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Freelance: Month 4

8 Nov

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize it was time for my monthly check-in post until I looked at a calendar. I’ve been feeling really tired and kind of crazed – last night my evening was derailed by having to give Caspian a flea bath and steam mop my apartment, which is satisfying and fun in its own way, but also NOT what I was planning to accomplish.

I think overall this is the first time that I can definitively say that I am in a better place this month than I was last month. I guess every day I continue to do this is progress, as I’m moving forward, but this month I have actual things to show for my work, including paychecks and completed projects. I can feel my skill set growing, and I’ve consistently been in a better mood.

I am learning that time management is always going to be something of a struggle. I consistently underestimate how long something will take me.  I also have a tendency to drop everything and attend to an email, or client request, or phone call as soon as I receive it.  It’s okay if someone waits an hour to hear back from me. It’s okay to turn off my email, and silence my phone. It’s okay to want to stick to my original plan for how my day should go. Most of it can wait, and if it can’t, I am the one who can decide if it’s worth it.

I think the next couple of months are going to be fun. Now that I feel like I have some experience in how unpredictable this can be, I’m looking forward to the adventure.

My Goals for Month 4

+ Better separate work life from home life. I guess you’d really have to ask David if you wanted to know for sure, but I think I’ve been doing better. We have definitely been having more conversations about things other than work, and I’ve been focusing on a lot of other, non work things, as well.

+ Create my marketing ‘team’. This was actually a really good idea on my part. I bought a marketing workbook, which sounds kind of nerdy but was exactly what I needed in order to get started. I’ve kind of stalled out on that because there are a couple things I reeeallly need to finish before I can go any further. It’s frustrating, but also good, because if I was all done with that it would mean I didn’t have any outside work coming in!

+ Start working on personal projects that help me develop skills. 

 

My Goals for Month 5

+  Be more aggressive about scheduling my time. This carries over from what I was saying earlier. I need to stop letting every interruption derail my day.

+ PLAN BETTER!  Some things you can’t plan, of course, but I want to have a plan for how my next year is going to go, and I want to actually stick to it.

+ Finish the things I’ve been working on forever, and move on to step two. This includes actually finishing my website, blog, updating my portfolio, and getting in touch with people whose projects I sort of on-and-off work on.

 

 

My Freelance Life:

Day 1

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

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Climbing Out Of The Negativity Rabbit Hole

1 Nov

I understand that this is something girls say (see above), but holy crap HOW is it November? Do you know what November means? November means that it is almost a year since I started Love Citron, that it’s almost time for the holidays (thank you, marketing for making this impossible to miss) and that I can no longer pretend that it’s just ‘really late summer’. The light in my apartment has changed, the leaves are finally turning, and it’s painful to go outside barefoot. It can be painful all year if you aren’t paying close attention, since people like to smash beer bottles on ‘my’ sidewalk, but you know what I mean.

November also means that it’s officially time to take down the Halloween decorations. I’m not looking forward to this because THAT means that I have to clean out my closets. Since the apartment is older, and I guess people back in the day didn’t like to store anything, our closets are microscopic, and they’ve been poorly organized since the beginning of time. I have been preparing myself for this day for months, and it’s definitely time.

I guess I always think of November as the beginning of the change. It’s always been like that – people start looking forward to the holidays, the weather becomes officially cold, the time changes, it gets dark at noon, the urge to drown your seasonal affective disorder in cheese and white flour becomes overwhelming (just me?) – but this year it seems particularly fitting.

I arrived at a decision this weekend that I think marks a turning point for me. I’m not sure if it’s come across here, since I have zero objectivity when it comes to my blog, but lately (like in the past 3 months) I have felt myself sliding into a rut. I think I sort of expected freelancing to just magically work out, and I know I didn’t have a solid plan going into it. It was so discouraging to watch week after week pass, and feel like I was simultaneously working hard, and not working hard enough. I knew I wasn’t doing enough to build my business, but whenever I tried to work on it, I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged, like it wouldn’t matter, that I couldn’t make much progress. This isn’t to say that things haven’t been going well, but they have been progressing nearly as quickly as I’d like. I felt like I was wasting a lot of time and potential because I wasn’t organized, and I was focusing too much on the negative.

It was scary. Not to be too dramatic, but it almost felt the way it does when you have a nightmare, and can’t run away from whatever it is that’s scaring you. I felt like I needed to work harder, but I didn’t know where to begin.

So I made a decision. I have stopped focusing on what has gone wrong, and what could still go wrong, and I’m only focusing on what I have to gain. It’s scary to invest both time and money in myself and my work, but it would be scarier if I didn’t try. There are things I’ve spent a lot of time stressing out about, but sometimes it’s okay to try things that don’t work out. It’s okay to fail sometimes. I remember that it’s okay to not be perfect at this immediately. The only person I have to prove things to is myself.

 

The second thing I did was put myself in boot camp.  I made a wish list of all the things that I needed in order to begin seriously promoting myself and growing my business.  It’s very ambitions – if I had written out every step associated with the items on that list, it would be at least 10 pages long, but I’m trying to complete it by the end of the week.

I feel amazing. I feel like I’m finally making progress, and I’m more creative than I have been in a while, and like I’m learning and growing. I also feel a lot happier, and excited about what I’m doing. I’ll update you on some of the changes I’m making as I make them, so stay tuned for some exciting updates this week!

What do you do when you feel yourself heading down into the negativity rabbit hole? How do you jump start projects?

Do You Ever..

20 Oct

Just look at everything that needs to be done and feel overwhelmed? I do. This has been kind of a weird week for me. I didn’t have as much work that I HAD to do as I anticipated, and that free time, coupled with me still not feeling 100% meant that I spent a lot of time not doing anything useful. There’s a lot that I need to do – but the problem is that I only have a vague idea of what needs to be done. I need to sit down and get it organized, but it feels overwhelming, and lately I haven’t felt up to the challenge.

Usually I feel so bad when this happens. I force myself to sit in front of the computer and feel horrible when the day is mostly gone, and I still haven’t accomplished anything. I think about every person I admire, and how much they’ve accomplished, and then I give myself a lecture about how they didn’t get where they are today by sitting on their couch and being sucked into the social media vortex, MISSY. I tell myself that I need to get moving, PRONTO, and that tomorrow better be super productive, and then…. Nothing happens.

Obviously, that wasn’t doing me any good, so I decided to break the cycle today. I went on a midday walk with Liz, and now I’m at a coffee shop. I decided that being creative is similar to being a teenage girl. The ups are really high, and the downs are really low. You sleep either a lot, or not much at all.

I have two modes – super productive crazy lady, or off. I will do the time every day, but when I’m not feeling it, things don’t get done. That’s stupid. I waste so much time sitting in front of the computer, when, if I’m not feeling creative or inspired, sometimes I can benefit from just walking away. My new plan is to uh, put a plan in place – figure out low level tasks that I can complete when I’m not feeling it, a timeline for the things I NEED to accomplish so I have a good grasp on where I am. And if I’m just really not getting anything done, I’m going to try closing the computer and walking away. An hour in a museum, or a library will ultimately be so much more productive than 3 days spent looking like I’m working, but actually doing very little.

I found this list on Design Crush, which is an awesome blog.

via Design Crush, via Shiny Squirrel

 

 

I think the list is very helpful, especially 6, 7, and 16. It’s a good reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and instead of beating myself up I should relax, and let the creativity flow.

Freelance: Month 3

12 Oct

Well, gosh. The months are just flying by, aren’t they? Freelancing is definitely the most intense thing I have ever done. I feel simultaneously exhilarated and overwhelmed, and a lot of what I said last month is still true, but I’m finally starting to feel like I am beginning to get a handle on things. (Although obviously not as much as I hoped, as I was relaxing on the couch when I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t posted to my blog today..) I’m finally getting a project management system in place, which, to repeat myself, is INTENSE. Mostly because freelancing is like this mixture of having to be super rigid in my schedule, or else I won’t get anything done, and also having to be flexible for when a client calls with a last-minute whatever, and I need to be available.

Overall, I feel like I’m on the right trajectory. I’m building relationships, I am learning how to deal with the more frustrating aspects of my job, and I am even beginning to plan ahead, and think about the future. I admit, my version of the future at this point is next week, but I’m baby stepping my way into it, okay?

 

My Goals for Month 3

+ Finish website redesign.  I did that! I’m so proud of me! Now I just have to finish uploading all of my content, and get my blog redesign up. But for now, let’s just bask in the fact that I did in fact finish my website redesign.

+ Talk to an accountant? :/ NOPE! I can keep putting this one off forever, right?

+ Document and showcase some of the projects that I have completed recently.  I so did this! Some of these projects are in fact going to be featured on other blogs. Stay tuned.

+  Get dressed in the mornings. I’m crossing this off the list because I do get dressed almost every day. And on the days that I don’t, it’s because I really don’t want to, and isn’t that what freelancing is all about anyway? Doin what you please? (hahahahano)

 

My Goals for Month 4

+ Better separate work life from home life. Poor David usually has to come home and listen to this giant speech about how my day went. Sometimes I can discuss my work life from the moment I see him until the moment he goes to sleep, just about. While some venting and sharing is good, I really don’t think that this stuff should be on my mind from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. I should, you know, develop other interests and not be in a work mindset when I’m not actually working.

+ Create my marketing ‘team’. This maybe sounds crazy, but I wrote up job descriptions for the people I would hire if I actually had money to hire people…? Since I am trying to do all the jobs, I wanted to define them a little better, so I can structure my day around the things I need to do. So like, for 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the evening, I put on my ‘office manager’ hat, and work on invoicing, and responding/sorting emails, and organizing my life, and that sort of thing. I also created a marketing person position, and then promptly blow that position off every time my little calendar alarm alerts that it’s marketing time. It’s really important that I stop doing that, and it won’t take that much time once I get the ball rolling, so.. Here is my official call to stop procrastinating on this.

+ Start working on personal projects that help me develop skills. I always admire people who do something every day, like the daily drop cap, or the branding 10,00 lakes project. I think it’s an awesome way to build a skill, and sharpen your creativity. I think doing something like that could be a great creative habit to establish, and also help me work on areas where I think I could be better. Of course, it would be fun to share my progress with everyone as well.

Keeping the goals simple worked last month, so I’m going to go with that. Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I explain my concept of Birthday Week!

 

My Freelance Life:

Day 1

Month 1

Month 2

Let’s Talk About Pricing

28 Sep

The most difficult part of freelancing so far has been determining how to price my work. The reason it is so difficult is because not only is it entirely up to me to decide what my price should be, but there is also very little concrete information out there about industry standards. Every designer prices differently based on experience, and very few are willing to tell you what that price is.  This is not a topic that was covered in school, and in general it is just shrouded in mystery.

My strategy so far has been to price myself very reasonably, until I gain more experience/clients. I went to a talk given by David Baker once, and he said something that really resonated with me. This is not a customer service industry, it’s an expertise industry. Of COURSE I want my clients to be delighted with the work I do for them. However, I want my clients to hire me for my ideas and perspective, not for my ability to use a designer’s tools. I want my pricing to reflect that.

That being said, I think a lot of people have no idea how much designers charge. Since it’s not something that can be easily calculated (the price totally depends on the nature of the project) there’s not a lot to compare. Many people think that design is the least important part of a project – and it reflects in their budget – but a good design can make the difference between looking like a trustworthy operation and having customers dismiss you because it looks like your kid made your logo.

In my  experience, it is very hard not to be insulted when a potential client tries to bargain my price down, or drops off the face of the earth once we start talking numbers. It’s also hard not to second-guess my numbers, or under price myself when I really want a project. But that’s not fair to me, or to the many other designers out there trying to make a living. To quote from a Design Sponge Biz Ladies post, ” underpricing devalues creative work and makes it harder for creative professionals to make a living.”

Now!

I have found some great posts online that take a little bit of the mystery away from pricing. I encourage you to read them all, especially if you aren’t a creative professional.

Biz Ladies: How To Price Your Work

This is the same post that I linked to a couple paragraphs above, but it’s an extremely comprehensive guide to several different pricing approaches. It shares the thought process behind creative professional pricing, although it is geared more towards people selling handmade products.

Estimating and Billing

This article is less specific about actual pricing, but talks more about the factors that go into freelance price calculation.

The Dark Art of Pricing

This is the best article on pricing that I’ve seen on the internet so far. Jessica Hische walks you through her views on pricing, and actually throws in some real numbers. She also discusses things that you might not think about immediately, like licensing and rights management. If you only read one of these articles, it should be this one.

How Much Does A Website Cost? & Other Pricing Questions

This article shows real designers’ price ranges in terms of concrete numbers. It’s a small survey, but the numbers are not surprising to me.

Are there any articles I’m missing? The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook Pricing & Ethical Guidelines has been another invaluable resource as I try to navigate the tricky waters of freelance pricing. I would recommend it to any graphic designer who has pricing questions.

Freelance: Month 2

8 Sep

Well, I guess if I had to sum up this month, I would say: This is the month that reality hit.

Sometimes when I tell people about what I’m doing, they make this worried face and tell me that they hope it works out. This isn’t the reaction that I might have hoped for, but what I am learning is that I don’t know where life is going to take me. What I do know is that right now, living where I live, this is the way for me to be the kind of designer I want to be. In a year, I could move and get a job at a firm, or I could do this forever, or I could quit and start my own ice cream shop, I have no idea. All I know is that right now, this is the best choice for me.

That being said, this month I realized that this is going to take a lot of work, and not the fun kind. When you are starting from scratch, it’s easy to think that things are just blowing up for you (in a good way) because you’re going from no work to some work. But for me at least, I’m realizing that things take much more time than I think to build up and actually take effect.

I’m not just talking about getting work, I’m also talking about experience.I love to design, and I can always do better. I feel like I’m working hard, but I don’t have a lot to show for it. I know there are things that I still need to learn, but I don’t know how to get the experience. I see my peers, and what they are doing, and I feel like I fall short. I feel isolated, and I wonder if I should just try to work at an agency again, and take the path that most people recommend.

Half the battle is just self confidence. I may wish I was better, but the only way to get there is to work harder. There are things that are real blows to the ego, like clients not wanting to pay (more on that later), but I have to know my own worth. I may feel frustrated and scared half the time, and wonder if people are right, maybe I should have gotten a ‘real’ job and learned that way, but if I show up every day, and do my best (like a girl scout) I will be okay. It’s hard on my own, but my successes are so much sweeter. And I truly believe that this will not be such an unconventional path a couple years from now. When I graduated, a lot of my peers seemed to view freelancing as a failure, like, you couldn’t get a real job so you have to freelance, but they were wrong. School is over, but I’m getting more of an education than I ever have.

 

It’s also amazing how quickly the months go by. I can’t believe it’s been this long, and I look at my goal list and realize that some of these things will not be accomplished in a single month, no matter how much I might try.

My Goals for Month 2:

+ Relaunch Etsy shop with new products and a new gameplan.  I did it!

+ Actually redesign my website. Im still working on this one, but I’m further along than I was last month.

+ Finish some client work and get the whole invoicing/billing thing all smoothed out. I definitely got structure in place, but I think it’s going to take some time – and projects – to get it ‘finalized’.

+ Talk to an accountant. (My, that sounds responsible) Nope!

+ Come up with a work flow that allows me to be accessible AND productive. This is something else that I don’t think will be conquered in a single month. I have been feeling much more productive, I will say.

+ Get office organized.

+ Get out of the office more!  I totally did!

 

My Goals for Month 3

+ Finish website redesign. See, the problem is, I am my own client from hell. I don’t like anything, but I can’t tell myself why I don’t like it, or what I do like. I’m flaky, I’m emotional, and I’m not very nice sometimes.

+ Talk to an accountant? :/

+ Document and showcase some of the projects that I have completed recently.

+  Get dressed in the mornings.

I’m keeping it simple this month, because I want to actually accomplish everything on the list. And because I know that website redesign is going to be a bear.

 

 

My Freelance Life:

Day 1

Month 1