Advice for a first-time freelancer?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by dopey220, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. dopey220 macrumors 6502


    Jul 19, 2006
    I have an associate's in graphic design (currently working on a bachelor's in digital media), and I interviewed back in the fall for a position as a design intern with a company in my area that makes cabinetry for the medical industry.

    I didn't get hired, but the other day the company's marketing director sent me an email asking if I'd like to do some contract work on a postcard project beginning next month.

    I was hoping for advice pertaining specifically to what sort of rates I should charge, although I'm sure I'll have more questions as I proceed with the project. This is my first professional work in the design field since I graduated in the spring, and I'm really grateful that they're giving me this opportunity. I just don't want to let them down.
  2. irishgrizzly macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2006
    There's loads of ways to work out rates, but the easiest is to ring around local freelancers and see what they are charging. You'll want to undercut there price as they got experience on there side.

    Oh and always, always, always get a contract in place before undertaking any major project. ie something that your going to be spending weeks on. If you don't the client will start changing the terms on you half way through. A good idea is to set payment dates at certain points during the project (eg 25% up front (esp for someone you've never worked with before) 25% halfway and the remainder at the end.)
  3. supercooled macrumors 6502a

    Sep 6, 2007
    Good advice, irishgrizzly.

    Drafting up a contract seems like a major undertaking in and of itself. Do you have some pointers on the do's and don'ts?

    OP, I hope you don't mind me piggybacking on your thread but this could be beneficial to a lot of people concerned.
  4. hobbbz macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2005
    Buy this book
    GAG Ethics and Pricing Guide

    Don't undercharge, don't work without a contract.

    No matter how much I feel like I'm "taking someone to the cleaners" I've never had anyone balk at my rate. That said, I've regularly and steadily increased my rate since I started.

    To figure your rate take how much money you want to have in your pocket for one month's work, double that and divide by (30*8) as a freelancer half of your money will go to taxes.
  5. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    I second everything that people have told you here. Your contract can actually be your written estimate, just be sure that your terms are indicated and included on the estimate (along with the price) and that there is a line for the date/client's signature and approval at the bottom.

    Good luck.
  6. snickelfritz macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    Obtain a business license if required in your state.
    Buy a file organizer to keep track of your invoices and receipts.
    Buy a briefcase or folio to transport documents.

    Take charge of the design process from the very beginning; do not allow your client to bully you or tell you how to do your business.
    You are there because you know more about graphic design than they do.
    Freelancing usually involves selling yourself, and obtaining referrals from satisfied clients that trust and respect you.

    Schedule a meeting with your client.
    Take complete notes and get all of the information regarding the project. (deadline, quantity of postcards, size of postcards, mailing list, etc...)
    Advise your client to submit only finalized copy, images and graphics.
    Changes to submitted material is billable.
    Also, it is a very good idea to explain to your client exactly what type of digital formats are acceptable for text, photos and graphics submissions.
    Remind them not to attempt to format text submissions; it usually results in a lot of extra work for the designer.

    Create a "design brief" from your notes, outlining in detail your understanding of the project, your responsibilities, the client's responsibilities, determine the person you will be working with (a camel is a horse designed by a committee), and the terms of payment.

    This document should be revised until it is correct and complete.
    Your client will sign the design brief before any work is done.
    The design brief is likely to be the first example of your work a client will see; make sure it looks good.
    It also constitutes a contract for your services.

    Communicate with your client on a regular basis.
    Do not show your client a concept you are not willing to live with.
    Have your client sign and approve the color proofs prior to production.

    BTW, Printing and bindery services are often brokered by the designer, and this can be an excellent source of revenue if you establish accounts directly with commercial vendors. (as opposed to Kinko's or some other retailer) is a good place to start.
    This is one of the best overall 4-color printing services I've tried in the past ten years.
  7. jerryrock macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    Amsterdam, NY
    I really like the advice given above except......
    I don't agree with this statement:
    "Take charge of the design process from the very beginning; do not allow your client to bully you or tell you how to do your business.
    You are there because you know more about graphic design than they do."

    The client is always right, they are paying you to design to their liking.

    The client may actually know quite a bit about graphic design and may have worked with dozens of designers before you. You are doing a job that they either do not have time to do or could not get their "regular guy" to do.
  8. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    Good point. I think the advice given is well written and sound for any young professional just starting out, but in this case, it looks to be more like a possible trial run to see what his skills are like, given that he was originally considered for the job but passed on. I would just try to feel things out on this first project. By all means have a work brief, estimate/contract/terms and what not in place (you want to look like a professional) but I would make a conscious effort not to come on too strong with how "you" want to work and do everything in your power to meet the clients needs.

    If things work out and begin to snowball for you, then you can begin conducting business in a more forward manner, once you have a small client base and some experience and/or confidence behind you.

  9. snickelfritz macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    I think you guys are absolutely right about that particular nugget, given the circumstances of the existing client/artist relationship.
    Jesus could not preach in Jerusalem...yada yada yada.

    It's unfortunate that he might have to overcome some doubt regarding his design skills on this project.
    That usually translates (IIRC) to excessive client kibitzing during the design process, tons of pointless revisions, a good design in the toilet, and the client's ideas in your portfolio, if you end up actually putting it there.

    "Hey! since yer desperate for work and have no experience, y'all mind if we throw a saddle on ya, and take turns ridin' around in the rain for a week or two?" Hee-Haw!!!
    You have to nip this sort of thing in the bud, or it'll bite you on the butt.

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