mistakes as a freelance graphic designer

A list of my mistakes as a freelance graphic designer

Advice to save you from throwing your toys out of the pram

Mistakes, I’ve made a few, but then again, too few to mention. Aaah, if only that were true. I’ve made plenty mistakes as a freelance graphic designer. So I have listed the worst by way of advice to any others starting as freelancers.

1 Don’t write angry emails

The first, and most awful, the real soul cleansing confession, is the writing of angry emails. If I could slap myself around the face, I would. There is no point in being a freelance designer if you don’t love meeting different people, and learning about their unique business needs, and working together with those people to satisfy those design needs. During the creative process there can inevitably be differences in opinion, differences in process, differences in expectations. There can be pressure from deadline, other deadlines, personal issues not connected with work, but it is never, never, never (I am writing to myself here) okay to write an email when angry.

The result of sending angry emails. Always will break a relationship permanently. You will always upset someone, who doesn’t deserve it, has a multitude of issues of their own, and in the light of day, you almost certainly will be 100% wrong to have any issue.

The solution. When calm, pick up the phone, or arrange a meet. Wait a day or two before reacting. Maybe slap yourself across the face a couple of times.

2 Don’t work for free

Doesn’t matter who it is for, friends, family members, potential clients for a later date, something that would look nice in a portfolio, never ever work for free. Never ever give a significant discount on your price for the same reason, same people. The reasons are manifold. Respect for yourself, respect for your work, respect for the design profession. People don’t respect things they get for free, or cheaply. There can be client, designer differences of opinion on any job. They do not ever happen less on a free, or heavily reduced price job.

The result of working for free. Your time and talent are wasted, and you can begin to hate design. It can destroy the relationship with family member or friend.

The solution. I met someone once with a successful design company, at the launch of a product for a friend of his. I asked why he hadn’t designed the marketing. He replied ‘I have a rule, I don’t work with friends or family’. That’s it, he states it in a calm confident manner. No one is hurt, no one is offended. It’s all friends, all family. Full stop.

3 Don’t accept too much work

No is fine. No is a good word. Embrace no, no is your friend. Of course you can work long hours, of course you don’t need a day off, you love your work, you love doing it, money is always good as a freelancer when you don’t know what’s around the corner. Of course it won’t damage your health. Of course you won’t eventually break.

The result of accepting too much work. You break. You make yourself sick. You send angry emails. Start crying in the middle of the day.

The solution. Say no sometimes. Take a day off. Take another day off. Switch off that computer. And the other one. Is that your phone?! Switch it off.

4 Don’t be too hard on yourself

Jobs end. There can be chemistry issues. There can be ridiculously coincidental occurrences within a company you know nothing about, and cannot control. Design tastes change. Project managers move on. Budget issues out of your control.

The result of being too hard on yourself. If you over analyse why a job didn’t work out, you’ll pull yourself to pieces.

The solution. Relax. Forward not back.  Sometimes there is no lesson to learn. In the freelance world something new and exciting is just around the corner.

5 Don’t forget to take good care of yourself

It is easy to get side tracked into concentrating on your business, your clients, finding clients. Easy to lose track of your business’s most important asset. You. A healthy mind and body is far more creative, and productive. You don’t need to suffer for your art, that is a myth.

The result. You will lack energy, focus, and become unhappy, and eventually depressed.

The solution. Eat well, eat healthy, drink water, get exercise. At the beginning of your working day, say when you will stop. Take in some art, music, friend time. Walk in a park.

6 Don’t forget to enjoy the ride

As the saying goes it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that’s important. One of the great parts of the freelance experience is that journey is almost never ever dull (apart from bookwork). Embrace it, enjoy it, hire an accountant. Life is for living, and experiencing.

The result of forgetting to enjoy the ride. There can be so much stress with freelancing you can’t see the good stuff.

The solution. Have a contented smile on a Sunday evening, as you may or may not work Monday morning. Your choice, your freedom.