Getting started as a freelancer

This is a guest article by Jess Levitz, a graphic designer at June Letters

One of the questions that I get asked the most as a creative business owner is "how did you get started?” When you set your mind on striking out on your own, the getting started part feels so daunting. How do I get good clients? Will I make enough money? How will I set my schedule and stay organized? There are so many questions swimming around in your head it can feel completely overwhelming. I am still a fairly new business owner, but have had the good fortune of consistently booking clients and am feeling more and more financially secure and creatively content. Here are some of my tips for getting those first clients, and for setting up tried and true business practices.

1. Create self-initiated work that reflects the types of clients you want to work with.

If you love creating logos, create some beautiful logos for the types of clients you hope to attract. Having a solid online portfolio is essential. Only showcase the kind of work that you hope to do!

2. Pinterest is your friend!

80% of my inquiries come from people that found me on Pinterest. Make sure you have a strong web presence and pin your own work. If you created a logo for a photographer be sure to title it something like: "Modern and Elegant Photographer logo". When people are searching for "modern photographer logo" yours will hopefully come up!

3. Price low-ish for awesome clients when first starting out.

If an awesome inquiry comes your way that you feel really fits your style but they don't have much of a budget - take them on anyway. If you create work that you like for an awesome client, more higher paying clients will see your beautiful work and come your way.

4. Be kind, but also confident.

People like to work with nice people . But people also want a designer that is confident in their designs and doesn't necessarily bend to their every whim. A lot of times clients don't know what they want exactly - and you have to help lead them to the best decisions! Clients that like working with you will pass you on to their friends!

5. Create Timelines for Your Clients

When I start with a client now I always provide a timeline that shows not only when my designs are due, but when their feedback is due as well. I didn't do this when I first started out and really regretted it. Sticking to a timeline is essential for your own scheduling sanity - but also helps to ensure that you have a satisfied client in the end!

Helpful tools:

I use Asana for task management. I love checking off tasks, and it is nice to have everything in one place!

I use DropBox for my client files. I give each client a folder and then neatly organize my files, this is how I set up my client folders:

> Folder: Client Name

>> Creation Files (all .ai, .psd etc)

>> Presentation (Files that I present to client organized by round)

>> Docs (signed contracts etc)

>> Assets (imagery, textures etc that client provided)

>> Deliverables (all final files to deliver to the client)

I also use Freshbooks for all invoicing and keeping track of expenses. I have found it very helpful to manage the nitty gritty of my business! Starting a new business is a daunting task, but with talent, ambition, and organizational skills - you will be running a successful freelance business in no time!

June Letters is the one-woman studio of San Francisco graphic designer Jessica Levitz. After 4 years working in the start-up world as a graphic and UI designer (Yelp, Threadflip, True&Co.), she recently embarked on her own freelance career to focus her efforts towards branding, illustration, hand-lettering, and website design for creative and passionate clients.

Nesha Woolery

I build beautiful brands & websites for passionate entrepreneurs!