On January 1, 2019 I made a resolution: Expand my freelance work to more substantially supplement my income.
Vague, I know — but vagueness makes things more doable.
It took a few months to contract my first client of 2019. But it was worth it. Meaning: I got paid *and* I made another connection in my expanding network.
So here are some things that I learned this year:
Make Connections in Person
I want to tell you about nearly all of the clients I acquired in 2019. They fall into the category of face-to-face connections. I had coffee with many before starting projects. Some are unique relationships: ran by family or old friends who increasingly contracted me throughout the year.
To further understand how important these relationships are, allow me to break this down in numbers:
Clients met in person: 88%
Clients acquired through word-of-mouth: 62%
Clients acquired through personal relationships: 38%
Repeat clients: 50%
Clients acquired by reaching out to the local community: 38%
Takeaway: face-to-face connections matter.
Make Connections Online
If you just read the above paragraph, you’ll find that my connection efforts online didn’t pan out to client work. But I think it’s a huge mistake to count out online connections. LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram have been the most important platforms for me. Here’s a breakdown of my feed:
Under Consideration reviews brand identities throughout the year.
Running a Studio
Ben Burns is the Digital Director at Blind. If you have him in your feed, you’ll be kept up-to-date on important TheFutur series like Building a Brand. I learned about stylescapes this year and that saved me a lot of time. Follow Ben here.
If you’re like me, you get sort of lonely doing day-to-day design work. Not only that, you need another creative brain to bounce sketches off of. So here are two communities I’m apart of that have helped me majorly. Compass of Design is an excellent band of creatives who review, mentor, and basically keep me company. The other online community that is absolutely necessary is Logo Geek Plus. With monthly video conferencing, I enjoy going through projects together and catching up on our goals.
Takeaway: don’t disregard your online friends.
Take Jobs that come
I started out the year determined to be only a brand designer. I soon realized that I’d go broke with that mentality. Although I have done a few brand projects this year, the bulk of my time and income have come from layout, print, digital, social, and event design. I’d love for this to become supplemental to brand work in 2019.
Takeaway: Don’t be a nonconforming specialist. At least in the first year.
Find Great Partners
These are some helpful companies I found this year.
LegalZoom was the first place I went when I thought about forming a business.
Turbo Tax makes tax season easy, with helpful notes and support to make it simple.
I’ve worked in Squarespace Inc. for a few years and have never looked back. Page design is so simple with eye-catching themes pre-built for you.
Process St keeps all my day-to-day tasks in order. Use templates or build your own, depending entirely on how you want to complete a project. If you’re interested in learning more about Process St, here’s something I wrote a while back.
WaveApp gave me a daily outlook on my profit and loss. Now I can look back and be totally confident in how I did this year.
Compass of Design has a great book list you should check out.
Toggl is a great tool for tracking time and reporting.
I’m going to do an experiment. I hear great things about Behance with respect to client acquisition. So I’ll give it a go this year.
Make less vague resolutions.