grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

Four Lessons For Being A Better Freelancer (And Person)

November 28, 2013

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I’ve taken the last half of this week off to spend celebrating Thanksgiving, which also means doing some self-reflection. This reminds me of several important lessons I’ve learned in my time as a freelance designer and marketer that I’d like to share with you.

1. Know what’s most important

It’s super easy to get caught up in working all the time, especially if you work from home. If you don’t set clear boundaries between your work and your personal life, the work part will slowly take over and you’ll find yourself working on client work at 11 at night. Know when to unplug, when to leave the work behind and refill your own creative well. That might mean spending time watching movies alone, or spending time with friends and family, or going on a trip. Whatever it is that’s most important to you in your non-work life, give it the time it deserves, no matter what. Your creative life will actually be better for it.

2. Be gracious.

Everyone wants to work with a person who is outgoing, caring, and dedicated. Make clear communication a priority, and always approach client interactions with the idea of “How can I help? How can I improve this situation? How can I make the client feel heard and valued?” It is easy to be snarky when it comes to dealing with others, but by taking a moment to reflect and become part of the solution (instead of adding to the problem), you become an asset to the team, and gain a reputation that will help garner you more work. Most people would rather work with a mediocre but friendly professional than a brilliant but disrespectful jerk.

3. Never be afraid to ask for help

I am self-taught in a good number of areas that I rely on as a cornerstone of my business. Things like HTML and CSS coding or the ins and outs of making a print-ready file. With technology what it is today, any time I bump into something I don’t know, whether it’s a Photoshop feature or assessing paper stock, the first place I turn is Google. Chances are somebody else has had this problem and posted somewhere how to deal with it. If that doesn’t work, drop an email to a colleague or a vendor who might know. I have a great relationship with a local printer (Sommers & Fahrenbach, for those interested), who I feel confident calling up with any question I might have. The resources are out there; don’t be afraid to use them!

4. Be thankful

This is the most timely lesson for this Thanksgiving season. I remain constantly grateful for my regular clients, such as Emerald City Theatre and Remy Bumppo, who call on me consistently as an extended member of their family. They have invested in me enough to have me as their go-to designer, and I in turn invest in them by knowing their brands, anticipating their needs, and actively finding ways to improve their visual marketing. I do not take them for granted; in fact I actually work extra hard to make sure I’m delivering my best for them. And through recommendations of clients like these, I’ve picked up even more projects with new clients— and having work come to you instead having to go out constantly fishing for it is a true blessing. So as the year winds to a close, make sure to tell those people and organizations around you how grateful you are to have them in your life.

That’s all for today. Have a great weekend.


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