When observing the successful freelance designer (or, let’s be honest here, small business owner) there quickly emerges a solid anthropological pattern of behavior that all professional artists act out in their natural habitat. Upon spending several years living with and communicating with these marvelous beings, we’ve discovered some tried and true things that all super successful designers partake in. All of the below can be done swiftly and stylishly online and implemented into existing daily habits of living the successful designer life.
Starting in the shallow end, this is a classic move of the freelancing designer, in which sharing photos, videos and time-lapses of work in progress and studio shots are part of how you interact with others. If you haven’t yet, try showing off in-progress shots that help others learn something new in each image about how you work, like what fineliner you use or if you need to be situated near a bright open window. This exercise in sharing the behind the scenes action shots is really another exercise in working and living creatively, which can be a lot of fun if you’re new to breaking down the design fourth-wall.
We did a whole post on this topic over here, which is loaded with great examples of sharing progress shots.
Have a personal website that at the very least serves as a business card from inside the Internet box. Your website should include your name, email address, and what you call yourself professionally (e.g. graphic designer, professional pencil lead breaker). If you’re going to use your website to refer potential clients or for jobs for which you’re applying, upload a portfolio of your best work, keep everything painstakingly organized, and when it doubt, leave work out. If this step seems like an overwhelming multitude of too “Too Many Decisions,” dip your toe in by turning a WordPress or Tumblr theme into a custom URL of your name (or something close to it) which is easy and cheap.
Have a good looking, beautifully designed resume that you can email as a PDF handy for potential clients. It should be designed by you, include all the usual resume rhetoric and no matter the format, shouldn’t hold more than one page of information. Have the same resume available to view on your website which visitors can download. Make it comprehensive enough that you can use it in the real world to hand out and ensure the style, typeface, and everything about it screams “you.”
I know we here at the RB Blog harp on about this frequently, but it’s the fastest way to get more eyeballs on your artwork. Choose which social network you’d like to use, which is best decided the way most things are decided in this life, by what you enjoy. Do you dislike barking in 140 characters? Then don’t bother using Twitter. Does Tumblr seem like a scary black hole of youths with gifs? Then opt out of that one. Just choose a couple of social media providers that make you smile and stick to them like glue.
Choose about 4 you can line up using HooteSuite or the like, and make them part of your day. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself on them either by regularly sharing news and achievements such as finishing a big artwork or job.
Create an email list that visitors to your website can subscribe to. When you have an upcoming event, an exhibition, or you’ve created new products at RB, fire off an email blast informing your subscribers to your latest news. This is an easy way to reach a large group of people, with endless ways to customize your message. You can include blog posts, images of new Redbubble works, or photos from behind the scenes. Having an email list also increases your audience and takes the pressure off having to be endlessly active on social media every single day.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but the amount of times I’ve gone to an artist’s website and they don’t have any way to be contacted happens often and it constantly surprises me. It makes me think some people don’t want to be contacted about their art, which is totally fine if that’s what you’re into. Place an email address you can be contacted on located in an obvious locale on the world wide web to increase the rate in which people get in touch to connect with you about your artwork.
Encourage people to send you a BubbleMail in your bio on your Redbubble profile page. Use our social media buttons on your Redbubble profile page. And of course, reply promptly!
If you’re using time tracking software so you can bill effectively it can be easy to totally forget about the paperwork once you’ve been paid. It’s important to keep all of your invoices, numbered and in order, so if you’re ever audited or need to prove exactly how you made your millions you have each dollar accounted for. Consistency is key again here, start a system and stick to it, and back up your system often. This is especially important (and depending on where you live, a legal requirement) if you’re a registered business or trader.
Planning doesn’t have to happen online, but there are good tools for this out there on the net. If you’re starting out and have registered as a business or trader and have a small client base, take the time to plan your expenses and growth not just in 12 or 18 months, but in 3 or 4 years from now. It’s common for freelancers to have a cracking first few years with an influx of clients and sales but after the initial success can come a wave in which the more services you sell, the more your expenses increase for things like new equipment, space or skills. The bigger your business gets and there reaches a crunch time in which cash flow becomes incredibly tight. This crunch occurs a few years in as a result of having a lot of new jobs and desperately lacking working capital.
It’s a horrid crunch many people don’t envision, so plan future investments with as much lead time as possible and focus on cash flow as early on as possible too. This bind is the awkward side of growth and successful, long lasting freelancing businesses ride out this phase.