8 tips for self-employed designers

Getting started as a green freelancer can be a daunting task. There is so much to do and even more to learn. Where do you start?

In this posts you can find some tips on freelancing or designing that I picked up over the years. They helped me and I’d like to share them with you!

  1. Think of your dream day as an entrepreneur or freelancer. What would you do if you had all the time of the world? Which projects would you take on? Who is your dream customer? Write down the answers to these questions and re-read them after some time. This really helps with getting a clearer picture of what kind of service you want to provide and to whom. Secondly, this record makes it very easy to track your development as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

  2. Spend the time that you are planning to work on actual work. Don’t spend your precious time on a facebook-twitter-9-gag-galore. Looking at Pinterest or Tumblr can be a good source of inspiration. However, remember that if you do this for three hours it can make a serious dent in your time… and self-esteem. If you can’t snap out of it, you’ll have a very busy but unproductive day. (And that’s a shame, isn’t it? After all, our work’s our hobby!)

  3. Get up early. Get dressed as if you’re headed for the office or an important client. Have a relaxed cup of coffee. Take a walk. In short: take some time to boot your creativity. Be up and running for your day around 8 and get to it (fo’ real) around 9. This way, you can do the largest part of any serious work before noon.

  4. Organize your projects. Make a list of all running projects. Save design briefs (yes, even for bigger personal projects) so that even after a dusty year on your to-do-shelf you’re always ready to pick up the project where you left it off. Be sure to store any important sketches or notes in the near vicinity of the design brief! Documenting your process is a healthy habit. Consider keeping a design journal, where you jot down notes on the status of the project, problems, solutions and thoughts on the process. This can be a handy reference, for yourself (and if you choose to publish it, for others).
    Bonus tip: read about Photoshop Etiquette. Keep your PSDs as organized as your projects and make your printer, clients ánd future-you very happy.

  5. Every day, spend a short amount of time (for example: one hour) gathering inspiration or new input. You can do this in multiple ways. You can read magazines or books on subjects you like (you don’t have to ready specifically work-related stuff!) You can follow some blogs and catch up on their RSS-feeds. Check out random tumblr-accounts, you can hang around on Pinterest, post in the DeviantArt forums, post some random friendly twitter-messages. Interact with people and communities on the internet that interest you. Try out a recipe of a dish that you’ve never tried before. Get your input from things that inspire you personally.

  6. Be aware of the fact that there is always stuff to learn. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Do stuff you’ve never tried or that you find a bit scary. Reserve a tiny amount of your budget for your own art-lab and invest in art supplies that you’ve never used, a course in a graphic technique they didn’t teach you in school or plan an excursion to an art gallery or museum near you.

  7. Don’t be afraid to emulate. Sometimes to best way to learn something new is to emulate others. Famous painters like Van Gogh started out the same way (Vincent van Gogh copied paintings of painters he admired, such as Millet and Hiroshige). Read the book ‘Steal like an artist’ by Austin Kleon.

  8. Jot down all crazy ideas you have. Be sure to carry around a small notebook in which you can scribble and doodle away. You don’t have to show anybody, so what do you have to lose? Everyone knows that the best ideas always come in the middle of the night, while riding a bicycle or under the shower or in the bathroom. Turn off your inner critic when brainstorming. It doesn’t contribute to the creative process anyway.

And above all: enjoy what you’re doing! Being able to choose your own living is the most beautiful thing there is!

Bonus link: why working at home is both awesome and horrible, a comic by The Oatmeal.

Working on a website for pol and off to Castlefest!

The drawing for the Famous Artists Course is coming along fine, although I don’t spend as much time practicing as I was planning. That’s because I’m doing more design related work at the moment.

Monday I was asked to design the website of pol, an open source project. pol is a commandline interface password manager for Mac and Linux with some interesting features. You can view the project on Github.

If you have an open source project, having a well-designed website is a sign that you take the project seriously. It can also provide a portal for interactions with the open source community. I love one page websites and now I have to chance to design one! I’m also helping out with copy writing, which is fun. :)

I hope the website draws some much needed attention to the project. For pol to be successful we need people to review the code, brainstorm about the interface, think about possible flaws, etc. Anyone can check the software for flaws, mistakes, bugs, backdoors and other undesirable properties and I think that’s great about open source.

Today I will be going to Castlefest, a small folk festival in the Netherlands. Prepare for four days of fantasy, folk and viking inspiration! There’ll be historical reenactment, lots of dancing, Danish mead (mjöd) and nice barbecued food. After the festival I will be on vacation with my family for two weeks, probably to Denmark or France. We’ll just sit in the car and decide then where to go and we’ll find a suitable camping spot on the fly. Yay, adventure! I hope I can persuade my family to ride to the Dordogne. I am so in love with all the traces of history you can find there!

I’ll see you guys in a few weeks! Are you going on holiday? If yes, where are you going?