CFC at HOW Design Live: Creative Freelance Rules

Hard to believe that CFC is wrapping up with a day full of peer mentoring and workshops, all about the art of creative freelance; the speakers shared and the audience took in a staggering amount of information. With any event like this, the challenge is downloading and processing all that info afterward—it usually takes a few days or a couple of weeks for that process to happen.

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During her opening comments, co-producer Ilise Benun encouraged everyone to not get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of great information and inspiration, and instead to take away a key point or two—ideas that are especially relevant or easy to implement— from each session. In my red-covered Creatives’ Cupboard notebook (produced by CFC-er Crystal Reynolds with assistance from David Michael Moore, Kristin deNeeve, Red Dog Graphics, and Neenah Paper) I jotted notes on what spoke to me the most. Here’s a rundown of the big ideas that made it into my notebook and onto my to-do list.

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From Luke Mysse: There’s a sort of inverse bell-curve he calls the Arc of Failure: launch, momentum, plateau, entitlement, disillusionment and fear. At the plateau, we have two choices: settle, or try harder. Vision—the thing that fuels and drives our work and professional lives—makes the difference at that plateau.

From Sarah Durham: Be open about sharing your values. Talk about them. Use them to make decisions. Boast about them on your website.

From Dyana Valentine: Don’t “should” on yourself. Disregard what others think you should do or say or be. Fly your own flag confidently, and let that confidence inform how you talk about yourself and your work.

From Alisa Bonsignore: A smart contract gives you the power and leverage to say no (to scope creep, extra revisions, etc.). Say, “Gosh, sorry, but our contract for the project says there are only 2 revisions” or “Gee, the contract allows a four-day turnaround for the work.” (One key takeaway that I plan to start doing immediately: Let ALL business calls go to voicemail. Always. It sets expectations about your availability, and it prevents those situations where you respond or make a promise in the moment that you regret later.)

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From Jessica Hische: Boy, was I unprepared for how great Jessica’s presentation would be. She opened the books and shared fee ranges for different kinds of projects. Her most important point: If we freelancers low-ball our work, we’re screwing everyone else. Another pricing strategy I’ll implement is this phrase: “Based on some similar projects I’ve done recently, here are some numbers for the project that come to mind. How does that work with your budget?”

From Mark O’Brien: Your website’s role is to nurture prospects—to help educate potential clients about your services and reinforce your capabilities. The website is the most important—but not the ONLY element—in your marketing suite.

From June Walker: Freelancers are too timid to take the deductibles they’re entitled to take. We have to get smart about our taxes. What’s deductible? Anything that relates to the work, that nurtures professional creativity, that stimulates your business, that improves your skill.

From the best practices panel, Jason Early had this nugget that resonated: For every hour of client work, create an hour for your personal and professional development.

From Luke (again): Fear isn’t failure. It’s courage earned. Fear comes from not being informed and from not hitting “reset” when you need to. Ultimately, vision trumps fear.

If you attended CFC, you probably took away inspirations that are very different—and just as impactful—as these.


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