Being a freelancer is filled with uncertainty. One moment you are earning good income and handling multiple projects; the next you can be in the red due to a lack of clients. However, that doesn’t mean you just accept things as they are. If you can reduce the risks of freelancing, you will be that much closer to long-term success.
IT’S A BUSINESS
As a freelancer, understand that you are your own boss, which means managing freelancing as a business. Everything has to be handled by you, from promoting your services to squaring your books.
As someone who has been in this field for a few years, I notice that a lot of freelancers are actually making money with substandard work. Why’s that? The truth is, business sense is often more important than talent. Of course, you must have sufficient skills to produce work that meets the client’s needs. However, having the business chops will allow you to go much further as a freelancer.
Invest time to work on your freelance business, rather than in it. You might be handling many of projects and making a lot of money at the moment. However, business is a fickle thing. If you rest on your laurels and don’t make the effort to grow your business, the competition will overtake you in no time, especially with so many graphic designers out there.
GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
On that note, a lot of freelancers have their priorities wrong. They think that growing their businesses means spending most of their time browsing job boards and chasing clients, engaging in so-called ‘busy procrastination’.
On the other hand, successful business owners have clear visions of what they want to achieve and will take active steps to get there. They also strive to provide the best possible service to their clients, and in doing so, grow their businesses naturally through word of mouth. Most importantly, they never give up and will always find creative ways to overcome any challenges that may arise.
It’s not that hard to build a successful freelance business. For a start, plan ahead and set goals that will bring your business to the next level. From there, focus on improving your services and delivering value to your clients. At the same time, don’t forget to provide good support and communication. You might not realize it now, but client relationships go a long way. If the client sees that you are sincere in working with them and aren’t just there to cash in the money, most of them will come back and — even better — bring referrals.
The world of graphic design is always changing; visual trends can come and go in a matter of months. As a freelance graphic designer, it’s important that you strive to improve your skills and increase your knowledge on a regular basis; take time to pick up new skills and stay on top of the newest trends. In the long run, a better and more diverse portfolio is one of the best ways to attract clients who are willing to pay more.
In order to improve as a graphic designer, you have to hold your work to a higher standard. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your fellow designers. Constructive criticism is never a bad thing — it steers you away from bad practices and towards good ones.
TAKE A BREAK FROM TIME TO TIME
It’s no secret that you will face a lot of stress as a freelance graphic designer. So many unexpected things can happen to make your day a bad one: a client refuses to make payment; you don’t have any projects lined up; a design doesn’t meet your expectations… the list goes on. In the midst of worrying too much, you might not realized that life has passed you by.
You might find it hard to justify taking a break, but it is important to do so for your mental health and social relationships. Freelancing can make you feel withdrawn and lonely, so spend some quality time with your friends and family or reward yourself with a weekend getaway. Also, consider investing in hobbies unrelated to graphic design. By taking a break from freelancing, you avoid burnout and keep your stress levels in check, which results in better productivity in the long run.
DEVELOP PASSIVE INCOME
As stated earlier, freelancing is a career that’s filled with uncertainty. Projects come and go, and you will have days when work just isn’t coming your way. Unlike a traditional job where a monthly wage is guaranteed, you don’t really have anything to fall back on in terms of income stability.
As such, you should develop some form of passive income. After all, there are only so many hours in a day to work on projects. For a start, consider selling creative products on marketplaces like Envato, which is very popular among designers. If you like to write and share your ideas, creating a design blog is a good choice as well. In any case, start as soon as possible since you never know when the extra income might come in handy.
LEARN ABOUT FINANCIAL PLANNING
Freelancing means losing all the benefits of a traditional job: health insurance, retirement savings plan, paid vacations, and more. As both employer and employee, you have to make sure that you are making enough to pay for and cover such benefits. If not, then you probably aren’t charging enough.
A benefit of being your own boss is that you get to design a benefits package that is customized to your lifestyle. For example, you can choose health insurance with a high deductible to save on monthly premiums. Likewise, by learning about the investment options available, you can make smart choices and achieve financial independence faster than with a typical company plan.
In addition, the importance of frugality can’t be underestimated. By living simply and economically, you will have less financial stress, and can instead focus your energies into achieving success in freelancing.
See also: When to Start Freelancing
REMEMBER YOUR TAXES
Yes, that’s right — you must declare and pay your taxes. It’s imperative that you learn about the tax policies for self-employed individuals based on where you’re located. For example, in the United States you have to withhold your taxes and account for SET (Self-Employment Tax).
Never evade taxes, or you will face a lot of trouble in the long run. There are many freelance graphic designers who fall out of the game entirely due to tax problems. Don’t be one of them. Instead, try to pay your taxes on time and seek assistance as soon as possible if you can’t.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TURN DOWN PROJECTS
You might feel obliged to take on many projects as you can in order to earn more as a freelance graphic designer. However, there are times when it might be wise to turn down a project. Maybe you can tell from the very first meeting that the client will be difficult to work with. Or maybe the job seems uninteresting and doesn’t really challenge your creativity.
In short, it’s about weighing your pride and passion as a designer against the money you stand to make. Everyone has different standards, and you know yourself best. At the same time, don’t overwork yourself by taking on too many projects.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelancer is being passive. Clients won’t come your way if you don’t actively promote your services. In fact, the more active you are in marketing and seeking the clients you want to work with, the less you will have to deal with bottom-feeders who only want to save a few bucks.
As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. Do your research on the many marketing techniques out there and start promoting your services as soon as you can. From there, find out what works and what doesn’t, then alter your strategy accordingly. The marketing landscape is always changing, so don’t stop learning and experimenting with new techniques.
In reality, overcoming uncertainty as a freelancer requires a lot of discipline, determination and dedication. However if you keep pushing forward and aren’t afraid to put in the work, then success will surely follow.