Freelancing in 2019

Things learned and unlearned from a year of contracting

by Juliane Bone
January 09, 2020

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.