A few weeks ago, I met up with some folks who all attended the HOW Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago this summer. Every freelancer I’ve met has been eager to know how other freelancers work because we’re always trying to improve our own skill sets. So it’s really educational for me getting to know other freelance designers in the city. In some ways, we deal with many of the same challenges—design challenges, dealing well with clients, looking for new work—but we’re also all very different in our focuses and skills.
One big difference is that a lot of designers I meet don’t have the regular client base that I do; they have to constantly find new clients. I mean, it’s not like the restaurant down the street who needed a full start-up branding package needs another one every few months. The client who keeps coming back for more design because they both enjoy working with you and have the ongoing need is gold in this industry. Because many designers have to devote a good portion of their time to new client acquisition, the amount per hour and per job that they charge must be higher to cover their overhead costs.
In many ways, I’m lucky to have a few stable clients who need constant work. Above, you can see a few of the collateral pieces I’ve recently designed for my clients based on my own season-wide designs. Theatre companies devote a lot of their time and money to marketing—hand-outs, mailings, print advertising, mass transit advertising, etc—because they are constantly offering new and different products every few months in a well-saturated market. I love working in the theatre industry because not only does it provide a steady stream of work, it challenges me to always be doing something new and be constantly improving. If my designs don’t get my clients noticed within the marketplace, then I won’t be working for them for very long.
Some days, it feels like I’m more of a part-time, in-house designer at the handful of companies I work with, which suits me just fine. Freelancing can be a lonely profession, and being welcomed into these companies as a part of the family is a great experience. Sure, the scheduling of projects can get hectic at times, but at the end of the day, I’m very lucky to have the clients I do, especially in the current economy. I’ll take it for as long as I can.