Six habits of freelance designers that make it rain

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More and more of the world’s creatives are quitting office life and going freelance. But there’s a price to pay for the freedoms of freelance: that lurking, never-ending worry, about when, whether, and how much you’ll get paid. Luckily, some freelance designers have figured out strategies for getting paid more, and more often. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others who have already done it?

Here are a six solid tips on how to get paid well for doing what you love, collected from successful freelancers around the world.

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Be an Exceptional Communicator

“It doesn’t matter how good you are at the craft. You need to make sure you’re explaining everything clearly and never leaving the client feeling like they don’t know what’s going on.” —Ben Bernstein, producer, New York City

There are lots of freelancers out there who do exactly the same work as you. They do it just as well as you, or possibly even better. So what will differentiate you from the pack, keep your clients coming back with repeat jobs, and referring you to their colleagues? One simple thing: great communication.

Be transparent and communicate frequently, even when it seems there’s nothing to say. Friendly, brief updates keep clients happy. Know when it’s time for a video call or even a face-to-face meeting. Everyday updates are most convenient over email, but creative conflicts or clarifying confusing instructions are often best resolved in person or over the phone.

When pitching services to a stranger, keep it as brief as possible—no one has time to read lengthy cover letters and mission statements. Show potential clients what your skills are and what makes you awesome in as little time as possible. A short but personalized email that leads to a great website is a powerful one-two punch. —Katherine Furman, editorial director, New York City

Another part of great communication is mirroring your client’s communication style. If they are informal, shift your formality level to match theirs. If they use emoji, try mirroring that. If they begin every email with “Dear ___,” and end with “Best Regards,” they probably expect similar formality from you. Be aware of your client’s communication style and try to make them comfortable by staying in sync with them. You can still be yourself—it’s not about changing who you are, it’s about being conscious of what makes your client feel comfortable.

Be Known For Something

A common mistake for freelancers is to advertise themselves as a video editor, cartoonist, voice over artist, copywriter and part-time reiki healer all-in-one. It may seem logical to expect more skills to bring in more money—but the opposite is actually true.

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An example from Weblounge.be who makes it very clear what they can help with.

If you are known as the absolute best hand-lettered typographer on Earth, you will get contacted over and over again by clients from all over the world actively seeking the best person at this specific craft.

The best part about being one of the best at sustainability-focused copywriting or identity design for food brands? Your clients will be no-nonsense types who are prepared to pay more for your skills as a specialist.

Don’t Refuse Jobs, Give a High Quote Instead

Every so often, you’ll get asked to do a job that’s not ideal for you. The client seems difficult, the job itself is boring, or the schedule is horrendous. Instead of saying no, think about how much money would make you change your mind. Accept the offer, but give a quote that’s way higher than what you’d usually charge—enough to make the work palatable. If they pass, great. If they accept, even better!

Know That Feedback is a Gift

Having a second opinion on your work is always good. So I think it is good to get a shared office or something like that, where you can speak to people, go out to lunch with them, and very important, you could show them your work and ask what they think” —Oxelot / Jorge García Razo, jovoto creative & designer, Mexico

Hand-in-hand with great communication is great collaboration. It’s important to really listen closely to your clients and respond to their feedback. The most successful creatives think of feedback not as bullets to be dodged, but as gifts. Feedback is how you up your game and improve your work. Listen to it, absorb it, and take it on board. Feedback doesn’t only come from clients, it can come from peers as well. Build your network of “feedback friends” to improve your work continually.

Giving feedback is also a great skill to master. jovoto recognizes this with its “Best Feedback Award,” which is part of every crowdstorm. The 200 award goes to the person who does an outstanding job helping other creatives to improve their ideas by giving them feedback.

Work With Well-known Brands

My portfolio is telling clients a story about the work I do – since I can include work for well-known brands such as Greenpeace, Victorinox and Villeroy & Boch, new clients are easily impressed and much more interested in working with me.” —DENKdifferent, Ramona Herrmann, jovoto creative and Art-Director, Germany

Your portfolio matters. Clients make judgements about your skills, your credibility—and ultimately, your value—based on your client list. Clients assume that big names know what they’re doing, and wouldn’t waste any resource working with freelancers who are anything less than excellent. Getting just one big name in your portfolio will definitely allow you to increase your fee. Scoring a gig with a big client can be tough, and that’s where jovoto can really help. jovoto’s crowdstorms give you access to top global brands such as Audi, Coca-Cola, Greenpeace, Victorinox, Unilever, UNICEF and many more. Participating in jovoto crowdstorms is a Great way to beef up your portfolio with A-list organizations.

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Some of the brands that you get to work with as a jovoto creative.

Collaborate With Creatives Who Are Better Than You

The output from the shared mind is more productive than the sum of individual contributions. —Bill Moggridge, industrial designer & co-founder of IDEO

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Working with people who are great at what they do is a fantastic way to learn. Collaboration, when done well, brings out the best in all parties involved. It creates a significantly richer, fuller, more creative end product. Why? Because more diverse points of view around the table provide more fertile ground for ideas and innovation to take root. Diversity of opinion on teams is proven to produce more inventive ideas—see the ketchup storage problem for a great example of how this works. More skills and more hands on deck also benefit the end result greatly. Working collaboratively also has the added benefit of allowing you to take on bigger and more complex projects while growing your all-important professional network at the same time.

jovoto encourages creatives to work collaboratively with “The Collaboration Award,” which goes to a team of two or more creatives who collaborate on an idea by using the “invite collaborator” tool on the platform.

jovoto is an open innovation platform. Anyone can participate, collaborate with others, get expert feedback on your ideas, work for top global brands, and earn solid cash prizes. Want to be part of the journey? – Join jovoto today to get access to our professional community of creatives worldwide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Shelly

Katie Shelly is an experience designer with a 6 year track record in understanding people through human-centered design. She's currently earning her MA in Digital Experience Design at Hyper Island.

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2 Comments

    Katie – thank you for writing this article…. was really informative!

    Thanks Katie, love this!

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