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Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 15 of 15

Mistakes, I've Made a Few with Carola Ponce


Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 15 of 15

Mistakes, I've Made a Few with Carola Ponce


Lesson Info

Mistakes, I've Made a Few with Carola Ponce

I would like to welcome my really good friend coral upon say who is an amazing user experience designer and brave enough to come and talk about some of the challenges that she's had early on in her freelance career this is the second time that she's freelance so please welcome karla hey how are you? Great thank you so much for having me how you look at somebody thanks so I will read your bio okay es eso corolla is an experienced visual and interaction desire for over a decade she has designed digital products applications websites, prototypes and brand systems for start ups new browns as well as fortune five hundred companies in a robust agile teams focused on user testing and data driven interactions concentrating on the user has been vital in creating intuitive, simple and always beautiful design solutions. Corolla has successfully deployed projects in a variety of fields including sas fashion education human resource is an environmental conservative conservation along among all the ...

browned she has designed among the branches designed for include intuit, ebay, verizon, symantec and san francisco state university so wow awesome that's amazing. So what is sas just so people know what that isthe software as a service ok? So online applications that work more as a software that they do is a website yeah and I happen to also know because carol and I went to grad school together that she has a passion for storytelling and also you know, for people who have been displaced um I really drive of projects that have to do more with human content or human stories um I'm still trying to figure out how to find the proper projects to work on that relate more to social content but you know, I've done many different projects for and where I have more many different hats for different companies um I when I freelance I really try to match some of my passions with the work that I do and that's one great thing about freelancing that sometimes you can do projects for money but I think you could also I locate a little time to do projects that are subject matters that you really care about yeah, we talked earlier today about about I'm not having just your clients pick you but but actually picking your client's right? So deciding I'm going to focus you know, on these types of projects on and I'm not going to do these other kinds of things I was at a conference a few months ago and there was this phrase that was mentioned that really resonated with me the money that you leave on the table says as much about you as the money you take on it hasn't worked really well from like I am not doing this wonderful projects and they're paying I'm just still trying to figure it out yeah, totally I love that um I'm going to start thinking about like gunmen and go through a mental checklist of money that I've left on the table I think maybe I should leave more money on the table so okay I have some questions um and like I said I really appreciate your willingness to be able to talk about mistakes because I don't think we talked about those enough and um you know um it's really important it's really important to be able to share um ah those kinds of lessons and and yeah, I wish I had gotten some of this advice earlier too so corolla what are some of the biggest mistakes you made early on in your career and your freelance career in terms of setting your client's expectations um so to some notes and brown it's mental notes but one of the biggest mistakes I've made is estimating how much to charge a client especially when I just started to take on independent clients because as a freelancer you have the ability to work for large companies where you go in and you're freelancing but you're really a contractor and you're there for three months or you're there for a year and then they they pay you really good wages that sometimes our past what you would be making in a full time employment situation but when you take in small clients which is what I do often you kind of have to give them a quote and then when I first started I was really trying to please this clans and some of them came prefer from other people that I knew in the industry so I really wanted to build out this reputation and I wanted to get them to pick me so I would lower the price or I would say, oh, I would you know, be willing to do this whole branding system for x amount of dollars but I wasn't thinking about how long it takes to get it done how many sets of revisions you have to go through or how to limit the sets of revisions because I would say, you know what? This many hours we can collaborate and get this project done, but then they always wanted to change things that way so definitely, um figuring out how to charge for your work was one of my biggest challenges at the beginning and I learned the hard way and then I read books and I talked to other people and borrow contracts that they had put together and created my own contract that works for me now but took many operations to get there. Don't you also have a point of view about never learn your hourly rate? Did you tell me that I did someone else tell me that that's coming up in my grill about the things that I wanna yeah suggests okay, okay, we'll get that have you ever missed a deadline? So I'm gonna public e I know someone who did e I was in a situation where I was working with a middle size client, and it was somebody that I knew that had hired me because they knew I could do the job, but the job wasn't just to design a web site, it was like to fully build a medium size, forty page, more or less website, and I knew the client really well, um, but I understood that a lot of times, clients don't they know what they want, like we really want a website that works for our purposes, but they don't really know what they want like they I didn't know what structure of content, what type of content had a defined the target audience that they were really trying tio create this content for, so I knew that ahead of time, what I did is I created a set of reviews and brainstorming sessions with the clients and with the stakeholders that they had identified as the content owners for different parts of the site, and I was really hoping that allocating that time and allocating sometime in my budget of what at my proposal to them, um, that I could extract a lot of that from them, kind of where my business hat and or my content strategy, yeah. And then put that together and, um I had to contract other people to get this project and so I contacted um developer who was not on site, so it was me it was like my reputation I was representing my company that I put together for this project the client was really laid on content because even though we did everything that we did, uh, they understood what their portions of content and what kind of feedback they were going to come back to me with, but they never did, so I kind of had to be e mailing them, sometimes they happen to be on local so I would go, you know, to their place of business and say, hey, can we talk about you don't have this port year and we want to start on the building face and we've already gone through all the revisions, so it was a lot of my time sounds like things were just snowballing, right? And then my and then on my other side, so this was like probably the worst situation I had to do with my developer who was not on site he this person was on a different coast and, um, I was not getting the work from that person because I wasn't paying for a retainer. We just talked about how much it would be to get this much support done and then, you know, this person was getting more work elsewhere, so I was able to mask the fact that it wasn't so much our development time because the client to close, like, yeah, at the end of the day, we got ah, website that the client was really happy with and they were really grateful, and they knew the extent of work that I did to make sure that all the components were there, but then my time oh, yeah, and that was a time I didn't get paid for. Yeah, so it sounds like things really snowballed and maybe you were in, like, a little bit over your head just in terms of, you know, you thinking that you could align the client around the content that they wanted and side note, creating content for, um, digital products or experiences or even books or brands takes a lot of time, and oftentimes clients don't understand that, and so they've they think that but they're buying a website from you, and that means that they're you're actually going to, like, do the writing and the writing might be you know their company about statement, you're not going to write that for them unless part of your engagement with them is about helping them craft their business strategy right? That's something else that that they have to give you that information you're not going to do that for them. So so it sounds like things really snowballed for you and then on dh then you just ended up kind of blowing the amount of hours and so then all besides, your hourly rate went like, do my hour wait either dropped significantly or I just worked like an extra week or so for free? So what? What uh would you do differently if you did it again? I so some things that I've learned from this situation and other situations is that the contract that you draft is really important for you, but then it's something to go back to the client and say, oh, by the way, you signed this contract where we agree that after the second review, if you needed to see more options or if you wanted to change direction thing, you would start paying me by my already rate and that exponentially orders that I'm guessing that if you want, you know another web that will be like another fifteen hours or if we need to have another brainstorm, I'm happy to do that I can set it up and then um I'm just estimating that doing that and the levels of revision will be this amount of money so just setting up the expectations ahead of time making sure that they go through that you yourself understand what can go wrong and include that into your contract make sure that they sign it and something that I found that I think kind of establishes some type of psychological on boarding like if you ask for some of the money up front I've found that clients tend to be more on board or more likely to participate in all of the different deliverables that you're requesting from them yeah yeah money psychological in fluids uh yeah but we were talking a little earlier about working for free and um I think that's a nuanced question but yeah yeah but I have heard you know that some people say never work for free even just take one hundred dollars for it because it changes people's point of view about it so tony advice toe young curl peter came in and he gave advice to his young self and he was like he causes of young peter which it is amazing to see on the coral gets yeah I didn't think of that as a young me well, I'm going I place myself in one of these chairs talked myself but something definitely going off on the fact of how much do you charge or whether you work for free um you know, I did that lower the price and it left like a sour taste in my mouth because then I felt oh, you know, I'm not like really, um advocating for myself and I'm presenting myself in a sub uh, professional manner so from now on, I really either work for money or work for free if there's something you really really want to help what you feel like you know you're going to benefit and they're going to benefit because it's something really close to your heart then just say I can help you with this um but you know, I can help you designed this not to five hundred divisions not, you know, and then work for the money that you have already figure out it's the amount of money that makes you comfortable being a professional and that is going to pay for your bills and that is going to provide you a professional life I think that their situations where the project might be really interesting and the client is honest and they're like, listen, this is all the money I have, you can cut corners and save well, you want a website and you want this kind of functionalities and I don't you know, I don't have a team that can do that for that kind of money, but we can get a template from square spaces and then I can modify it for you and then I can get really great imagery that would make your grand look really great and then you can take it from there and you can edit it or when you have some money build it out more so so we had talked a little bit of a lot actually about negotiating right and managing your client's expectations and so yeah, the person's going to say I have five hundred dollars to pay you and you can decide are you going to be happy with that? We're going to do it are you not going to do it and what what can you provide that works for you within the budget that they have established right? So they're going to ask for what they're going to ask for it but you can negotiate back and say I actually can't do that but I'll spend half a day or whatever it is I'll get you this much further but one other thing is the work that I do is mostly branding and um branding extension to like creating everything that goes together with a design system or I do a lot of interactive work for smart clients which usually it's not uh uh products is more websites but um sometimes you end up doing production work or sometimes you do end up doing illustration work and um sometimes you consider that as the less paid and if you don't pay somebody else to do it you do it yourself don't charge less for that worked like if you have to do three icons don't charge less than what your regular rate would be as a designer as a creative director yeah I think is this your time it's your expertise is two point of view it's your whole holistic approach to the design system that you're selling so dong charge less for any of the delivery bubbles that's just my five yeah I totally agree without your raise your rate and and if they're hiring you to do the full project that's what your rate is it's not like oh well you know that part isn't so hard for me so I mean it's hard to us right no it's what it is you definitely do not have to disclose that you don't have to disclose when your project when you're building by the project that that you that you uh you definitely don't have to disclose when you're billing by the project that you're actually really fast it's something like overshare don't say that yeah totally awesome well thank you so much a corolla that was really great and I think your advice is super solid didn't do we miss anything? There was this one other point that I wanted to make and it's also from our experience I believe that you should really have worked um as a professional and I don't know if you cover this already but we have been talking about you know make sure that you have several years under your belt before you become a freelancer I think it would be much more successful if you do that yeah, totally awesome. Well thank you so much this was totally amazing I think you were here awesome. So let's see, we're in the home stretch thank all of you so before you get into your last final contact information where they were going to reach out what are some things that you really just want everyone that's been tuning in from home to go walk away with from this oh yeah okay last final thought that just kind of really drives it home for you. Okay, well, I um a softy s o I actually wrote something down aah oh god. Okay, so first I want to thank all of you guys for coming and participating in paying attention and having, you know, great input and dialogue um and I really want to make sure or hope that you found this information helpful and useful but I want you to remember that you guys can do this and I want you any time that you feel afraid I want you to some in your curiosity right? So I'm just going to get curious about it it's not going to be an obstacle to me and um I believe that design is an act of courage, and I'm really proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you. Yeah, so, thank you. Good. Okay, I'm so where can people find you? Oh, yeah. So that's me and I mean arianna at area in orland dot com. I'm on twitter and instagram and that's my personal website, and then some information about paper jam. So inflow of paper. John press dot com area on a paper, john press dot com on twitter and instagram and then the you're all for paper jam. Great. And then, chris, our offer hosts for today. Well, but that information there for the children. So you guys can write that down. Thank you so much for being here with us. The day flew by so fast. Thank you to our students remain in the studio here with us today.

Class Description

You need more than technical skills to make it as freelance designer. You have to know how to land projects and keep jobs over the long haul. Becoming a Successful Freelancer with Arianna Orland is your guide to managing the logistics of freelance life.

Arianna is a freelancer doing business in the saturated market of San Francisco and knows exactly what it takes to get and keep clients. In this class, she’ll cover the tips, tools, and strategies you need to have in place to be successful as a freelancer. 

This class covers:

  • Branding: Guidelines for creating a design language that’s right for you
  • Collateral: A roundup everything you need – website, business card, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Clients: Building your client list and keeping them happy
  • Finances: Keeping up on taxes and budgeting
  • Management: How to stay on top of your projects and time

Freelancing gives you the flexibility you won’t find in a 9-5, but it comes with a whole range of responsibilities. Find out how to prepare for those in Becoming a Successful Freelancer with Arianna Orland.


Will Vu

I watched the free live and can't help myself by purchasing this class. It's a valuable lesson from a humble and humorous Arianna. I love your presentation very much. Wish u the best. Thanks or bringing us this course, CreativeLive. !

Cherice Pope

Arianna gives real advice on deciding if the freelance lifestyle is right for you by describing what it's like, business skills you will need to learn, doing a gut check with yourself, how to get clients and promote yourself, and discussing a variety of experiences with other designers. She also goes in depth on differences between working at a company versus working with a company as a business. Her information is clear and wonderful. I greatly appreciate the time and effort put into making this valuable course.


Thank you Arianna for an informative course. Its heartening to know that there are other designers like me that don't come out of design school :) Your guests were a wealth of information as well, specially Peter's bulleted list.