Flying into the Freelance Profession: A few queries...


New Member

First of all I'm a newbie here to this site and this post has been adapted from an email so apologies if this is in the wrong place or if it sounds a bit disjointed at times.

I'm a young aspiring designer looking for some freelance job opportunities in my town and just have a couple of queries about how I could get my name out to a few of the small businesses around my local area in order to grab the interest of a potential clients possibly offering work now if not in future.

My main question is relating to the marketing process. First of all I was thinking of taking a direct approach of emailing, sending letters, business cards, etc to the business owners marketing my services with links to some of my work but then I began pondering, how acceptable is this? For example would they think ‘oh we need some designs done for such and such, I could search for designers online... but hey this guy emailed me a few weeks ago, he’s local and proactive I wonder if he would be willing to do this job’ or would they take it more as being an arrogant approach and therefore be less likely to choose me over other perhaps less local designers?

My other key question is relating to payment methods and options. For example how would I go about negotiating pay? Would it be a wise idea in any first time emails I send to potential clients to mention payment at all or should I keep that bombshell for later emails following that frightening “first contact”? This is a particular issue for me as being young (under 18) and with the multiple ‘work experience’ programs set up in Britain (basically you do a week or so ‘voluntary’ work organised by your school) I don’t want to have a commission that the client thinks is going to be free only to then inform them that it is not.

Any and all help is welcome as well as any other tips for a 'youngster' getting into the industry ;)

Hi there.

A direct approach is definitely best. Clients won't come to you, you have to go to them. If you don't already, get an online portfolio set up and show off some work so people can see what you're capable of. There are lots of free options out there. I suggest something like Cargo.

Secondly, I wouldn't mention money until they are interested in hiring you. Have a figure in mind and be prepared to tell them if they ask. Also, you should always be confident asking for the amount you want. If you're not, you will likely put people off or they will try to negotiate you down to what they think is a more reasonable price (which believe me, is never reasonable). Try to be flexible, but don't let people take the piss. You're providing a service that people should be prepared to pay for. Be prepared to take a price hit and do some shitty jobs at first whilst you're learning the ropes, but always try to act like you've been freelancing for years. Act like a professional and you will become one.
^ Sage advice, as ever.

On the marketing issue, your approach sounds fairly conventional to me (and fine so far as it goes) but I think you'll find it easier to convert unsolicited contact into actual engagement if you can set up meetings: as the cliche has it, people buy from people.

Re: negotiation, people (certain types of people at any rate, but there seem to be a lot of them) will always try to beat you down on price but if you set a figure that's genuinely reasonable and back yourself to deliver the goods then you should be in a good position to start things off: do negotiate within reason but always be ready to use the value of what you do as a negotiating tool to help keep things sensible - and be prepared to walk if people want to take the piss. All very easy to say, I know, but widespread anecdotal evidence tells us that, if you start low, you'll probably have to stay low (or certainly face a massive uphill battle to get things back on track).