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:

Photo by Banter Snaps on Unsplash

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:

2019 Clients

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.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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:

Branding News

Under Consideration reviews brand identities throughout the year.

Running a Studio

Mark Des Cotes runs Resourceful Designer and posts relevant and helpful information on running your design business. Follow Mark here.

Darian Rosebrook can’t be ignored. He stays on the forefront of all things design. Follow Darian here.

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.


Dann Petty is always helping you find a job. His entire feed is really inspirational! Follow Dann 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.


Stef Hamerlinck’s Brand Workshop course started me out on a great trajectory this year. I learned how to properly facilitate a workshop and completed a successful one this year.

Takeaway: don’t disregard your online friends.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

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.

Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

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.


Apart from Google Analytics, Hotjar gives interesting datapoints like heatmaps. Find out how Hotjar can help you here.


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.

Time Tracking

Toggl is a great tool for tracking time and reporting.

Photo by Danil Aksenov on Unsplash

2020 Resolutions!

  1. 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.

  2. Make less vague resolutions.

  3. Double profits.

This article was originally published here. Click here to see the original.

Here's some more articles that may be helpful

How to make money in design without doing client work

July 18, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

I had someone reach out to me about the article I posted about getting paid as a freelancer. They told me that they were able to get some good value out of it, but they wanted to know “how else they can support themselves if they don’t want to work with clients?”

Better Design Feedback

June 22, 2018
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One thing I am passionate about is quality design feedback. I’ll mention in a future post that it’s sometimes best to get other eyes on your projects, but having objective, quality design feedback is something that a designer needs to be able to move forward with their design skills.

How to get paid as a freelance designer

June 10, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

Sometimes, if you’ve been posting so much personal design work that someone comes by and wants to pay you to do something similar for them, you may be confident enough to take them on as a client.

The Romance of Freelance Design

June 06, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

A little while back, I got an excellent question in my inbox from Sadie, someone who’s been reading the Compass of Design Newsletter for the last 6 or 7 months. She is a freshman in college this next fall and wanted to pursue the whole conundrum of getting work as a freelance designer to help pay for “that college life stuff.”