Profile of a Freelance
by Colleen Gratzer
See our complete schedule for this series
graduated college in 1997. My degree is in Foreign Languages, and I had four
classes left to finish my BFA in Graphic Design, but I took the job for the
experience instead of finishing this second degree.
I'm glad I
did. Just two days later, I started a graphic design job that I had found,
all because a temp agency's name had been listed incorrectly in the
Internet. The name had included graphics in it when in fact they never got
design jobs, but then found me one shortly after!
this first out-of-college job after two years and did freelance work for
them for several years
after, at which time the work was given to a friend of the new executive
director. Though that client was then gone, my former boss had moved on, and
to this day, I still do work for her and her employer.
full-time at a couple publishing companies and a design firm until 2004.
Meanwhile, every time I switched jobs, I continued to do freelance work for
them. My customer base was growing.
In 2003, I
got a very steady and well-paying freelance job from a person I had worked
with at a full-time job.
I was still at that company, but they were not. They offered the job to
another former coworker, and it was not his type of work, so he suggested
me. I was given the job. It was quite time-consuming, and it took up a lot
of my lunch break at my full-time job to get done. It was a full-time job in
itself. But I loved it.
time, I decided then to become an LLC business. Then I got a free fax
number. I set up my website. My company had "officially" begun. But I still
worked a regular full-time job. Although I had thought about it for a year
already, I debated even more leaving my full-time salaried position. I'm
very conservative. I was afraid to take the risk. Would I make enough? What
if I didn't find more work? Working for myself was something I had always
pictured myself doing. I had gotten bored at my "job," and I had grown tired
of feeling like a lower man on the totem pole at the job, with no room to
I mean, I
had been freelancing "on the side" since 1999, and full-time jobs were no
longer meeting my expectations.
I was handling a lot more responsibility and getting more satisfaction once
I was home doing work for my clients, putting in another eight hours in my
day, every day of the week. In September 2004, I left my job. I had to do
it, or else I never would have.
I knew I
was made for this, and when you know that and you find yourself, you will
excel. I have been through a lot of headaches, sleepless nights, with other
asking me why I was putting myself through this. I had to use sick time from
my full-time jobs to sleep sometimes. I had some problem clients that kept
me up all night sick with worry.
I have had
continuous work, and it seems the more time I have, the more work I get.
I can't complain. I love being busy. I would suggest to others who are
trying to do the same thing to:
Constantly read business and design books, books about dealing with clients
and certain types of personalities, software books, etc. Subscribe to
industry magazines. If you are a designer, get design magazines (HOW,
Graphic Design USA, PRINT, and a lot of them are free!).
If you are
a woman, get business magazines related to women. If you are a Mac user, get
Macworld. As an entrepreneur, you might read Fast Company.
Sign up with a free web directory. Ask for testimonials from current
clients. Join associations not only to learn and to have as a resource but
to network. You never know when you will meet a potential client or a fellow
designer who will need someone to contract extra work.
3. Ask for
feedback from your client once a job is complete.
Interact with others who do the same thing, as much as you can.
Sign up for email lists. You can learn a lot from other people, even if you
find they are asking you for help most of the time. You can learn from each
other's mistakes and experiences, and get vendor recommendations. You never
know when you might need to hire them as contractors when you are too busy.
you have a client who might want to see design comps of different styles.
5. Look at
yourself as a partner, not a vendor, to your clients.
There is a problem with a solution to be found, and the one who can find it
will get the jobs. Put yourself on the same side of the fence with the
underprice your work just to get a job.
It sets the tone for clients thinking they can talk you down in more than
price. They will not respect you or your principles. You will go to bed at
night not feeling good about yourself (and one reason you are doing this is
to feel better about yourself, isn't it?). They will be the type of client
to look at the bottom line only and never at the quality.
work for people who see the value of your work, not for you being the
cheapest guy in town. You won't make money that way, and you will find
yourself wasting so much time (which is money) babysitting those types of
clients. Someone once told me that clients who are willing to pay more,
value you and your work more. It's true. Just be reasonable.
your clients an incentive to refer you to others.
And be sure to always ask for referrals; don't assume you will get them. I
put little blurbs in a box on invoices. It's free advertising!
there is more I could say, but this should be the bulk of what I want to say
based on my experiences. I am open to receiving feedback and questions.
and breathe what you do, and others will see that what you do you do well
About the Author:
GRATZER GRAPHICS LLC
**** Award-winning design ****
Member: :: National Association of Photoshop Professionals
:: Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington
:: National Women's Business Center
:: Editorial Freelancers Association
phone: 301.503.1834 :: fax: 815.572.5721
[ graphic design ][ web design ]
[ database design ][ Mac support ]
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.
InkwellEditorial.com is the
Business Portal For & About the Editorial and Creative Industries:
Recommend this series to a friend!