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Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 2 of 15

Skills to be a Great Freelancer


Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 2 of 15

Skills to be a Great Freelancer


Lesson Info

Skills to be a Great Freelancer

So you're running a business and I want you guys to really understand that this class isn't isn't about designed this class is all about the business stuff that you're going to need to know and I think that that within that there's four skills that you have to have you don't have to be great at these but you have to know that they're part of running a business you confined help if you're not if you're not, you know good at them if you don't like them, you might also want to find help because why why you don't go into business for yourself to do stuff that you hate right? Like, you know, I didn't like my corporate job now my freelances designer it's so amazing and I spent all my time doing math and accounting and I hate math that doesn't seem that much better um so let's talk about what those skills are um so the first one is marketing next one business development on we talked a little about like, what does business development? We're going to talk a little bit more about what that wha...

t that is today? Um, project management, this is a big one um and the last is accounting math oh designers and math doesn't do guys like math I mean, I appreciate it enough I like don't get me wrong, but I I just you know, I'm not that great amount out. Sit. Uh, eso let's go a little bit deeper on each of these four. The first is critical thinking, um, you're going to have to think critically about the opportunity, right? What is this project? And and how does it show up in the world, you know, is the client, uh, are the client aspirations like, achievable or riel? Right? So you're the critical thinking is your point of view about it. Can I do this work? Can I help them, like, be successful, you know, can they be successful without me? Am I the right person? You know, you're going to have to think really deeply about. About what? What thes potential projects are. The next is research. You always have to be prepared. You know, if you're talking to a new client, you better have gone to their website before you have a phone call with, um, you better have looked them up on lincoln, right? You know, and this is just in the kind of winning business part of things, or having a good business report, but also researching the space let's say you when the project and and, you know, it's in, um real estate it's a website for a real estate company, you may be a great webs web designer and totally able to do that, but not know anything about real estate, really. And, you know, you gotta get at least a basic primer and and understand that, um, the next this solid communication skills, you are going to be communicating a lot, a lot of e mails, a lot of phone calls, a lot of conversation, and I really believe in the conversation part of it and the clarification part of it, because ultimately you work for yourself and you have a certain amount of hours in the day you have financial goals that you want to achieve, and you don't want to be reworking and doing things that that, um, are to address miscommunications or a lack of understanding between you and your client, because that's wasting your time, right and that's that's wasting money on dh. So I communicate as much as you can up front because you're clarifying, and you're really getting tio a distilled, shared understanding of what it is that you're going to make and dio and then the work is easy, it's when it goes the other way, it can be it can be tough, so ability to present your work until, uh a present you work with confidence and tell a story so I have a story about telling stories on and it is that when I worked at zynga we worked on redesigning the logo and the designer that we worked with was extremely talented he's absolutely amazing and one of the challenges with the logo was that um because zynga's a game company there's a lot of game art that the logo has to appear on so it's very complicated bright colors lots of stuff going on and then how do you put a logo on top of that right it's it's messy visually it's a cacophonous environment and and so he put the logo in a square, right? He put the dog in the typography in a square and he called it the containing shape and the thing about the containing shape wass it elevated the conversation from I don't like square why is the logo in a square? I don't like squares. It looks weird in a square right everybody's opinion about the squares and he talked about how because the logo was in this containing shape, it could protect all the clear space that it needed around it. Locals usually have clear space and that's part of when you hand out often guidelines, right? So how much negative space is going to go around the logo but he'd double that by putting it in in this box right and then he talked about how then that logo would be elevated from the plane of the games and it would be that that zynga the company was was was, uh providing the provider of the experience, right? I still remember all of that he told us all of that beautiful, articulate, self like now all of a sudden we're on this journey with him about about what this logo is designed to do, right? And it's not about like I don't care if you like squares this local has a job to do, and we all know what that logo's job is. I wish that we can all be is brilliant and masterful as a cz he is but it's, that kind of thing, right? You're going to have to sort of I think through the process of that you're taking this client on this journey and you're going to have to navigate some of that subjective conversation around work than the last one is empathy so and the fees a big thing, empathy is a big thing and design empathy is a really important big thing in life, but that really means and understanding of someone else's, feelings right really being able to understand someone else's, feelings and it's important to understand what your clients feelings are definitely, but what I think is more important is is understanding the audiences feelings as well right so as a designer it's your job to hear something and then you conjure that thing up until world right I mean what other job is this cools that I think they're probably some but it's really in your photographer and what other world of what other wait can you spend your time in life that is more amazing than then having an idea and like manifesting it right like making something in service of creative expression is so cool but but you have a little bit of responsibility in that you know, a client may say that they want the business to grow this way or do this and they want you to design this but you have to understand how that's going to resonate with the audience and make sure that you're an advocate for the audience to and the way that you do that is through understanding the needs of your audience right? So you're kind of your understanding the task in the job but you're really paying attention to some of the emotional aspects of the work too um so business development what is business development I don't even know I had to look it up no eso eso but this is a dictionary definition and uh actually I think this is from a forbes article um and so the definition here is business development is the creation of long term value for an organization from customers, markets and relationships so this is about uh understanding how your business is going to grow where to find your audience right this's about understanding what you're what is unique to your service offering and how tio howto convey that to potential clients and howto win work um so ability to find audience for your service offering who needs what I dio you know right um I um am I just a really amazing illustrator and all I want is advertising clients right? So where are those advertising clients who are those advertising clients how am I going to get on the advertising clients radar um where do the advertising clients the people who hire illustrators for the advertising clients where do they look for people right where they looking for um uh for illustrators how am I going to get myself there what I did to do to get myself there pitching in winning work right so really be able to describe what you d'oh and getting in a room and convincing people of that or getting on a phone call in convincing people of that vision to create partnerships so this is about uh I think when you're an individual freelancer this is about finding people that have a complementary skill set to you so that maybe you can team up with them and when on dh when bigger projects so you know you might do on ly front and design and you might need someone who who can dio coding for you and you're going to go to a meet up and try to find a partner in that so the next time somebody approaches you about and to end you know they need they need something designed and quoted you're not going to say oh jeez, I can't do that you're going to say this is so great but it's the business development hat that you're wearing that would have had the foresight to understand how to create long term value for your business long term value is how to grow at howto win work how to do things that you're not doing now howto how to improve that part of it and the drive to hustle s o we talked about not being introvert it's totally okay if you are an introvert, by the way but you got to challenge yourself to get a little bit outside of that or find strategies that that work for you to make sure that you're you're getting yourself out there I'm so project management do as do a project management for yourselves or is anyone of practicing freelance designer here right now yeah do you do project management I mean as much as I need to my projects are pretty small yeah yeah yeah do you take on more than one project at a time? Yes for sure. You d'oh yeah so um project management definitely hot you need to where do you find yourself doing it? Uh do you know you're actively doing it or it's just like something that you kind of dio I think it's just something that I kind of dio. Yeah, not that great. Yeah, yeah. I think if you are a designer, it's highly likely that your systems thinker, you know, right? We just we make a list of ingredients, whatever those design ingredients are, and then we apply them to a set of conditions over time, right? But you're trying to keep that as consistency. S so I think the the kind of systems thinking the planning is innate to a lot of designers, you know, just how you approach the work when you think through things, but scoping projects is really, really important, right? Scoping projects is important because, um, you want to know before you say yes, that it's probably going to take you a week or two weeks or three weeks or whatever it is because you need toe load, balance the work that you're taking in to keep yourself, um, uh, employed right to keep yourself going. So you need to load balance on. But you also have to develop this kind of muscle that will happen for you over time to figure out what your what your paces. You know, I'm fast it designing logos, but I'm really slow it doing web websites or I'm a terrible illustrator, so I would just would never even take that on and find somebody toe toe help me with that, um, the next is understanding how to prioritize so I think in your example, you know, every client thinks their thing is really important and, you know, and you have to be able to figure out, like, ok, today I'm going to dio, you know, half a day on this client half a down another client or actually, you know, client b is going to have to wait, um, you know, until next week, because I simply can't can't do that this week, um, ability to calendar the work and understand how it's going to unfold, right? So, you know, again, is it going to take two weeks? You know, what are the steps that are going toe that are going to get me there? Um, skill that managing time and scope so you have to manage this for yourself, so not only are you are you a freelance designer, but your your boss so so now that you know that your boss like do you really want you like the employee version of you to be spending twice as much time as you know you're getting paid for to do something or do you really want your employees you to be working nights and weekends because you know you just can't like you just couldn't get the stuff done or you know, it's too much or whatever that is so you have a responsibility to yourself as your boss is the boss of yourself to be the lost yourself on dh then good at explaining what's going on so, um I think part of keeping your clients happy is being able tio let them know you know, take them on the journey with you let them know where you are in the process uh uh, you know, reporting to them clearly and not the bad stuff like, you know, if the printer didn't work and you know, and that's why you're late and, you know, you ran out of ink and all that stuff not important, not that's an overshare, you know, I mean, depending on your report with the client, but I think you always want to make sure your clients feel that they can trust you and that you that you can have that you have the work handled it's ok to admit that things have gone wrong but they're not your friend right and I think they might become your friend but but it's your job t really have that empathy again and tried to communicate to them the things that that you know that they value and are important okay, so does anyone use base camp? Uh, yeah, you have yeah. So so base camp is a project management tool online and it can be used for collaboration and it can also be used just independently and when I first started freelancing again about a year ago um I, um uh, a project I was working on with a group of people they were using base camp and I just decided to use it for myself. I had so much going on that it was just like too many things to keep track of and I had stuff in email and I had stuff all over the place, so this is just a screen shot which is a little bit hard to see, but but at the top there's a discussion area. So so instead of being an email, you know, and you're you've got ten other client emails going on um ten other threads and it's like, oh, client b is like all the way down here because all of this hole the other thing is happening in my in box you know, all the discussions are clustered theirs to do list I'm like a big list writer for myself. I have lists everywhere. I have it on my phone. I have, like, a piece of paper everywhere, but this is meant to be your only to dio you can upload files so it's a it's, a really cool tool, but there's lots of other tools out there there's something called a sauna that people like a lot there's even more robust tools for for teams like pivotal tracker. And but, you know, if project management is not a strength of yours, or if you're looking for a tool that can help you there, there are things that can help you. It doesn't have to be like, total inbox, chaos. Um, the next is accounting, so you have to be able to plan and run your business. Financials? How much money do you want to make what's your overhead? Uh, what's your problem, but arjun, these air, all decisions that you're going to decide for yourself, um, we're going to go through them a little bit in a little bit greater detail. You have to be able to track and manage your time accurately and your expenses. So some of the clients that you work with are going, you're going to work on an hourly rate, and you have to be able to track that you have to write down your hours. And I remember as a as a designer, when I worked in house some places wanted us to track her hours, and I was like, totally against it. I just thought, like, other spying on me or, you know, whatever it is, um, and I had to do it anyway, but it became really instructive, right? So this in this ability to scope projects that we talked about a little earlier, you have to know you are your boss, and you are your company's only resource right on resource means employees in this instance, and you have to know how much time you have available, how much time it's going to take you to do stuff. And you want to get good at predicting that for yourself and developing that, that level of accuracy and that muscle, the other thing is expenses. So somebody, the things that you d'oh for your clients, you're going to negotiate and that your clients pay for. So you have to have a good way, tio, keep all those expenses in one place and in a system for that, um, and in voicing in a timely manner, so the other thing is you're in charge of not only now but you're not only your bus and deciding what it is that you're going to dio um and how you spend your time but you're also the person who has to go out and say now it's time to pay me and when you asked to be paid from the business the way that you do that is through an invoice so I used fresh books for that there's lots of other tools out there I like fresh books because I can do time tracking and I can have my expenses I can invite people in you know, if I hire subcontractor I can put them in fresh books for that and even when I tracked my own time so even when I tracked my time through a company's time tracking system, one of my clients right now wants me to track my time and something called pay mo s o I do that, but I also track it in my fresh books account because I want to have my own records of my business for the year and this is a way that I do that I think it's ten dollars a month or something like that and I think based campus may be free for the first project or free for, you know, a period of time and then it's ten dollars a month if you have lots of information in there um okay so got jack who's ready so we know these four skills right? We know marketing business development project management and accounting right we just talked about that and you guys did a little homework um and I asked you to rate on a scale of one to five how good you think you are each of those four skills and how much you like it so was there a brave soul that would like tio come up and share anybody you want so e o do you want to come up or do you want to sit there and feel sure okay, look, I cannot stand here yeah awesome spreading this town yeah remember? Okay he did also okay. So marketing how good do you think you are? Um actually probably think I'm best at that but I was still rated myself a three okay so why do you think you're going to do it because I actually worked in a marketing job before school started doing freelancing on do cinematography but I still find similarities with the design but also enjoy it. Lugo okay, good. Okay. Okay. So marketing check can't get what business development I also set a three but I don't think I'm as good at that okay? I feel like I'm there's a lot that I need to work on okay with developing my business on dh can you think of one thing that that you would d'oh different services yeah, I mean, I guess I I think I need to be a little bit braver in the hustle on finding clients and just having more self confidence and skill so that is my big thing this year is self confidence thing is really huge only in the last couple years have I really focused on my bio and writing my bio and I've done a few speaking engagements in the last few years too, and I gotta tell you saying my bio out loud the first couple times freaked me out like it's really scary I don't know what it is I don't know I think it's I don't know, but I think we all struggle with self confidence and, um the more you do it, the more easy it's going to be for you. Yeah, and the thing is you have the skills and you have the experience. The only thing that's missing is your ability to take ownership of that, you know and like practice in front of the mirror and serious practice in front of your friends like like you're going to get there? Yeah, so business development you probably think you're ok, but you don't like it or you you dont have always worked under people and s o I want to kind of get to a place where I feel confident on my own yeah get myself yeah, and the cool part about business development that I like to is I like meeting people and I like being able to connect people and I like being able to draw on those relationships and experiences in other relationships and experiences so let's say that your cinematographer yeah, he said so let's say that you you know I don't know if you read it or not but let's say that you didn't at it, you know but you you needed an editor and so you started going and meeting editors and this that and the other thing you know, you might never make a partnership with one of those editors but that editors going to refer you or the experience of having met that editor you know is going is going to get your next cinematography job or whatever that is, you know? So so you just you might come to them for something but in but they may actually and that might not work that they may come back to u s o I think once you kind of get in there it's actually really cool and rewarding, ok, yeah ok project manager it s o that I also read it myself but a three but I I'm still trying to figure that out as well with the business development I felt like they went hand in hand when it came to cinematography yeah so we need to get a little bit better on that her time tracking yeah stuff along those lines which I know is also accounting yeah totally do you like project management actually dio I think I could be much better at it if I really tracked myself and I think I would really enjoy it you know I have I feel it has the potential to go up to at least afford yeah ok good I just need to practice it yeah ok well I know you could go to five on all this stuff yeah yeah totally and then what about accounting that was a big old one I can't stand e I get started county either in fact I like I think I bought like financial planning for w I should do that yeah right on by I have paper jim press the small business and I think I also took a webinar on like small business accounting on it still didn't stick and I hired a bookkeeper like I just like I don't know you know so I think it's good to investigate that and it's good to understand what that function does for your business but you know if you're not good at it and you don't have to be amazing that's the other thing is you just have to have the competency in it and I think what you do have to be amazing at knowing is whether it should be do it like it's not gonna work for you don't feel that you have to do it, but know that toe have a healthy business. It has to be someone has to be doing it. Yeah. So outsourcing would you yeah, or tried to like fresh that's our quick books or something like that? Where where it's those tools are designed to basically do stuff for you. All you do is enter your information like, you know, this was my expenses. This was my time, and they generate all these reports for you. Just great. Yeah, which are like things that I didn't even know existed, like a piano that's a profit and loss statement you're like, what is that? But actually right, but that's a report that tells you about, you know, the financial health of your business. And so anyway, eh? So I think that there's definitely tools out there. Will you tell everybody like your name and you have a what they're yeah, you're cinematography stuff. I my name is courtney custer on and I am a cinematographer. Freelance photographer on my web site is see castor just my first last name, c k o e s t e r inspired dot com cool and you can find me easiest on instagram at cb castor awesome. What kind of work to do? S o I really like lifestyle cinematography. Yeah. I like telling people stories and really giving people the platform to be their authentic self and so seeking out opportunities to do that. And whether it's business, whether it's, someone's wedding and they're sharing their love story or just in interviews in general, cool. So cool. Thank you. Here for me. Okay, so much. Yeah, for one. Okay, do that. Okay. E o you inspired me? Well, there's two people in class named jen. So you gotta cheer tio. Okay? All right. Ready, marketing, marketing its I gave myself a three for both how how good I am in it and how much I like it. Okay, um, and mostly because in the corporate world, I have a sales and marketing background, you know? So I'm pretty comfortable. And even if I'm not great at certain areas, I actually sort of like, doing the research and figuring a kind of what's happening. Yeah, I do, too. Yeah, so? So I feel like, you know what? I don't know, I'm I'm actually kind of happy to learn. So yeah and I feel the same about business development a little bit you probably don't have the skills so how good my I give myself to yeah but how much do I like it it's probably somewhere between three or four yeah I mean it's sort of in between marketing and business development of sales right and I do not like anything that feels like sales it makes me super uncomfortable um but there's kind of a lot of power in it you know like you know when people are really good at it like oh that is so cool I want to be able to do that um so yeah, I think we talked a little bit about this yesterday too but but curiosity can kind of get you through that and I like that information to like even hearing j p yesterday talk about talk about where he draws where he drew his kind of advice from is kind of crazy but it my interest right? You kind of you know you want toe I just learned what's out there and then taken you know for yourself what you can so okay project management so project management is probably the least experience and and to be honest with you I think I'm so new at and even with freelance photography of how long things we're going to take that that's kind of I probably the biggest place that I have to grow so I'm probably at a one yeah and I don't really I mean, I'm a pretty organized person but in terms of software to in the back end of things I really do need to learn how long things will take yeah so I've kind of got it actually down tio I know certain things I could do like I could do head shots quickly and and I couldn't take them well enough that actually there's not a lot of back end and people are happy yeah, right if I wanted to expand that though and take on more work yeah, I think actually I would have to learn yeah, a little more about how long what projects to take? Yeah, which is what you were talking about earlier so in terms of the project management thing, I think one thing that you could do is, um um first make your guess right, you're going to be wrong but just make your guess on dh then like, double it and then see how you d'oh you know what I mean or on benefits like, oh my god, that was not even enough then triple that the next time, right? But you're going to have to have some way tio teo, develop that muscle for yourself and you know, as you do more freelance photographer, you're going to get faster over time anyway, but like I just think put it put a line in the in the ground and say, you know what? It's going to twenty hours this time I'm gonna lose money on the job because I underbid the hours maybe but you're definitely going to learn from that and you're not going to do it next time we're going to do better next time you know you're not going to make the same mistake next time next time you're going to do it in a different way and the other thing is ghetto free fresh books account or something else and track your hours so just start recording and see like gosh, um I thought I was fast it doing head shots and it turns out like that took me all day yeah, you know or something like that yeah, what about accounting accounting it's decent but at some point it like I pass it off but I sort of I mean, I'm I do quicken from my own personal accounting so I kind of to be honest like I know what software I'm comfortable no good good, which I sort of feel like they have to battle yeah definitely receipts know what software yukio and then I would probably like you at some stage it will get it'll be a little like project ridge we'll get some say she'll be like, ok, yeah, this is too much for me yeah yeah definitely I definitely feel like like when I heard you guys talking about confidence I would say my confidence level is going to come somewhere between the project management in the accounting like that's where I need to step forward in terms of sales like it in all the relationship building stuff I'm confident yeah and and I'm interested in yeah that feels natural to me yeah I love that you are so clear about that for yourself that's really cool yeah it's amazing yeah you so you're a freelance photographer will you tell everyone about your freelance photography yes oh actually so what I love to do is help people get their belongs and website started by actually really capturing their essence and helping them tell their natural story cool like their bio you know who they are, why they started their business what they do during that jones so I have a website it's jen baxter dot com I've done a lot of travel photography to spend some time traveling and lifestyle but I really love sort of people and working with people and so what I want to move into moore is helping people with the their businesses getting their their next step started by really like you know captured kind of who they are and what they're doing and you don't tell their story visually yeah you might have some clients in this everybody john baxter thank you so much thank you I love that you guys are coming up with me, but other people in the hot seat, right? Yeah, okay, cool. Yeah, and this is in the deck on dh. Hopefully, you know, anybody who's at home, you're doing this for yourself, right? S o really take the time to do it? I'll take you like, five minutes, but I think it's very instructive and I think the helmet she liked doing it. It's worth uh, considering that as well, right? Because you, even though you're running around business and you're you're an individual it's likely it's ok to ask for help from free from other services that are complimentary, maybe it's real answers, maybe it's, other services, it's online tools, but but it's absolutely fine to do that. I used to think like if I was doing the work, I had to do everything. I had this really weird, like I have to do everything I responsible for everything but it's absolutely fine. Tio to find people are services that can help you.

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.