Making the Jump to Freelance

Making the Jump to Freelance by Brent Galloway

I knew my senior year of high school that I wanted to freelance as a career, so that’s what I did—I freelanced my way through college and a part-time job at an office supply store. I hated knowing that I was paying for an education I already had (self-taught), and worked for what seemed to be a corporation ran by complete imbeciles. I took a leap of faith early 2011 after graduating college, and decided to take on freelancing full-time!

Running my own business from home

Meetings, Then & Now
Interning as a video editor and designer for a Fortune 500 Company back in high school, they wasted a lot of time holding meetings. All of these excruciating meetings could have easily been outlined in a simple email! The great thing about running my own business from home, is that I can keep those group / person meetings to a minimum. Yes it’s required to meet some clients, but these dreadful meetings can easily be knocked out over an email, phone or Skype call.

(One of the reasons why I prefer communication through email is that it achieves the same results, but at the same time keeps a record of everything said.)

Contracts, Proposals & Other Fun Documents
Freelancing isn’t all about making pretty things for the Internet. You’d be surprised at how much time goes into writing estimates, contracts and project proposals. Not to mention all of the time that goes into generating invoices and trying to receive payment on time.

(Check out my quick article coving freelance contracts and download the free sample to start your own!)

Free-time to No-time
You’ll find yourself one month, asking everyone you know possible to help find more work—and the next, working late nights, because you have so much that needs to get done in such short time. You might even have to turn down a few projects, because you just don’t have the time to work on them.

Staying Organized

One of the most important tips to running any kind of business is to stay organized. If there’s anything you need to be meticulous about, it’s keeping all of your files organized!

Break everything into neatly organized folders:
Documents > Invoices, Contracts, Document templates, etc.
Client Projects > Client Name > PSDs, Website, Inspiration, etc.
Resources > Audio, Backgrounds, Textures, Code Templates, Themes, Icons, etc.

Again, I cannot stress about how important it is to have everything organized in an easy to understand format. This should also translate over into your actual projects: Photoshop layers, comments in your code, name of files and images, etc. Keep things consistent.

Some useful (& FREE) web apps that help me on a daily basis:
Billable.me - “Billing made simple.”
Wunderkit – Project Collaboration
Mint – Keep track of finances and budgets

The Scariest Part… Income

This is by far my biggest fear of being a freelance graphic designer. I wasn’t making much working part-time selling pencils and paper at an office supply store, but at least it was a steady income. If you don’t know already, a freelancer could make $1500 from a website one month, $300 from a mockup another, or nothing at all. That’s right! It’s very possible to go a month without making any money. That’s why if you do decide to freelance full-time, you’ll really have to learn to cut spending and save on whatever possible.

Don’t let income completely scare you off though! I love what I do, and there are many ways to produce passive income.

You Can’t Freelance Alone

I have some pretty awesome designer / developer friends (You know who you are). Making connections is something you’re going to have to do. So use social media like Twitter and Facebook to connect with like-minded people! When I’m struggling with finding work, I’m very fortunate to have these connections pass work my way if they need help or are just too busy to take it on themselves.

If you don’t know already (and chances are you don’t), I am much more of a designer than I am a developer. I have experience and knowledge in the front-end (HTML and CSS), but very little in programming (i.e. PHP). Although I dabble in a bit of everything, programming just isn’t something I enjoy. Any project that requires advanced programming, I pass it over to a developer who specializes in that sort of thing.

Not only does it help to have awesome connections with like-minded people, but having a family that understands what you do. My girlfriend and I both know the risk, and worry sometimes about my profession as a freelance graphic designer, but she supports me 100% in my business decisions and that really does help a lot!

I know that last bit was a little mushy, but it’s the honest truth. Having support from the ones you love really can help in those stressful times! Now onto what I have planned for the future of my career…

Looking Ahead…

As a freelance designer, I am always learning new things and trying to better myself in my profession. My brain is constantly throwing new ideas around and I hope to bring some of them to life in the coming years. Aside from the usual client projects, I plan to work on some of my own personal projects / dreams, such as:

  • Continue to run this lovely blog
  • Write a couple small Ebooks
  • Get an online shirt / print shop running
  • Design some mobile app ideas, and possibly get them developed

Are you making the jump to freelance?

What are your thoughts? Will you be making the jump to freelance soon? Leave a comment below and let me know!


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  • http://www.sarahegrant.com/ Sarah E. Grant

    I recently made the full-time freelance jump, however, I seem to have a love/hate relationship with it. I love it because I love what I do: I love designing, I love the project management and small business aspect, but I hate that I’m terrible at marketing and it’s also difficult stressing about income, so I find myself babysitting now and then for extra money. I’d love to hear what you do for passive income. I’m not much of a writer, so blogging wouldn’t generate anything for me, and I tried once to submit a theme design, which got rejected, so that discouraged me. I’m hesitant to keep trying to do that because it takes a lot of time and effort to design something, only to be let down. I hope I don’t sound like a debbie downer! It’s just easy to get frustrated. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    • http://brentgalloway.me/ Brent Galloway

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Sarah! I know exactly how you feel on your love/hate relationship as a freelancer! Marketing is very tricky, because it takes a lot of time to get the smallest bit of exposure (especially online).

      One of the many reasons I started my blog was to help market myself. I know that if I have enough relevant and helpful information, then Google will pick it up and send some traffic my way. This is one of the reasons why I’ve linked my portfolio and other services directly with my blog.

      I’ve been exactly where you are many times! Rejection can get very discouraging, but I try to stay positive and use the time I have to put my name out there and just keep learning new things.

      Passive income is something I love to read about. It gets me motivated and inspired to make something cool, and it’s a topic I definitely have planned to write about in the near future! Currently for passive income, all I’ve got is a few designs on Graphic River: http://bit.ly/KPTqYj – But I’ve definitely got some ideas for the near future!

      I could go on and on about ideas for passive income, so I guess I just have to start on a new blog post asap, huh? ;)

      Thanks again for the comment, and stick around for more content! I’ll for sure be working on that passive income post though. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to comment or send me an email — mail [at] brentgalloway [dot] com

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaPDesign Sheila Patterson

    Nice post, it neatly sums up some of the pros/cons of freelancing.

    I would disagree about negating in-person meetings; while email is most certainly more efficient, I feel it is inadequate to capture the full essence of communication. So much is lost in translation. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistics, but a majority of communication is through facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. Just a small percentage of what is said is through words. Call me old-fashioned, but you just can’t beat face-to-face! :)

    • http://brentgalloway.me/ Brent Galloway

      Thanks for the comment, Sheila! I do agree that face-to-face communication should not be completely tossed out the window. When it’s a local client I’ve always gone out and met with them. Also thanks to Skype, I’ve still been able to call and “meet” with clients, even if they’re in another state or country! Which is pretty cool that we as freelancers can work with others from around the world! :)

      Thanks again for leaving a comment! I appreciate it!