Ups and Downs of a Freelance Designer

Working for yourself can be immensely rewarding but it's also straining on your mental state. As a freelancer you're constantly striving for consistency but IT'S HOW YOU HANDLE THE down TIMES IS WHATS GOING TO MAKE YOU STRONGER in the long run...


Within a month of each other, I had parted ways with two long-term clients. I thought that I could bounce back quickly, make some new contacts and go on to bigger and better things. I didn't think it would take me as long as it did to get back on track. I thought the work would just come knocking at the door. In hindsight, this is part-and-parcel of being a self employed freelancer (as to one employed by a recruiter). I needed to be better prepared for this type of situation, mentally and financially.

With a big chunk of my work gone I had to start building my relationships from the ground up again. I felt I was only just keeping my head above water. I had lost my confidence and I started stressing about money which led me to over-quoting jobs, which meant I missed out on jobs, which then made me worry about money again.  It was a vicious cycle...

I couldn't keep going on like this. It started affecting my home life. I became grumpy and I over analysed everything.  

Something had to be done!

I started by doing some short-term freelance gigs in design and ad agencies. I hadn't been back to an advertising agency for a couple of years so the fast pace environment was a good distraction. It also got me thinking about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be - it wasn’t in advertising…

I also started to look after myself better, physically and mentally. I got back into my daily running and took up meditating (I’ve been a little slack lately). I started feeling good again.

I know that this is how it will be as a freelancer (the ups and downs) but I had a new found confidence and started working on ways to ensure I didn’t fall as hard again. I started contacting potential clients, shared more of my work and made sure I had back up funds for any slow months. It was a slow process but I’m now in a good position. I have new clients who are awesome to work with and I’m not as grumpy anymore.

What I realised is that I can’t take anything for granted and sometimes doing something different can help you see things from a different view.





I started getting questions about the ins and outs of being a freelance graphic designer. What would you do here? How would you approach this?  How much do you charge? and so on.

Most of the questions were from other Graphic Designers and like me they had been working as designers for a long time but were relatively new to freelancing or weighing up the option of going freelance.

I'd been freelancing for about two years and for some reason they wanted to know how I did things.  I guess I've had a mix of different experiences from in-house studios through to working with my own clients and I'm also a bit of a nerd when it comes to the admin side of things like estimating, invoicing and tax (most designers despise that stuff).

At the end of last year I knew I had to start using my Instagram account for the greater good (and not just selfies).  I didn't want to throw up quotes from famous designers or just show off my work, I wanted to help people, make some sort of difference and show-off my knowledge and experience. So I thought I'd post freelance tips weekly (mostly fortnightly and sometimes monthly). 

I started writing down everything I had experienced. Everything from getting started to working with recruiters, from finance through to dealing with rejection.  I want to talk about what a freelance Graphic Designer goes through on a daily basis.  Our industry is all about the work, the agencies and the clients, which is awesome, but rarely is there any information about how to deal with the business and personal side of being a freelancer.

I can easily say I love everything about freelancing, even with all it's ups and downs. From being too busy to not having any work to being able to arrange my deadlines so I can spend time with my family.  I get to work on a variety of projects and get to work with amazing creatives and wonderful clients, I can't ask for anymore (except a few more clients - hint hint).

I will continue on with my freelance tips each week.  Hopefully you get something out of them.




Freelance GRAPHIC Designer: Just the beginning

Just over three years ago I was inadvertently forced into freelancing.  My wife was 35 weeks pregnant and we already had a two year old. I had to bring home the bacon somehow.

It came as a surprise to me when my boss at a small advertising agency in Sydney called me downstairs to his office.  He was there with his business partner and they just simply laid it on the table - 'our business has slowed down and we need to make some cuts' - 'unfortunately Michael, your position here is no-longer needed'.  All I kept thinking was how was I going to tell my pregnant wife (and what I was going to get for lunch - now that I had the afternoon off).

With the baby so close (and a redundancy payout) I didn't panic or worry about getting work straight away, family came first. That week I sent out emails and text messages to everyone I knew saying that I am now available for freelance work (or another full-time job). I was at home for two weeks before our daughter decided to join us.  As the parents out there know, all of your emotions are mashed into one, it's a crazy time.

First pictures of Lacey, born just two weeks after I was made redundant

First pictures of Lacey, born just two weeks after I was made redundant

Now with the family settled in back at home it was time for me to get back to work.  I was out getting nappies when I received a call from an old colleague asking if I was available for a days work.  'Yes!, when do I start'. That one day turned into a 4-day a week gig for the following month. It was a great little agency with an amazing team...

Getting made redundant can be a shot in the arm, it can knock your confidence. A mate of mine told me at the time that most people are better off after a redundancy, he was right.

After that first job I started getting phone calls from prospective clients and more freelance jobs via my recruiters and direct contacts, things were looking up.  I was able to get a few of my own clients and even hooked up a 3-day a week 12 month contract.  Freelancing gave me the time and flexibility to spend more time with my family and work on a variety of projects. I was loving it.

It hasn't been easy balancing work and family but I've now been freelancing for just over three years and even with it's ups and downs, I'll never go back to permanent work. I know it's not for everyone but it's worked out the best for me.

Thanks for reading my first ever blog post.  I will be writing more about freelance life.