So for the last Freelance 101, I thought it’d be helpful to give you quick pointers to live by. Here are a couple of things not to do, and a couple of things to do in order to survive this lifestyle of freelance.
1. Don’t Do Spec Work
Don’t even dip your toes into the world of spec work.
What’s spec work you might ask? It’s short for speculative work. It’s that kind of work often masked in the words of ‘competitions’, ‘contests’ or the scenario when a client asks you for ‘free pitching’, basically asking for drafts prior to hiring you to test and see if your designs are on par to their thoughts. Essentially, it’s an excuse for the clients to get work for free. This video explains it really clearly here,nospec.com is another great site that explains and breaks down why spec work is so bad.
Your work has value, so don’t sell yourself short. Site like 99 designs, minted, etc. make spec work look all innocent- you submitting your design along with the numerous other contestants, they selected one artwork as the ‘winner’, and if you win you get money. It’s total bullshit! What about the other 99 designers who worked for free? They deserve their pay too simply for pitching their ideas.
2. Don’t Plagiarize
To plagiarize means to take someone else’s work or idea and pass it off as your own. Surprisingly this happens much more in the design world then you’d expect especially with the internet. I’ve seen it happen to my design friends, where their designs are literally mimic the next day on instagram.
Be careful when your researching for ‘inspiration’ on pinterest etc. It’s easy to see someone’s work, have it influence your style and the next thing you know you’ve designed a replica of their work. I understand that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that trends play a heavy part in the design industry, but if your design looks almost identical to your inspiration source, be it an illustration, photo, artwork, etc. it’s most likely that you’ve plagiarized them. Not cool.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
This is age old problem that long started before the internet existed- comparison, jealous and envy. But with the internet it’s only heightened the very insecurity in ourselves and the successes of others. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Instagram and any social media platforms alike makes it easy to create a façade of a perfect life. Just because someone else is getting ‘that’ gig, or has more number of likes, or followers, doesn’t make you “less” of a person. A person’s number of followers doesn’t define them and shouldn’t define you. Life is more than your popularity online. We’ve all struggled with this, and personally far too many times have I gotten down on myself because I felt “less than”. Over this year though, I’ve consciously been working on not letting someone else’s success define the way I feel and see myself. The more you get to know yourself and become more confident in who who you are and what you uniquely have to offer- the less will you base your self identity on something so transient as numbers.
1. Have Healthy Boundaries with Social Media
Know when to shut everything off! Especially in a field where social media plays such a big part of my work and life, it’s easy to never be ‘physically’ present. When I find myself getting too obsessed with the internet or my number of ‘likes’ or stupid virtual things like that, I just drop off the face of the internet. I’ve learnt to take breaks away from the internet, whether it be just for a day, weekend or longer. Learn to recharge, clear your mind and keep your boundaries healthy with the internet. I promise, being internet free once in a while will benefit your physical relationships with your husband/wife, children, friends, family and perhaps even your dog.
2. Make Friends with Other Designers
Make friends with the ones in your industry that you look up to! You might be like, “but they’re my competition.” Yes they are, but when you make someone a friend instead of an enemy you learn to rejoice in their successes, instead of being jealous or envious of them. Not only that, but soon you realize that honestly competition is so petty and useless. There’s more than enough space in the world for both of you to do well and succeed. Also making designer/freelancer friends, keeps you inspired, broadens your likes of collabs, and is a great form of networking.
3. Be Yourself
Above all, I would say that the key to keeping your race strong, is simply be being yourself. You are individualistic and what you have to offer the world is completely unique to who you’ve been created to be. The more you stay true to yourself and what you enjoy designing, the more you’ll find your own voice and design style. Realize the potential invested in you, and you alone!
Hope this series have been helpful in ways you’ve needed it to be. It’s be a pleasure being able to help you all out on your journeys. The response and emails I’ve gotten in appreciation has just been the most encouraging, so thank you.
Here’s to your journey, I wish you all the best on your future freelance endeavours!
An overview of all the Freelance 101’s