keep updated

As a freelancer, you won’t have anybody sending you on training courses or emailing industry news to your inbox every Thursday morning. It will be up to you to stay up-to-date with best practices and news within your industry! If you’re in graphic or web design, you can follow platforms like Fast Company, Virgin, Millo, The Futur, and others.

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6 Tips for Newbie Graphic Designers Who Want to Increase Their Rates/Prices in 2017

In graphic design, it is important to avoid being a “commodity”. The founder and CEO of brand strategy design consultancy Blind, Chris Do, agrees that one of the things you’ll learn over time is that you’ll need to “make room for better clients”.

In order to gain more opportunities in the future, you’ll have to make the tough decision of leaving your comfort zone of existing clients.

As one self-taught graphic designer (Ben Burns) who moved from $400 to $30,000 logo designs said to me once, “It’d be hard for Tarzan to swing through the jungle if he never let go of a vine.” So sometimes grasping a new opportunity will take one hand as opposed to two.

Here are my six tips for budding graphic designers looking to make more money:

How Not to Work for Cheap

Every design project you complete takes you closer to being a better graphic designer.

It will be important for you to remain mindful that your value is increasing. With increased value and expertise comes the need to revise your rates. Do not fall into the trap of pricing your work at a lower rate than market rates just to land the next project.

Know your worth. One obvious indicator that you can raise your rates is being in demand.

Don’t Be Afraid to Raise Your Rates

Are you afraid to raise your rates? There’s absolutely no reason to feel this way.

Whether you studied graphic design in school or you’re self-taught, you should have confidence in your skill sets to know that you work is better than the competition’s.

When you think about every other professional out there (dentists, lawyers, doctors, architects, fashion designers, artists, etc.), they all charge what they know they’re worth.

For instance, let’s say you land a logo and identity project for a startup or established company; you want to come out the winner, so ensure you consider how much your client stands to make over the lifetime of the logo and identity.

All They Can Say Is No

Your ideas and time are valuable. If you feel your next logo design should cost $1,000 USD then charge that amount even if your previous rate was $100 (or significantly lower).

The worse thing that can happen is that you lose a prospective after you submit your quotation. It’s not the end of the world.

The people who understand the value your work will bring will pay what you’re asking. After all, creativity takes tremendous mental capacity, especially if you’re constantly doing custom work versus production work (templates).

Examine Your Present and Past Clientele

Some of you have been in busy for at least three years and you’ve just been getting by on minuscule earnings, even with a steady stream of design projects.

Perhaps it’s time you take a very bold step and being firing those nickel-and-dime clients. You know the one’s I’m referring to; they’re always asking for a discount and complaining about how “expensive” your quotations are.

But take my advice, this is a step in the right direction; this was the way I was able to charge more.

Look At the Prices of the Competition

It is important that you always try to recognise your value as your skills and work improve. As you grow, you’ll need to reassess your value as a graphic designer.

One way to tell what you ought to be charging is to take some time and examine the competition locally and internationally.

If you work is comparable or better than others in your industry, it’s one indicator that you should be offering your design and creative services for around the same price or significantly more — particularly if you bring more value to a design project.

You Are Not an Impostor

My final bit of advice to you, especially if you are self-taught, is to move beyond the “impostor syndrome”.

Just because you weren’t formally or classically trained in graphic design with a degree behind your name doesn’t make you any less of a graphic designer. Let your work speak for itself.

Go one step further and take some time to have clients write you a testimonial (three to five sentences) immediately after a design project completion. People like hearing from other people and not from the business/entrepreneur.

This will help boost your confidence to increase revenue. Once you’re able to embrace your abilities and authenticity, you’ll feel more justified in raising your prices.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, leave a comment and share with others. Also, be sure to subscribe/follow my blog for more informative posts.

What Are Some of the Biggest Fears Every New Graphic Designer Encounters?

Two graphic designers sit down to discuss the initial struggles of pricing logo design in this interview via The Futur (link to YouTube Channel).

Half-way through the interview and everything already resonated with me. I’ve done this for the majority of my entire freelance graphic design career.

The hardest part is usually figuring out what to charge and for whatever reason there’s usually a fear that you’ll turn prospective clients away.

But, as I’ve come to learn for myself (first-hand experiences are invaluable), to get the kinds of clients you want, your prices have to be at a price point that demonstrates the value you’ll bring to each project.

At the end of the day, it’s all about believing in yourself (your creative ideas and abilities).

Enjoy the interview. It’s filled with insight and personal experiences that I’m certain you’ll find clearly relatable.

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