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Iím a freelance writer,
graphic designer and photographer. I have more than 10 years of
experience in graphic design and writing. I specialize in designing
publications and enjoy all types of writing. While working on my journalism
degree, I discovered that in addition to writing I loved laying out
newspapers and magazines. I enjoyed having control over the whole project,
words and graphics. During this time, I wrote and designed for college
newspapers and magazines.
After graduation I got a job
as a graphic designer in the marketing department of a software company.
At this job I met a great designer who taught me the basics of designing
more involved four-color print pieces. I learned how to negotiate the
complex corporate work environment. I wanted to return to more journalist
pursuits, so I took a job as a magazine art director. This job allowed me to
combine my interests in writing, editing, photography, and design.
I decided to start
freelancing for several reasons. I had recently moved more than an hour
away from my job. I commuted for almost a year. I wanted to stop commuting
if possible. Although I loved my magazine job, the long hours and stress
started to drain my energy. I started having health problems.
I didnít want to continue on the
path I was going and wake up a few years down the road with all sorts of
health issues. Most important of all, I wanted to have some small measure
of control over my life. I wanted to determine whom I worked with, how
many hours I worked, and how much money I made. I wanted to be able to have
a family and still do the work I enjoyed. I decided I had all the skills
necessary to work on my own.
To build my graphic design
client list I relied heavily on the network of people Iíd met at my
full-time jobs. I contacted my former co-workers and bosses and let them
know I was starting out on my own. Word of mouth advertising works the best.
My first clients came to me through these contacts. Some of these first
clients are my best clients.
Next, I contacted the areaís
temporary agencies and registered with them for graphic design work. These
temporary jobs allowed me to pay my bills and get samples for my
portfolio, while pursuing other freelance opportunities. I continue to
work for temp agencies as the jobs are available and as I have the time. I
watched the newspaper and searched the internet for graphic design
opportunities. I sent out samples, and resumes, and query letters.
Iíve slowly built a client
list and have learned that maintaining this list is a very important part of
being a successful freelancer. I spend a part of each day looking for
new opportunities and clients, and keeping in contact with my current and
former clients to let them know Iím available for work.
To expand my client list, I
decided to expand my services. Iíd always loved photography so I signed
out for a photography class. I honed my skills, put together a portfolio of
my work, and showed my friends and former co-workers. This led to a job
photographing restaurants and venues for a tourism website. At first, my
workload was heavily graphic design and photography oriented.
My writing client list has
started out slowly. I wanted to get back into writing, but lacked the
current samples necessary to get assignments. I contacted a few nonprofit
agencies I was interested in and volunteered to do their marketing
copywriting. I slowly built my portfolio with these pieces. I searched for
opportunities and sent out queries, and queries, and still more queries.
I went from zero clients to three writing assignments in one week. Itís
a slow and steady climb.
As I add more work to my
portfolio, the writing opportunities and pay per article increases. Iíve
learned that with writing, at least, it is a number game. Keep sending out
queries, tailor these queries to the audience, and donít worry about
Iíve spent about five years
building my client lists to the point that I now have full-time freelance
work. Some of this time is a little bit warped because my children were
born in this same time frame. My goal now is to increase my revenue by
improving my client list.
If you are just starting out
on your own think about what you really want to do. What is your passion?
If you are not passionate about your work it will be harder to commit the
time needed to create a full-time job out of freelancing. At first youíll
have to work very hard to get and keep clients. Thereís a lot of
competition. Talk to everyone you know. Work your network or build a network
by joining a club or industry related group. Keep expanding your skills and
keep up with industry trends.
Remember that as a freelancer
you have to withhold your own taxes. An easy way to do this is to take a
percentage of every project fee and put it directly into a savings account.
Talk with a tax accountant to determine this percent. When April 15th
rolls around youíll have the money you need to cover your taxes. Keep
track of your income and expenses. Little things like mailing costs and
office supplies can add up over time. Having a file for receipts will make
tax time easier.
If you really want the
flexibility of being your own boss, be determined. Thereís no right or
wrong way to be a freelancer. There are jobs out there for people with
all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels. For me, being able to combine
motherhood with writing, photography, and publication design, on my own
terms has made all the hard work worthwhile.
About the Author:
Christie Halmick is a freelance writer, photographer and
graphic designer. She specializes in magazines, newsletters and brochures.
This article may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in any form,
for any reason, without the express, written consent of the author.
Violators will be prosecuted.