2016 was a crazy year for me as I transitioned from a full time graphic design job to running my own branding/marketing firm. While I may not have accomplished everything I set out to do, overall the year was a great success!
For my own records, and to help others get a behind the scenes look at success/failures of a “freelance” designer (read why I tend to avoid the term “freelance”), I’ve put together this postmortem.
Note: Links to Creative Market are affiliate links.
In order to get a better picture of how successful my business has been, I’m excluding my full time job income. This only includes income from client work and design products I sold on marketplaces such as Creative Market* and DesignBundles.net.
- Client Work
- Design Products
Obviously my income was heavily skewed towards client work. However, in 2017 I’m aiming to decrease my reliance on client work, and have design products + other passive income services contribute a larger percentage of my income.
Another area I want to improve is the rollercoaster income I had. The graph below clearly illustrates how much my income fluctuated month to month (for reference, I started working for myself full-time in August).
I love helping others achieve their goals and dreams, so client work is extremely fulfilling for me. Unfortunately, I had a hard time acquiring new clients. In fact, the majority of my income came from one client (which is never ideal).
This year I started creating design products in an attempt to bring in a bit of passive income. I opened my first store on Creative Market* in March. Then in the summer DesignBundles.net reached out to me to see if I would open a store on their site. Finally, in December I opened a third store on The Hungry JPEG.
Creative Market Income
- Product Sales
- Bundle Sales (I had a product featured in three of their bundles)
The Hungry JPEG
Working from home
One of the biggest adjustments to my workflow was going from a private office at my full time job to working at home with two toddlers running around. The main takeaways were to separate work from, set an alarm, and invest in the right equipment. I cover more of my lessons in the post I wrote a month after working from home. Click here to read everything I learned.
Over the last year I’ve been cognizant of how my ability to focus impacts my workflow. This self awareness has led me to life hacking ways to increase my focus. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to take control of your focus. The most efficient things I’ve found are disabling certain notifications on my phone, and creating a “focus routine”. I also cover over ideas in my post, Staying Focused in a Noisy World.
As I transitioned from being a moonlighting “freelancer” to a full time “freelancer” I quickly realized I needed to adjust my pricing. Low hourly rates and taking any project offered to me would not lead me to the success I was seeking. So, I sat down and created a list of factors I would consider when pricing out a project. Some key considerations were my relationship with the client, the type of work, and when it needs to be completed. For the full list of things you should consider, I suggest reading my post, Pricing a Project? Consider these Factors, to learn more.
Changing how I presented myself
Once I started working for myself I made it a priority to attend a variety of meet ups throughout Houston. However, when I told others what I did their responses ranged from “ehh” to “that’s nice.” It eventually dawned on me that “freelancer designers” are a dime-a-dozen and if I wanted to make great connections I needed to position myself differently. Changing from a “freelance designer” to “I run a design firm that specializes in helping businesses identify and utilize key metrics to ensure successful design projects” produced immediate results. I go into more detail about this in my post, 1 Simple Change, Changed How Others Responded, details the 1 change I made when introducing myself (spoiler: it involves never saying the word “freelancer” again).
*I’ve been a huge fan of Creative Market ever since I opened my store there. Over the last year I’ve sold and bought numerous items from their website. So at the beginning of this year I enrolled in their partner program. This means if you click through a link to Creative Market and sign up, I receive a 10% commission on anything you buy in the store. This commission helps me continue to provide awesome design resources in my store as well as the free resources I provide on this website. However, if you want to visit Creative Market without using an affiliate link click here.