Name’s Leonard Sii
From Sydney Australia, I’m a pixel Junkie. I’m neither a creative director, art director, designer, photographer or a teacher. I merely try to connect with humanity through every pixel I create using any means.
“Sir? What do you think about freelancing?”
My usual response is that it depends on your personality and the size of your network. Freelancing requires both a great portfolio and great networking abilities. So how does one begin? If you’re fresh on the field, your education process is where you should aim to produce the highest quality of work. An ideal example would be this guy, www.minimallyminimal.com. His name is Andrew Kim and he is a gifted individual with raw talent, demonstrating some serious vision and unbelievable commitment to his field. He is a student, yet his portfolio is worthy of destroying any senior professional out there that I know of- including myself. Hence, he was recruited while still undergoing his studies.
For many people, the process of studying and education is to learn 2 things:
1. To build up the conceptualization process, and put process into place in order to understand its complexity.
2. To build up their crafts and tools.
As a junior you don’t have the luxury to learn, you need to know your tools and find any means to be an excellent problem solver.
So how does one jump into freelancing or contracting?
Well first off, you need an amazing portfolio and great relationship building skills. Without these, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to make ends meet. The best option is to go out there and grab any opportunity that you can, especially if you’re starting out and need to gain experience. Some people will tell you to never do it for free. I would say that depends on what you do and what you can gain from it.
A great portfolio is worth more than a piece of paper. The reason that you decide to study may be an excuse to motivate you to learn something from a structured environment, but not everybody has the discipline to be self-taught. This is why qualifications are a requirement. However, these days, too many students and institutions focus on passing the hopeful students without equipping them for the real world.
The majority of people who study within a creative field will find it extremely difficult to find the job and career that they want. It requires so many aspects in order to have everything in place.
1. Your attitude!
2. Your commitment!
3. Your natural God given talent! (Although this can be worked on)
My tips are:
1. Any opportunity is a great opportunity. You never know where it could take you. My first graphic design job was for a T-Shirt company. 12 illustration designs for $120 that required back-and-forth communication with the client for a month. It was a huge learning curve and honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. But the thing is, I felt like I was involved with a big project. It’s those experiences that will help you become a better designer, creator and thinker.
2. There are plenty of work out there for the right people. It’s not a bad idea to jump into an organisation if you’re lucky, and gain some serious industry experience. It saddens me when students don’t take the opportunity to grab industry or internship opportunities. You can’t run your own show unless you have magical powers. Joining or working for a team/organisation really helps you to understand the depth of how things actually work.
3. Once you build up enough leads and clients, becoming a freelancer is no longer a creative design work, but a business venture. To be successful, you need to wear your entrepreneurs cap 99% of the time. Design is what you do as a trade. This is where most freelancers fall through and find it hard to make ends meets.
4. How much can a freelance designer for both print, online and the creative industry truly make? That depends on how amazingly talented you are and how many people you know with deep pockets. Most of the time, they are investing in you, and then your work.
Here are my estimated ranges for full time wage within the interactive industry.
JUNIOR: As low as $15,000 AUD a year to $45,000 AUD.
MID Level: $35,000 to $85,000 AUD
SENIOR Level: $65,000 to $100,000 AUD
And anything above would be Management/Executive Senior
So then you work out how much you need to make as a freelancer, depending on where you’re at. The truth is, no one really knows. Most freelancers in the work force that I know of would make an estimated $65,000 – $85,000 a year. That’s with a consistent work load and a few contracts here and there. But factoring in the headaches of accounting/client liason/GST/tax/business tracking/expenses/taking clients out to lunch… by the time you’re done with those, you’ll be lucky to pay the rent and have a beer.
So life would probably be better off working for someone where you have sick leaves, holiday pay, annual leave etc.
However!!! I also know designers who are amazing at their work and are able to sell. Their turnover is above $150,000-$300,000 a year, and eventually they start their own agency. These guys are killing it silently. No one ever managed they would be so sufficient and manage all these projects. With this comes unbelievable discipline. These designers truly understand how to manage their finances, clients and business to ensure that when it rains, they’ve collected all they can for the drought. Most of these guys are committed to the business, right on time, and always deliver results.
I’m not sure if I have provided the absolute brutal truth about freelancing, but here goes.
You ask, “So how much should I charge? Per hourly? Package deal?”
Now that is an art of how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how much you think you’re worth.
There is seriously no set dollar figure because you can run your own show. It’s a competitive market and if you are fresh out of uni and think you can charge $50 an hour with a crap portfolio, good luck to you! I myself can not justify an hourly rate, and sometimes projects get blown out of proportion and I end up making $5 an hour and with a loss. You need to be smart about the client that you’re dealing with. One client could lead to 5 more clients, and so it goes. Eventually, you’ll end up with the ultimate client that you really want to keep.
So perhaps you decide to quit your role as a designer for a company, thinking that you’ll be able to get new clients. The truth is, you get out to get back in. What I mean by that is that you need these jobs and the only reason you can go back to contracting is:
A. You’re the best at what you do.
B. People love dealing with you and don’t want to loose you.
C. Then you have the power to command your terms within reason.
Which just brings it back to the circle of getting out to get back in.
So why do I choose to freelance?
Not because there’s more time to myself. In fact, you end up doing more work. With the amount of administration work and customer liaising you’ll hardy find time to actually do the work. I want to freelance because I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to ensure that all the projects I work on will bring in more fruitful jobs. That keeps me on the edge to ensure that I continue to produce the best quality of work, no matter the politics or requirement restrictions. The reward of your actual hard work is to see the results grow, not only in the financial aspect, but also the relationship and helping of businesses. That’s what drives me.
It is still a huge learning curve and at the end of the day, we still need resources. I still need a good team to work with.
I hope this is a good little insight to those who are thinking about freelancing.