Nerd Party // How Do I Start Freelancing?
Mel said, I was wondering if you had any advice to someone who is wanting to start their own freelance part time gig.
Design Your Own Site
The first place people are going to find out about your design business is your blog or website, so make sure it looks good. Think of it as the permanent first piece in your portfolio. If you scanned my blog on a weekly basis you’d notice I make little tweaks and improvements all the time.
Build Your Portfolio
After working a day job for five years, everything in my portfolio was dated, so I was essentially starting from scratch. I decided to offer a design deal on my blog to get a few clients quickly. It allowed me to work out how I do business with bloggers, how much time it took do design different elements. You could also redesign your friend’s blogs for free or talk to your family – maybe your aunt’s flower shop needs a site makeover. I’m sure they’d be happy to have a little makeover and will be your best cheerleaders to help promote your new business.
Set Your Rates
This one gets tricky. I charge a flat rate, as I have a good idea how long it takes for me to design different types of sites. Charging by the hour means you have to keep track of the time you spend every time you sit down to work. It also means your client may not understand why it takes so many hours to do the work. Kathleen and Jessica both wrote super helpful, in-depth posts about pricing.
Now that you’ve got a few pieces in your portfolio and have figured out your rates, make sure to let people know you’re available for hire. Announce it on your blog and send out a re-tweetable tweet like ‘Looking for a blog designer? Hire me! I’m now taking on freelance work!’ I post almost every design I do on my blog. It’s an easy way to show off my style and remind readers that I’m available to work on their sites too.
Track Your Clients & Earnings
I have spreadsheets set up in Google Docs to track my client’s contact info, start/end dates, design price and expenses. If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, Weave is a great iPhone app to track projects as well, but when it comes to tax time, you’re gonna want that spreadsheet.
Things I’ve Learned
+ Get a deposit before you add anyone to your schedule. SERIOUSLY. Nothing sucks more than holding a space open for a client and then not hearing from them when it comes time to start working. I require a 50% deposit up front to secure a spot in my schedule. I don’t do ANY work without receiving money and you shouldn’t either.
+ I know people who have had success with eLance, but it didn’t work so well for me. I had a few responses to my proposals and two people were interested in hiring me, but were so slow to respond to emails, by the time they were ready to go I was already booked another month in advance and wasn’t able to take on their sites.
+ I use Google Calendar to keep track of what clients I’m working for when. I set everything for ‘all day’ and give each new client a different color so I can see who is booked for when.
+ Don’t keep every single design in your portfolio. Pull out the top five or ten that showcase your best work and style and file the rest away.
Hope that helped, Mel! If you have a Blogger, WordPress, Photoshop, HTML, oh so nerdy question, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it in the next Nerd Party post. Click here to make sure your question hasn’t been covered in the past :)
03.27.12 in freelance, nerd party