A freelancer’s confession

How it all began…
Freelancing has always been something I wanted to engage in. The fields of Print and graphic had caught my attention ever since I first started using Photoshop and Illustrator. It all began when a cousin of mine who is a printer by profession, asked me to design a couple of logos for a music event  company, ever since then I have received many such opportunities via him to experiment and vent my creativity. Besides the part of me being able to  earn small revenue, what these opportunities had to offer were amazing. To begin with, several  of these orders were a test of my creativity. Time  constrains and design specifications were something I never worried about till date. Deadlines and final finishing was something that I only realized after  a couple of rejections. Basically these were the first steps of mine into graphics arena. Besides that, I had opportunities to design graphics and Print media  for several college events and volunteer services which I offered to the youth magazine. These platforms helped me explore more options of building my  skills. These two years was a period of learning for me.

It wasn’t long before I joined twitter that doors for exploring graphics was thrown open for me. Twitter had so much to offer that today I am a  Twitter addict. I have gained tremendous knowledge and skills using twitter. 60% of my ability to build out of the box and take a canvas and transform it  into something -I owe to the talented groups and individuals that share it on twitter. Twitter was the first place I actually got to communicate with  freelancers from different parts of the world. Soon after I was hooked by the graphic web and network I made a blog. Initially I dedicated it only to  Photoshop. But later posted content on various media such as illustrations reviews of graphic softwares and video editing tools. After a fairly long period  of sharing and learning, I termed myself as a freelancer on twitter.

Not aware of various factors that were needed to be considered I went out head on. I didn’t have a title or a website just my mail, twitter handle and LinkedIn Profile. Not much happened but later, something sparked. I happened to be introduced to someone on twitter who needed a couple of logos to be designed. This was my first time that I had received a client without a third person. Soon we got on the phone and met up. In a few lines I ended up bagging the order and ultimately getting paid for it. But the reason I am writing this post to tell you how horribly wrong I was in calling myself a freelancer. Confused? Well I was completely unaware of what awaited me ahead. To be more specific here’s what I mean…

Give me brief history of your background…

Ok here’s the very first thing the client asked me. Slightly dazed and confused, I didn’t exactly know what to say. So I rattled out all the history of my growing stages as mentioned above. My very first wrong move. I didn’t have portfolio ready and organized. I didn’t have any history timeline to quote. So I landed up saying a lot that I shouldn’t have said.

What I learnt:

1.)    Build a website that showcases your portfolio and contact details and basic bio. For example.

2.)    You need to have a title that you go under. For example JCreations or Magikarts. A logo and letterhead is a must.

3.)    Have a short summary of your work always ready to explain how skilled you are.

4.)    Your portfolio must be accessible at all times.

Show us some of your work and give us a quotation…

This is where I destroyed 80% of my chances. At that time most of my work was on Behance Network. However some of my good work wasn’t there due to technical issues. So I hurried and uploaded everything on Picasa and linked my client to it. Very unprofessional, but I was saving my boat from sinking. When it came to the quotes, I didn’t know how to shoot. Since till date all the payments received was given by my cousin and I never interfered in that area. So I didn’t have an idea what to do. However I managed to convince them into carrying the conversation forward. My luck was really good.

What I learnt:

1.)    A portfolio is what you wear to your meeting. Have it ready 24×7. Select your showcase wisely.

2.)    Have a separate mail ID to deal with clients to reflect your professionalism.

3.)    When a client wants to take the conversation forward grab him tight and pamper him. What I learnt here very importantly is: Prepare a small write up about yourself along with contact details and necessary bio. Along with that prepare a client info sheet. Put this together and mail it to the client. This gives him a picture that you are there and active. You look more professional and the client can also fill in the info sheet which you can collect later when you meet.

4.)    The main idea in having a client database is that you have a record for your work which supports your title as a freelancer later.

5.)    I didn’t do this so at the end of the day when the client had finished all the work and payment we were both happy, but I didn’t have any proof of my work done for him on paper.

The first meeting….

We decide on a nearby location to meet up and discuss the order. The 2 major mistakes I made was, my location selection and time. My laptop battery died in the process of talking and there were no available options to charge it. The location I selected was very noisy and crowed. The time was late evening and both of us had to hurry after some time.

What I learnt…

1.)    Chose your location wisely and pre think about it.

2.)    Make sure your hardware is there supporting you all the time and never lets you down.

3.)    Save your battery during conversations by hibernating

4.)    Silent it is the louder your discussion gets.

Please change this, We don’t want it that way…

Ok after my meet, I had the idea in hand and now I had to begin making the samples. I never gave an estimate and never took an advance or kill fee. Big mistake here. A week into my designing, the client called up and changed the concept. A week’s worth of my time was wasted.

What I learnt…

1.)    First get a proper quotation sheet ready which describes your rules and regs.

2.)    Make sure you take a kill fee of a small amount so that just in case the client cancels the order, your efforts don’t go unpaid.

3.)    Get a deadline set. Be careful here don’t be in a hurry and mess up your schedule.

4.)    Mention how many times you are ready to make changes in the samples after you designed them. Some clients expect you to make changes more than 8 times after the second meet. Nothing wrong some make changes till the client is happy, but your quotation should justify your effort here.

5.)    Always call up the client and keep him posted on the progress. If early in finishing it, call him up. It only shows how efficient you are.

6.)    Another thing that just struck me was, when I the client needed some technical explanation I didn’t know it. However thanks to LinkedIn Groups I managed to connect with a large group of designers who helped me out. So always have a network of people whom you can count on.

Ok the amount is fine when do I pay you, and how will you give them to me?

Finally after several changes and the losses I ran into the final order was ready after 4 seating which each lasted for at least 3 hours. More mistakes happened here. I didn’t have bill ready to give him. I didn’t have a cd rom to burn it on a disc. So I just landed up taking the cash in hand and mailing him the order.

What I learnt…

1.)    Have a bill of sale ready with your logo and title.

2.)    Mention first itself that no mail transactions will occur.

3.)    Either get a pen drive or more professionally burn it on a disc for them.

4.)    The bill of sale accounts for your work.

5.)    Give them a thank you note and also a feedback form.

6.)    Contact them after a week and check if they need any changes in the logos or designs for their site etc. So this way you create a bridge which will bring them o you in future.

7.)    Also if you are on sites like LinkedIn ask for a recommendation for your work.

8.)    Incase in unavoidable circumstances you have to mail the order. Like in my case where the client dropped his pen drive on the way. I uploaded the order to a mail, but asked him to pay me before I hit the send button. I than allowed him to access his mail and check if he had received the mail before he left.

So this is how a long tiring journey ended up. I however ran into a loss since I had designed more than what he paid me for. But this was an eye opener for me. Now I have begun getting things organized for my further clients. Just to break it down here’s what you’ll need…

1.)    A website or Showcase containing bio, contact details and your portfolio.

2.)    A title, logo, letterhead, E-mail ID .

3.)    A PDF of your history and a client information sheet.

4.)    A quotation sheet with all the rules and possible combinations of payments. Importantly types of format provided. Number of seatings for changes, deadlines, and your kill fee.

5.)    Suitable locations to meet clients.

6.)    A bill of sale ready.

This is how I plan to move on in this field. Everyone has their way I have just shared mine. It may seem right to some or wrong to some. Please comment and share your opinion so I can learn.

Freelancing is not a cake walk. It’s a lot of work. Think about it. Don’t just tag yourself or you’ll land up spelling it wrong like me.