networking

The F Word

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So, you're a designer. A graphic designer, web designer, clothing designer...the adjective in front of "designer" doesn't really matter. We'll just call you a designer. You've decided you want to set your own hours, not be shackled to an office or be chained behind a desk, not have to answer to a boss who needs things done yesterday, and take on the projects YOU enjoy. So that's when you become the F word....a freelancer

To some, this might still be a swear word. To others, it triggers another F word we all love -  freedom. But here's the deal - with freedom comes responsibility (Eleanor Roosevelt was just amazing, wasn't she??). Now you have to find your own clients. You have to figure out how much to charge. You have to find a way to sell your services over "the other guys" so you can build a portfolio that will someday speak for itself, and so on. Day 1 comes of being a freelancer, it sounds really good, but how do you get clients? How do you manage all of these hats you now have to wear? How do you make your work rise to the top of a dense pile of other designers who decided to take the same leap of faith (another great F word)?? The struggle is REAL and all designers have been there at one point. Being a freelancer is more than sitting at a coffee shop with a notebook and a desire to be creative. It's about promoting, finding, and executing great design. Here are the ways we fought freelance ambiguity and created a business that speaks for itself: 

  1. Be the no brainer - This was probably the BEST advice we ever got when we started Maker Creative Co. We were sitting at a coffee shop (because where else do creatives meet these days), talking with a fellow business owner who shed light on what it means to turn your freelance gig into a full time business. She said that as a beginner, you have to build your client base. A lot of people will tell you to charge this and that because it's your work, you should get paid for it. But the fact of the matter is, you don't have a client base because you need clients first. The best way to do that at the very beginning is to charge less than the other guys. And by less, we mean enough to compensate your time, but still giving the client a deal. By charging less and still developing high quality content, you are helping your business by adding another client to your word-of-mouth marketing strategy, you're adding a polished piece of work to your portfolio, and still finding the balance between quality and quantity. We could go on and on about this one, but bottom line - be the no brainer for your clients. 
  2. Learn as much as possible - As a business owner, you don't want to come off as though you know less than the "other guys" because it might reflect badly on your business. However, taking at least an hour or two every single day to research a new technique, shadow someone in your field, ask questions, etc. will give your business a lifeline. You're making new connections, pouring into other people in your industry by making them feel desired, adding another feather to your business' cap, and so much more. If you're looking for a resource to hone your skills or learn something new, we would recommend Lynda.com until we are blue in the face. We learned so much from Lynda! 
  3. Wear something you feel REALLY confident in, walk into businesses, and just start introducing yourself - Ideally, you'll be doing this with business cards in your hand so these potential clients have a way to reach you. But, as a freelancer, you want to spread your net as wide as you can because you never know who might know someone that will need your services. Put your brightest face on, practice the "elevator pitch" in your brain, and just go ask for the owner or manager. What do you really have to lose? You only have room to gain from new experiences, connection and networking skills. On the same note, it's ok if these potential clients say no! Leave your card, thank them for their time, the new connection, and walk out feeling great. That's where the awesome outfit comes in - no matter what the outcome is, at least you look amazing. 

For more tips on becoming a freelancer, maintaining your design business, or for thoughts from Maker Creative Co., follow us on Instagram and Facebook! We would love to know your thoughts on design, learning, networking, and everything under the sun.