Going Freelance – My Second Year as a Self-Employed Designer

This summer will mark the end of my second year as a freelance designer and I’m still here to tell the tale! After a short spell away from my regular blog entries and launch of my new portfolio website, I’m returning to my “Going Freelance” diary to discuss my year. Hopefully this will give you some helpful pointers and insights into the world of a freelance designer (and being self employed in general) as well as to help myself by going over what has changed throughout my second year as a freelancer, what I’ve learnt and what the future holds.

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Design Agency vs Freelancers

As a designer, I often get asked what is better, freelancing or working at a design agency? To be honest, there is no correct answer but there are certainly perks and pitfalls of both. In this post, I’ll share my honest opinions based on 4 years of working at an agency and 2 years of professional freelancing.

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New year. New look. New website.

As most freelancers will know, the hardest task in their world is balancing paid work with their own creative personal projects.

Having launched my freelance (business) brand identity and website in late 2013, I have since been pondering when is the right time to change the look and feel of my brand to be inline with my development as a freelancer. From overall aesthetics to streamlining the services I offer, this has all become clearer each day I have worked as a freelancer.

Finally, that time has come to launch my new look portfolio. Showcasing a selection of my latest projects from Digital Design through to Print & Branding. Along with a brief snippet about myself as a designer and the road I have travelled, there is a running blog which will be updated regularly with articles on my experiences as a freelancer and anything design geek related. mrgreen

Visit: thedesignhat.com for more of my work and what I do.

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Freelance Thursday is back for 2015!

As part of the 2015 re-launch of my #FreelanceThursday initiative, I’m once again offering my design services and expertise, free of charge, to charities & non-profit organisations within the UAE, one time only, each month throughout 2015.

Last week I was approached by The Old Library part of the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Center (DUCTAC) to help with some re-branding work.

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How I survive as a freelance graphic designer

I have decided to write this as I have been asked so many times in the past month how I became a Freelance Graphic Designer that I started to analyse ‘How the hell am I working?’

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Say hello to Freelance Thursday

Freelance Thursday is a new personal project of mine where I’ll be offering my design services and expertise, free of charge, to charities and non-profit organisations in Dubai. I’ll be doing this on the last Thursday of each month, starting on the 31st of October, 2013.
I’ll advise, critique and generally help out with Web Design, Web Development, Logo Design, Social Media Strategies and all things creative, in house for 6 hours on that day.

I plan to be able to select a new charity each month, and write a detailed review of what the charity does on a daily basis along with what we did and how we did during our time together.
The main reason for me doing this, is to emphasise and show smaller charities that they can and need to embrace the digital and design technologies available to us today. It could be in the form of responsive web design, social media interaction or simply keeping a blog up to date.
If you’d like to make a request to book me for a Thursday, then please contact me as soon as possible and I’ll check my diary for the next available slot.

Kindly note, I won’t have the time to make it to every single charity who contact me, so if I can’t schedule you in for that month, I do apologise in advance.

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A little look at my freelance logo design process

I recently got asked why my logo design process seems to differ slightly from many other freelance logo designers.

I don’t take your money up front, run away for a week then present you with 4 polished logo designs to choose from. We’ll first agree on a budget. I’ll draw up one design, present it to you, you then offer up some remarks for me to then run away again and make several rounds of alterations and changes. After a couple of days, I come back to you with a more complete logo. This usually follows with a few more changes before completing the project and releasing the artwork. Finally, hoping to get paid.

The more commonly used approach you’ll find out there for many freelance logo designers and branding agencies in Dubai is slightly different. There is always a set cost in place for a basic logo design, with full payment usually required upfront. The number of ideas and revisions provided to you over the allotted project time are usually limited to less than a few. With possibly some extras thrown in like basic stationery designs, letterheads and business cards to help cushion the deal.

Don’t get me wrong. This process is solid and it works for many clients, so in no way is this a bash at this approach. I am merely outlining my own approach and how it differs from the above. This can be, for some clients, a more interesting and enlightening hands on approach.

It’s your brand.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a set price package so to speak. I know how long the process should take but I strongly feel it’s not for me to determine how much a client should place on the branding of their company. If their image is important to them, then I would like to see some input on their part rather than me suggesting a price. Only they can put a true value on their business.

No contracts.
As my business is very much focused on small business & start-ups, I’m not really in the need for them at the moment. They do say that they give you and your client peace of mind, but I think it’s a wasted peace of mind. Perhaps as the business grows and the scope of the projects intensify, then I will re-visit the contract issue.

Revisions, revisions, revisions.
Once I get the verbal commitment from the client, the work starts. I will take the brief handed to me and start the conceptual design process. Starting with little sketches and ideas, the tinkering begins. I usually like to show the client at least one early design concept, just so they can confirm we are on the right track. If we are, great, if not, back to drawing board with their feedback noted and addressed in the next revision and there on after until the completed logo is finalised.

Flexible payment.
Payment upfront can be an easy option for most freelancers to offer their clients. Whereas I prefer to offer a 7 day payment option prior to the completion of the final design.

Every step of the way.
I pride myself on my personal service and with each client I like to ensure they are fully informed and involved every step of the way throughout the design process.

I hope this gave you some insight into how I work part of my freelancing. Everyone has different methods, so this is by no means a ‘you should do it this way’. But this is tried and tested in my books and greatly becoming a flexible way of working.

For further inquiries regarding logo design or any branding work, please contact me directly at: danny@thedesignhat.com or if you want to hear a friendly voice, give me a call on +971504570247.

Freelancing : What’s it really like and why I took the plunge

Every freelancer has his own history that led him to his true passion, which then turned into a dream job. This is a little insight into my brief experiences as a self-employed web and graphic designer.
The life of a freelancer might seem somewhat idealistic, but in reality its hard work and your work ethic, and your willpower needs to remain strong in order to ultimately succeed.

Prior to becoming self-employed I had a pretty regular working lifestyle. I worked all day 9 till 6, came home and usually had more work to do then. This was my life for a good five and a half years. Working for some of the largest design agencies in the UAE, this was an important time and life experience for me as it taught me the basic fundamentals of which I rely so heavily on today. However, it started to get a little tiring and I saw freelancing as a way of easing up this hectic work schedule and starting a new chapter in my career. I mean why not? I had gathered all the necessary skills and know how over the years, why shouldn’t I take a slice of the cake?
The thought of running my own business really excited me but also posed a great challenge as well. Not only would I need to do the actual design work, but there’s also the need to manage the finances, prepare the proposals, find the clients & also get those deals sealed. This is a lot to take on when you are used to having multiple resources and man power available to help collaborate on a project. Now it was just going to be me. It’s a frightening thought but as I found out it’s all about time management and adapting strong organisational skills to your everyday routine. In a way, I find this is the most enjoyable aspect of freelancing.

Being self-employed I have a strong responsibility to ensure that each piece of work I undertake is completed on time. How I manage that time is entirely up to me. If I want to leave my desk and got to the pool, I can. If that means making up the time by working into the early hours, that’s fine. As long as the deadline is clearly set, completed and delivered by then, who is to argue? Mostly, I have been trying to stick to a fairly standard 9 till 6 routine, mainly so that my life doesn’t completely go out of sync with others around me. The freedom to choose when and how much work I do is a fantastic feeling and that’s what really sold this gig to me.

However…

There is one minor downside that I have noticed. Freelancing can usher you into quite a lonely everyday working environment. Generally I’m very happy with my business and don’t get fed up easily, but being on your own Sunday – Thursday can start to test your ability to maintain sanity. To help alleviate this, I often head out to my local coffee shop or business hub and treat this like my mobile office. This a great way to meet other freelancers, take meetings and a puts you in a more creative and buzzing environment than that of your bedroom.

One of the greatest surprises when I decided to go freelance was the fantastic support I received. Before I decided to go freelance, I did take the time to asses my options and really examine if this really was the correct move for me. I wasn’t sure at first and it’s never easy leaving a secure working environment for something somewhat unknown and usually risky. But after I took the plunge and the support I received through family, friends, emails and work referrals, I was in no doubt it was the correct decision for me.

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Freelancing: My early experiences

The term freelance comes from medieval mercenary warriors, called “free-lance” because their lance was not sworn to any lord’s services, but was available for hire.

The assumption straight away is that a freelancer has the freedom to do what he wants, sleep as long as he wants and take time off whenever he wants. Yes ok, this may have been a small slice of what I experienced early on in my decision to go freelance but in reality, once the honeymoon period is over, we all know that freelancers have to work very hard in order to be even slightly successful. This is what drives me.
From my own, although brief, experience, leaving full-time employment was probably the best decision I ever made for my career. My decision to leave my secure, safe, job was not easy and I did deliberate for a few months before I took the ‘plunge’. I knew that the competition between freelance designers in Dubai would be right up there but I was determined to work my hardest to get my name out there and stand out from the crowd. Yes, this meant not only competing with other freelancers but also established design agencies.

Not having a strong portfolio was always a concern when I first started out. It’s was a typical Catch 22 moment: you can’t get clients without a portfolio, and you can’t build a portfolio if you don’t have any clients. However, strangely enough over the past few months, I found that none of my early clients even asked to see mine! Right now I’m very much reliant on people’s recommendations but over time my portfolio will become more of an essential asset as I look to get on board with some more established brands or look to sub-contract to other agencies.

I have purposely set the bar high for myself and only time will tell if it’s asking too much for just one person, but early signs show that there are plenty of potential clients and exciting work out there. A combination of an ever growing network and name recognition is what will help propel the business to the next level.

Danny