By Travis Leybeck, Associate Director, Corporate Partnerships and Alumni Engagement
I recently attended a panel titled Business of Design: Working as a Designer in the Gig Economy. The event featured four panelists who operate freelance design companies. The panel was moderated by Jen Flaks, Graphic Designer for the NFL, and freelancer herself. Here is some of the advise they gave to those aspiring in the field:
Know What You are Billing For
The panelists mentioned the need to be conscious of your time on a project. Many freelance designers think they are going to spend 40 hours a week designing. The reality of travel, invoicing, and customer service is sometimes lost. Be sure to have that time built in as a consideration for what is being charged for services.
You Don't Need to Figure Everything Out
Erica Brooks, a freelancer on the panel, talked about her struggles starting out. She was overwhelmed with deciding on what software to use, how to handle her finances, and what her branding would look like. It wasn't until she let go that things started to fall into place. Her advice was to just get out there and hustle, you can solve the problems as the come up.
“Work in collaboration, not competition," said Doug Bell, Founder of BrandLoyal. Many of the panelists echoed this statement. In a world that can be competitive, sharing work with connections can help in the long run. If you are offered a project that you are too busy to take on, or are working a project with a tight timeline, offer the work to someone in your network.
Have a Financial Plan or Backup
The nature of freelance work is that it is inconsistent. Most of the freelancers had additional jobs to support their freelancing income. Brooks mentioned that while her income per hour is stronger than when she worked in-house, she has made sure to make lifestyle decisions to keep her finances strong.
Ultimately, being your own boss has some major perks. Flexible hours and work environment, choosing which jobs you do, and being able to ensure your creative voice is heard are many of the advantages of freelancing. And while all of the panelists enjoy their work and would recommend it, all of them also suggested to start in the corporate world. It gives young talent the opportunity to learn systems and software available. From there, it becomes easier to build your design business.