Tips for new freelancers

In July, Ohio-based graphic designer, Jen Lombardi of Kiwi Creative, left her full time job to become a solopreneur. Here’s what she wrote on her own blog about what she’d learned after one month:

It’s been exactly one month since I left my full-time job, so I thought it’d be interesting to share a few “life lessons” I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. I’m sure I’ll be able to write an entire novel of these things by the time I retire (hey, that’s not a bad idea…), so maybe I’ll make this a quarterly article topic.

  • Don’t be afraid to have a personality. One of the reasons I bailed from the downtown advertising scene was that it was becoming too corporate. And I strongly believe that creatives should have fun at their jobs – it’s one of the best perks of our profession. I’ve tried really hard to infuse my casual and slightly quirky personality throughout Kiwi’s website, and it’s received a lot of positive feedback from clients. In fact, I like to think that it’s one of my biggest selling points and sets me apart from other blaaaaah marketing firms who promise generic crap like “great results and professional customer service.” Boring.
  • Email marketing works. Remember that saying “you’re the right person, it’s just the wrong time”? It’s not just for teenage romances – the same thing applies to client relationships. Sending out a single email newsletter has reconnected me with at least three old contacts who I hadn’t spoken to in months. All of them have upcoming projects and were interested in my newer services in the areas of web design and online marketing. If you’re a bit shy or don’t want to send out a corny “heeeeey, how ya doing?” email message to individuals, why not just start a newsletter? It’s a great way to stay top-of-mind with old and new clients. Plus, it’s a perfect way to show of your mad skills in email marketing and design, right? (BTW, to find out more about how to do effective email marketing, check out this webcast with Ilise Benun.)
  • Turn down bad clients and bad projects. You shouldn’t be the right person for every project that comes your way. Be strong enough to recognize when the budget is too low or the work isn’t satisfying; then, spend your time looking for better projects rather than whoring yourself out for subpar work. You’ll just become resentful of your client and upset that you compromised your standards. (Yeah yeah, I know. Easier said than done. I struggle with this one every day.)
  • Office construction will always run behind schedule. Flooring is back ordered. The architect is on vacation. The electrician is MIA. In other words, shit happens. And as much as I don’t like having the cats run all over my keyboard when they want a late-afternoon snack, you just have to deal. A good life lesson in general, no?

What have you learned since you went solo?

And if you’re thinking of going solo some time soon, join us for the Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22, 2012 in Boston

One thought on “Tips for new freelancers

  1. Erica Maganti

    I learned to keep records on the following stuff:

    -Contacts, prospects, how I know them, did i send them a promo piece, when to check in next.
    -Hours. For invoices and itemizing on invoices for clients, for calculating my “salary”.
    -Expenses. What I spend for a project, client, or just for general business growth.
    -An invoice and check log to make sure I get paid and follow up.

    All the little things that some other department or person did for me when I was in-house. I have one master excel document where I keep everything and it has been a life saver! Makes things easier which carves out much more time to be creative.