Stuck in a rut.... Am I falling behind the times

Status
Not open for further replies.

SWATTDesign

Member
Hi Sarah, I just wanted to reply to your thread as someone who has been in your exact shoes 4 years ago... My whole career was as an in-house designer for a variety of non-design conscious companies. I always wanted to make the move from in-house to working in a more tradition studio, but was never given the chance as I had no agency experience (even though I've been designing for nearly 20 years!!!). My hand was forced Christmas 2010 when I was made redundant when the economic crash hit. No one was hiring designers and I didn't want to do anything else, so I decided to strike out on my own. It was a very scary thing, and I had some big ups and downs, but 4 years later and I'm now looking to move into studio space and start expanding my client base to bigger companies with bigger budgets.

My advice for you would be if you have a stable job at the minute (even if you're not enjoying it as much as you used to), keep at it and start freelancing in your spare time. Once you're on your feet and earning enough to live on, then more to freelancing full time. The advice that you've already been given of looking to local printers, companies you already deal with etc are all great places to start. I did dabble with various design bidding sites (PeoplePerHour, Freelancer.com, etc) and though I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole now, they did help me get my first few clients (some of who I still do a lot of business with now). So as long as you're VERY careful, they can be a place to start but don't rely on them 100% and stay away from the ones that you have to submit ideas first (only go for the ones that you bid on based on budget and portfolio).

I wish you the best of luck; it's the scariest thing you will ever do, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world now. Just be brave and KNOW that you are good enough :)

Sam
 

Sara-abc

New Member
Hello Sam, really nice to hear from you and to read your message. Thank you. They are really encouraging words and I think you are right in that it's what I want to do. I have thought about going freelance for years. I am in the process of setting up a website for the business. Any other guidance or tips welcome. What were the first things you did? I do have a stable in house job at the moment so I can get started.
 

SWATTDesign

Member
Hello Sam, really nice to hear from you and to read your message. Thank you. They are really encouraging words and I think you are right in that it's what I want to do. I have thought about going freelance for years. I am in the process of setting up a website for the business. Any other guidance or tips welcome. What were the first things you did? I do have a stable in house job at the moment so I can get started.

Hey Sarah,

To be honest, I think the website that you have at the minute is fantastic. Personally (to save yourself time and hassle) I'd reuse that one and just rewrite the copy to be from a more business to business angle as opposed to a personal portfolio site. You're work is great and the way the site looks and works is fine for a starting point. Just think about the text from the perspective of a buyer (we instead of I, why a company should contract you, what can you offer to them that they can't get anywhere else, etc).

Here's a couple suggestions from what I started with:

• Join your local Chamber of Commerce. It's a good way to start networking and it immediately adds credibility to your business.
• Don't forget the planning… many creatives completely overlook things like business plans and marketing strategies. It's boring, but it's vitally important to do. It gives you a benchmark to judge how you're getting on, and also gives you a roadmap as to what you should do next (having a to-do checklist takes a bit of the stress out of it during the first few months).
• It also helps to think of 'you' and 'freelance business' as completely separate entities. It will give you migraines to begin with wrapping your head around it, but it makes things easier as your company grows (things like separate bank accounts, a separate dedicated space where you work (even if it's just an unused bedroom), separate business cards, email addresses, etc). It means that when it comes time to form an official "Company" (for example if you want to bid for any public sector tenders, or you get to the point of needing to hire a freelancer yourself to manage work overflow) you already have that separation in place that's required to start a Limited Company.
• Invest in some studio management software (I use Studiometry, but online versions such as Basecamp and TrafficLive are also good). They'll keep you, your work, and you're client contacts all nice and organised; and it'll give you a much more professional appearance right from the start with uniform invoices and estimates).

Let me know if you want/need any other advice, I'm happy to share my experiences (good and bad lol)

Cheers,
Sam
 

Katedesign

Well-Known Member
You got some really great work - illustrations and all sorts. Your website does need to be changed but it can be a work in progress. I think starting to freelance while employed is fine - but don't let your employer get wind of it or you could be out on your ear! You also received some extremely worthwhile advice here from Sam. Definitely have a separate bank account (the tax man may be interested and you can also claim expenses - travel, business cards, stationery etc). If you can have a separate space to work in that's also a good idea. I've been working at home for just over 2 years having had a print centre, staff, premises etc and wish that we had ditched it sooner, I love working from home!
 

Sara-abc

New Member
Thank you Sam for all of your help and I might get in touch if I need more advice and tips. It's really good to know you've been in the same position as me. I've got to say I feel quite excited to get going. One thing I am not sure of is the payment of work. I know some people ask for 50% upfront, some people don't. Although I am not there yet it's something I need to be wise to. I love being organised so that studio management software looks ideal. Thank you.
 

Sara-abc

New Member
You got some really great work - illustrations and all sorts. Your website does need to be changed but it can be a work in progress. I think starting to freelance while employed is fine - but don't let your employer get wind of it or you could be out on your ear! You also received some extremely worthwhile advice here from Sam. Definitely have a separate bank account (the tax man may be interested and you can also claim expenses - travel, business cards, stationery etc). If you can have a separate space to work in that's also a good idea. I've been working at home for just over 2 years having had a print centre, staff, premises etc and wish that we had ditched it sooner, I love working from home!

Thank you for your kind words, tips and encouragement...
 

bigdave

Well-Known Member
RE payments

Try your best to get into a habit of taking at least part payment up front. initially it'll seem a bit of a pointless thing to do when you're working on £50-£60 jobs that take an hour or so but as projects get bigger and take longer you'll be really glad of the deposit money to keep you fed and watered till the project's complete. It also means both parties have a vested interest in the job, so less chance of the client pulling the plug and leaving you out of pocket.


RE Keeping quite about your new venture

I read a very interesting blog post about this a few days ago. The bottom line was that keeping quiet about what you do is counter intuitive as you should be shouting about your business to whoever will listen and marketing the hell out of it. On that basis don't keep it quite from your employer if you don't have to! Read your contract, if it says you can't design for anyone outside of your employment then think very carefully about how to proceed and how you will deal with the consequences of getting caught. If there's nothing in your contract, then broach the subject with your employer. In my experience, most employers main concern is that you'll be 'stealing' their customers/potential clients. If you can give some level of assurance that you'll be working with and targeting a sector that they wouldn't normally operate in that can often be enough to quash any argument.
 

Sara-abc

New Member
Hello Bigdave, thank you for the response (sorry for the late acknowledgement!). It is really good advice regarding payment. I also told my director that I am working on a website to do some freelance work. He actually didn't seem to mind as my employer hopefully knows I am dedicated to my inhouse role regardless of anything else.

I am in the middle of setting up a business website because it will be nice to separate it from my current personal portfolio rather than alter the existing one. I am still wondering how to incorporate web design as a service, I can customise (brand) wordpress themes, does that count? Or design a simple site to give to a developer. Not sure how to put that one across.
 

@GCarlD

Well-Known Member
Hello Bigdave, thank you for the response (sorry for the late acknowledgement!). It is really good advice regarding payment. I also told my director that I am working on a website to do some freelance work. He actually didn't seem to mind as my employer hopefully knows I am dedicated to my inhouse role regardless of anything else.

I am in the middle of setting up a business website because it will be nice to separate it from my current personal portfolio rather than alter the existing one. I am still wondering how to incorporate web design as a service, I can customise (brand) wordpress themes, does that count? Or design a simple site to give to a developer. Not sure how to put that one across.

As I can't code/develop websites, I make it clear that I design for the web but I am not a web designer.
 

Digon

New Member
Hi Sarah. I'll echo what others said by first saying your work is very nice, so it's definitely not you.

I've been in a similar situation myself but slightly different. My roots are design for print, logo design and typography mostly, with a little web experience now too. Worked in house after leaving uni, then a spell of unemployment followed by landing a job at a small graphic design studio. Worked there for 2 years then went freelance, which was difficult at first but I got a few clients and have kept things ticking since then. Recently I've become bored of working completely on my own and teamed up with a web developer and thrown literally everything in there to start up a studio.

Having a place to call work suits my working style better than freelancing at home and I'm enjoying having someone else to bounce off, as I felt before that I was stuck in a rut working at home. Taking the risk and putting yourself into that situation is a scary idea, but when you're working with another person the burden is halved as you can share costs etc, and you will increase the types of work you can go after as a company/partnership. Have you thought of trying to team up with someone who has the technical skills you lack but needs a designer on board and starting a business together? I found my business partner completely by accident when we were introduced through a mutual friend and he just happened to feel the same way about his situation as a freelancer as I did, then we found we worked well together after doing a test brief for a local charity. So, I don't know how to suggest looking for someone to work with, maybe you could even advertise, or try working with someone you know to see how you got on? Put together a business idea with a space in it for a developer then convince someone that way? This means you can roll your projects into one and both capitalise on both your skills, once you've worked out how they compliment each other. It seems to be working well for us so far although it's very early days (we've only been going for 6 weeks!).

I can only reflect on my personal experiences but whatever you decide to do I hope it all works out... looking at your work you definitely have the skills to do it :thumb:
 

Sara-abc

New Member
Hey there,

Thank you for the message. Positive stuff reading that. It must be hard in some circumstances working at home or on your own and I can understand the need for having a studio and I hope I achieve that in the near future. I guess it depends on home life too. What did you do to get clients to start with?

Thanks again for the encouragement.:icon_smile:
 

Digon

New Member
Hey there,

Thank you for the message. Positive stuff reading that. It must be hard in some circumstances working at home or on your own and I can understand the need for having a studio and I hope I achieve that in the near future. I guess it depends on home life too. What did you do to get clients to start with?

Thanks again for the encouragement.:icon_smile:

No problem :thumb:

I guess it was a few things that got me clients. Firstly, getting around your friends circle on Facebook and asking if anyone has anything they need? Just put yourself out there, I had one particularly big job off someone through Facebook, and another smaller one, plus a lead that went nowhere, all off one post. But I think my luck was in that day!

Also look up networking events in your area. I always feel a bit awkward at these kinds of things but just throw myself in there anyway, and I've made a few contacts that way. Plus word of mouth - ask people you know if they need things or know anyone who does, pass business cards around. Also you could target local small businesses eg. restaurants for new menus, or possibly even a branding package. Or, as I have done a few times, talk friends into needing your services!! :)

I must admit I'm a lot better at networking and putting myself out there since I've got a business partner. It all seems that much more real when you're not only relying on yourself!
 

bigdave

Well-Known Member
I think the benefit to an office/studio space is that it removes the temptation to sit in your pants watching Jeremy Kyle all morning. I've got a mate who's studio is directly accross the stree from his flat, it's so close that he can use his home wifi at work.

I know it's an added cost but it needn't be expensive, perhaps find an office share with some complementary businesses?
 

Digon

New Member
I think the benefit to an office/studio space is that it removes the temptation to sit in your pants watching Jeremy Kyle all morning. I've got a mate who's studio is directly accross the stree from his flat, it's so close that he can use his home wifi at work.

I know it's an added cost but it needn't be expensive, perhaps find an office share with some complementary businesses?

To me it's as much about not being tempted to behave like you're at work when you're at home as it is the other way around. It's just much healthier to have that separation in your life in my opinion. Especially if your desk is in the room you sleep in.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top