The Business of a Freelance Designer

Tales of a creative entrepreneur in the world of freelance graphic design

February 27, 2017

As creative entrepreneurs, we've all seen them. Red flags. The small signals that are suppose to warn us- don't work with this person, don't take this project. They come in all shapes and sizes, some bigger than others and hard to ignore. But then there are those tiny red flags that you see, but choose to ignore. 

The reasons for ignoring these tiny red flags are plenty. It could be you need the money, or work is slow, or the infamous promise of more work, steady work, down the road if "things work out."  Take it from me, things rarely work out.

I've ignored my fair share of red flags. And the only place it got me, was spending more time, making less money and being disrespected along the way. What I've learned is that you have to respect yourself and your business, otherwise no one else will.

Here is a short list of red flags that you simply cannot ignore, and some dialogue that may help you navigate the conversation.

1. Always late.

If you accommodate clients who are consis...

January 10, 2017

This time of year, we practice the abstract art of the resolution. Everyone vowing to exercise more, eat better, work harder. I don't fall for it. Well, good health is always smart. But for me, every year (every day) I have the same goal. Guilt-free happiness. Tricky thing about being happy, if you're not use to following your happiness, there is a side effect, it's a real buzzkill- guilt.

I know it sounds strange.  Guilt?  Let me break it down for you. We're freelancers, which means our daily schedule is very flexible, and so is our income. Sometimes work is so hectic, I'm in the studio around the clock. Other times, work is slow. Now everyone that runs their own business, whether big or small, knows that when business is slow, you've got to take that time to network, market yourself and continue to build and enhance your brand both on and offline.

My internal dialogue:

If I don't put 100% of my time and energy into this business, then I'm not giving it my all.

Wait, b...

September 8, 2016

Well, here we are. The end of the summer, and the end of my experiment in lifestyle design. In my last post, we discussed the life of an entrepreneur, and how it is full of blurred lines. You are always working. Even if you're not working, you're trying to network to get work. But isn't that the opposite of why I got into freelance in the first place- a flexible schedule and the ability to travel whenever I want, work whenever I want and live wherever I want?  It was time to make good on the lifestyle design I created.

A huge part of what intrigued me the most about the life of a freelance designer, was the flexibility. The ability to take big chunks of time off.  It allowed me to travel more, play more and discover more about who I am and what I want to do with this thing called life.  Certainly, I love what I do, but my work is not my life.  My life is my family, friends, music, art, travel, hopes, dreams, spontaneity and discovery. So why do I feel so guilty when I'm not at work on a...

June 18, 2016

I'm a freelance creative consultant and graphic designer.  I make my own hours, my own copies, my own coffee, etc. If I want something to get done whether it's marketing, sales, IT, administrative- all tasks are done by yours truly. I'm a great employee and an even better boss. I love to work. I want to work. I am my work.  When the work is good and challenging and the people I'm working with are as passionate about the project as I am, then life is a dream. I'm walking on air.  All is right in the world and I feel like the luckiest, most successful gal on the planet. 

When there is no work, whether for a week or for a month, I stress out. No matter how well I did on the last project (both monetarily and creatively), I always feel I'm only as good as what I am doing right now. And if I'm doing nothing, I'm nothing. It's not true, of course. But that is how I feel.  "I am failing. My business is failing. What business? Your not even working." Seems silly, bu...

March 28, 2016

I am a designer.  I am interested in all things creative, and I rarely discriminate when it comes to the medium being used.  I am inspired by many, many things.  I pull inspiration from everything I see, hear, and experience, whether it's the lyrics of a song, the color of a room or a conversation. But sometimes the inspiration well runs dry, and you need a place to go to get the creative juices flowing again.  So here are a few places I go to get inspired, when the night turns into early morning, and my creativity needs a boost.


1. Pinterest

It seems predictable, but I rarely start a project without doing a few searches on Pinterest.  Not only does it open my eyes to the beautiful world of creative minds, but it also helps me see things in a different way- perhaps using a different view point or media format.  


Last week, I was in the middle of researching anchor illustrations for one project, when I came across the image of a message in a b...

January 19, 2016

Everyone has one. Like your shadow, it follows you wherever you go. It's known as your personal brand. Like it or not, your personal brand is, in large part, derived from the results people see when they search for you online... when they 'google' you.  Don't let the robots create your digital identity. Take control of your personal brand both on and offline.


Every time we go online, we continue to paint a growing picture of our digital identity. This picture becomes a large part of our personal brand, and it is used by employers, recruiters, colleagues and potential clients to gain a sense of who we are. Therefore, it's important to take some steps to make sure you gain control of your personal brand and that it aligns with who you are.


Here are 3 ways to build your personal brand and enhance your digital identity:


1. Explore social media outlets and engage.

If you haven't created a social media presence, now is the time.  LinkedIn should be your...

November 23, 2015


A few weeks ago, I posted a short list of quick tips to help get your resume noticed by recruiters. That article sparked a discussion about the challenge of even getting a recruiter to open your resume in the first place.  What if your resume isn't making the first cut?  



The First Cut

What is the first cut, you ask?  An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is the first cut.  ATS is resume screening software implemented by companies to make hiring easier on internal HR and recruiters. Hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes are submitted for a single job opening. In order to save time, and therefore money, most Fortune 500 companies employ ATS when filling a position. 


Unfortunately, ATS can often be flawed which causes many highly-qualified job applicants to be rejected because their resume is not optimized properly for these resume tracking systems. Here are a few quick tips to get past the computers and seen by human eyes.



No Fancy Headers or Graphics (u...

November 3, 2015


Have you been sending your resume out in response to job opportunities, without hearing a single response?  If you answered yes to that quesiton, you are not alone.  I have heard this from many of my clients, and I will share with you, what I tell them.  To stand out amongst hundreds of applicants, you must present a professional personal brand that is well-designed and remains consistent across all media outlets.  Streamlining your resume, is a great way to enhance your personal brand. 


What is a personal brand?

Your brand is your personal marketing campaign built to highlight what differentiates you from the rest.  If built and managed well, your personal brand will boost your authority position in your industry. Consider your resume as a key tool used to enhance your personal brand package and to separate you from the competition.  Here are a few tips to get your resume noticed.


1.  Good design will gain attention.

Grab the recru...

August 20, 2015

There are one or two months of every year, when my business slows down a bit.  Even the most successful buisnesses experience a lull, whether because of the state of the economy or just a certain time of year.  For me, it's August.  I find a lot of my clients are taking time off, and most of their employees are doing the same.  This is the perfect time to do the things you don't usually have time for.   Here are 5 things to do when business is slow.


1.  Organize Your Files

Rarely do I have time to sit down and organize my desktop.  My client folders are usually in pretty good shape, but my desktop can turn into a horror show if I let it go too long.  I tend to use my desktop as a drag and drop station.  I often see things online that inspire me, whether it is a funky festival poster, or a cool use of typography, and I simply drag it onto my desktop.  After a month or so, my desktop becomes cluttered, and a bit scary looking.  So during a period of light work, ta...

August 12, 2015

Whenever you are presenting concepts, and especially when you are providing your creative services free of charge, be sure to protect your work. Your time and creative concepts have value. You don't want to provide your creative services for free, only to be turned down for the job and later see your designs (or a very similar design) appear on their website weeks later.  Here are 3 simple things you can do to protect your work.


1. Copyright Your Designs

The simplest thing to do to protect your designs is to include a copyright line:  © [Year} and {Your Company / Your Name].  This simple task can save you if you ever find yourself in the position of defending your creative property, 


2. Email Your Work to Create a Timestamp

As an added measure, send the client (cc: yourself) an email with the concept work attached.  Use the client and project name for the subject line, and file in a 'Concepts' folder.  That way you will have a record of the date and time the concepts...