New to Freelancing? This one’s for you.

This CreativeMornings Chat by Mike Monteiro is a classic, and you have probably been shown this is school, or by fellow creatives. He brings up so many bumps in the road that you WILL deal with, they aren’t avoidable. Along with this video I wanted to share some advice that I’ve picked up along the road, hoping that you will carry it with you along your own journey.

First of all, congratulations on your choice to freelance your work. It is an incredible, liberating and joyful experience learning how to run your own business. Sure, it comes with some confusing, frustrating and upsetting times but what’s the yin without the yang? Here’s three things I would stay to get started on first:

Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. BUILD YOUR  COMMUNITY AND NETWORK

I’m sure when you pictured freelancing while still a student in school, you imagined sitting at your desk marking off all the deadlines of all your fullfilling projects on the calendar. But day one of freelancing will look nothing like that, sorry to pop that bubble of yours. You need to build your community (those who may be in a similar field to you, or friends) and your network (clients, or potential clients). Failing to build that community will leave you in a pretty lonely situation. You need those people you can count on to talk through a contract, pass a job off if you are unable to do it, or ask a tech question when trying to deal with a glitchy design program. You can find “your people” by attending local events, joining Facebook groups or simply connecting to those who inspire you on Instagram. Pleaseeee don’t be that person who meets another designer at an event and ghosts them because you see them as competition. You are missing the big picture - there are literally 1000s of gigs out there and you both have different skill sets. Befriend each other, you will thank me later. You aren’t alone! To build your network of clients will take time, so be patient. I’m sorry to tell you, but you do have to put yourself out there. Either in-person at events, or online at meet-ups. No one can hire you if they don’t know who you are or understand what you do. I have also found joy in helping others get connected. After a few years you get to know people, and it’s been an easy way to make new friends to help get them referrals. In conclusion, I can’t stress this advice enough. Get out there! 

theoatmeal.com

2. KNOW YOUR WORTH (THEN ADD TAX)

You should always pay yourself first. Along with that, I hope you are charging enough for your work because you probably aren’t at this very moment. Money is always an uncomfortable subject, but the more you talk about it the easier it will get, trust me. Before you tell that client you can do a logo for $200, ask yourself these questions: 

  • “Does the compensation fairly represent all my years of learning?” 
  • “With the estimated time going into this project, what would the hourly rate be? Can I live off that?” 
  • “Does that amount of compensation realistically represent the rights to the work that the client is looking for?”

I hope you said no to all those. $200 is way too low for amount of work that goes into logo development. It may be a hard sell to a client to up the budget, but try to put yourself in their shoes. They want to hear an explanation why the price is “so high” if they could just get a pre-made logo off an another website. You could go into why we study psychology, colour, themes, metaphors and explain it to them, or maybe just realize that they maybe aren’t your client and kindly guide them to the solution they need. It’s something you have to feel out, and it does get better with experience. Do remember that both are human and be kind. Even if you were too expensive for a client, you can still spend a few minutes writing out an email guiding them to some resources.  We do have to give the client a bit of a break, sometimes they have never worked with a designer/illustrator and simply don’t know the ropes. But you will figure out who is your ideal client, and who isn’t. It’s a hard thing to do, to say no to a project when to you just start out, but it’s leaving you open for an even better project headed your way. (Especially us women in business, I know we mean well, but our hearts aren’t always in the business of working with the brain in making money!)

One last thing to add, make sure you know what your client is going to use your work for. They may agree upon one use for the product, but then years later you find out they are using it for much more than they originally said they were going to. If you agreed upon the rights for 1 thing - they owe you much more than the original contract for that. Most things can be solved in a friendly matter, and I hope you never have to bring in lawyers, that would get pretty messy.

Illustration by Carolina Búzio

3. ALWAYS BE LEARNING!

The design industry is forever changing. You are forever changing and growing. It makes no sense to become stationary, and just keep outputting the same kind of work because you are comfortable with it. You should include a plan in your business for personal development. This could be Youtube videos, Skillshare, Linkedin, books, conferences, or workshops. Don’t tell me you don’t have time or you don’t want to spend the money. I’m sure you spent a pretty penny on your tuition, and that was an investment in you. You don’t just invest once and expect it to grow exponentially on its own. $300 is not a lot of money to spend on a conference that will gain friends for life as well as new life skills. Just buy the ticket, do the thing or send the message already!


Three things to watch out for in the coming years:

1. SHIFT IN SERVICES/BRANDING

You may get 2-3 years into your work and be thriving, and that’s awesome. But for myself, I got 2-3 years in offering some web, social media services and realized how unhappy that work made me. At the same time, I discovered a new service to offer. You may have branded yourself one way in the beginning, but it’s totally okay to switch gears. No sense in putting your energy into something that doesn’t bring you joy, you are the boss!

2. CLIENTS AND CLIENT FATIGUE

1) You may start to feel a loss of control with some clients. They may have hired you to do a certain project, but you feel like you are just a workhorse. In other words, you were hired for expertise yet they are telling you where to draw your lines, micromanaging in a sense. Clients may not realize that they are doing this, and you may need to speak up. This is business, and you don’t want to create something that you are not happy with and have your name on it. Let that client know, “Hey, a bright purple logo isn’t going to work for this funeral home, even though I know it’s your favourite colour. This is what we should be doing and why.” Hopefully they take that advice with an open mind - if not maybe best for you both to go your separate ways. It’s happened, and that’s okay. Not everyone is your client, it’s not personal, it’s business. 

2) Another piece to add to this is “scope creep”. Basically when a client asks for one thing to be done, and once the product is delivered, they slowly ask for more and more revisions under the previously agreed on price. So be clear in your contact. Like, stupidly clear. “This is for me to draw an apple, only an apple, in black and white line drawing style.” Be so obvious that it sounds overdone. You’ll thank me after said client comes back asking for that apple to be animated and you wave the contract saying “That’s going to cost extra as it wasn’t in our contract, but sure if you are willing to pay!”

3) One more thing to add when dealing with clients. Underpromise and overdeliver rings so true, and I try my best to make this a habit. Be that person that is always 3 steps ahead of your client’s needs, they will love you for it. If they are running a small business or a department of a large corporation, they are busy people. They can’t answer your 4 emails on what colours they want to pick or discuss how sharp the lines are. Be easy to work with, and try and put yourself in their shoes. As much as you realllllllly don’t want to talk to clients over the phone, sometimes it’s much more effective than a one-line email to get what information you need.

3. TAXES AND EARNINGS

Please make sure that you are deducting at LEAST 25%-30% from your invoices and put it away. Like really put it away. It’s not yours, don’t look at it. It’s not a new computer or a new set of headphones. It’s the governments money, and they want it back, so don’t let it become a shock to you come tax time! Hopefully you’ve found yourself a decent accountant that has your back, and can give you tips on how to reduce your taxes. With the leftover money after paying back your taxes should be the “investment in business” money. What does your business need to continue? More personal development? Equipment? Whatever you need, just don’t be put into a sticky situation come tax season. It’s the least fun part of doing everything yourself I know, but it must be done!

I hope that helps! You can always reach out to me for a virtual coffee chat, I’d love to meet you!

Laura Hanek  |  laurahanek@swoopmedia.ca


Recommended Reading for a Visual Practitioner!

Hello there!

You may be scouring the internet looking to find out more about Graphic Recording, and if you are I’m glad you landed here! I have some recommended reading I would love to share with you! All of these books are on my shelf, and they are available for purchase on amazon! (Don’t worry, the authors didn’t pay me, lol!) Book title is the link to amazon, and the Author link goes to their website!

The Sketchnote Handbook By Mike Rohde

If you are a complete newbie, and only have the budget for 1 book, this is the one I would recommend you start with! It’s got some inspiring examples, and walks you through simply how to transform your notes. I still refer to it often!

The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide By Brandy Agerbeck

Another fantastic book for the beginner, I would say this does fall second to learning the basics to Mike’s book. This takes things to the next level, learning how to listen with intent, letting concepts distill in your brain until they are ready for the paper. This also gets into more of the client side of things as well as operating this as a freelance business.

Drawn Together Through Visual Practice By Sam Brad, Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird and Jennifer Shepherd

This book a WAY more intense than the previous, but the good kind of intensity! I would say this book is more directed at the Facilitator rather than the Recorder, but it is important to understand the relationship between the two as we work together. This dives deep into the concepts of meetings, why we do what we do as people, what is most effective and why. It is a small book, but it’s packed with so much information to mull over that I could only do 2 chapters at a time! Would recommend if you are a teacher, facilitator, or leader in your organization!

The World of Visual Facilitation by Jeroen Blijsie (Author), Tim Hamons (Author), Rachel Smith (Author) 

To be honest I’m not finished this bad boy yet! To give you some perspective, this book is so big that I had to check my carry on luggage coming home from a conference because it weighed me down! It is the size of a college textbook! The book is categorized in 4 sections and has multiple chapters within that. Each chapter is written by one person, and it is a HUGE wealth of knowledge. If Visual facilitation ever becomes a university course, this would be its textbook.

Hopefully that fills up your amazon cart to get you started! Happy reading!


What to Expect When Hiring a Graphic Recorder

Photo by John-Finnigan Lin

You may have seen a Graphic Recorder perform their magic at a conference or meeting before, or maybe not. In real-time they are translating the ideas and concepts of the room into an easier-to-digest visual language. They make it look so easy, don’t they? You may be at the same event they are working at and wondering how you can work with them. Hopefully I can provide some clarity on how I work with clients! I’ve put together sort of a FAQ list of working with a graphic recorder:

In what ways can I use a Graphic Recorder?

Oh, let’s get creative shall we? Traditionally they are used at conferences, keynotes and facilitated meetings. Some non-traditional ways to use a recorder include:

  • Personal goal mapping/setting
  • Branding your business
  • Explaining a big concept (this would be more of an infographic)

I have also had the request TWICE to do graphic recordings of speeches at weddings! I politely declined, but kinda of a fun out-of-the-box thinking!

How is the fee structured?

I have a fee for half-days and for full-day for in-person conferences or meetings. If your meeting is only 45 minutes long, you would fall into the half-day category for the fee.

What is included in the fee?

  • Pre-planning meeting: I would arrange a “discovery” meeting over the phone, or in person if that is possible. I want to get a better understanding of your organization, and why you are holding this meeting/conference/gathering. I want to know how many people will be there, how the facilitation will be structured and what the desired outcome of the day is. I want to figure out with you how I can be used for maximum idea-producing potential! 
  • Visuals for the meeting: Do you need an agenda made? Templates created? Infographics? Slides edited? These are all things that I can help you with to make your day an absolute hit with higher engagement, better productivity and more fun!
  • Preparation work: On my end I will continue to do some research and preparation work leading up to the meeting. I will prepare the boards ahead of time with a title we decided on. 
  • Meeting/Conference Day: Ideally I would arrive an hour before anything starts so that I have time to figure out the best set up for the boards. I can be at the front of the room working directly with the facilitator or off to the side as not to be a complete distraction. Again, we would hopefully figure this out ahead of time depending on your needs. If possible I always like to arrange a meeting after everyone has left with the client to go over the boards one-on-one to discuss. 
  • Post Production work: I will take the completed piece and have it professionally scanned. From there I will edit any spelling mistakes, add anything that I may have missed in the meeting and send it off to you in a packaged file within 5-8 business days. I can also ship the original if that’s something of interest. Any animation or cut outs of graphics would be an additional fee at this point.

What do I do with this magic after the day is over?

I love to recommend to clients for them to hang it up in the office and let it be celebrated. For the visuals of the meeting to be reviewed every day, they can be etched into our brain and hopefully the goals can be reached much faster. Either have it printed on a large poster size, or even multiple copies to hang up in a cubical. 

What kind of materials do you work with?

Typically I work with Neuland markers and paper. I attach the paper onto foam-core so that I have something stable to work on. If your set-up allows it I can attach my paper directly onto the wall so I am unlimited in length! I also have an iPad Pro which allows me to record digitally. I can project onto a wall or a TV screen in real-time. There are pros and cons to both, and I can certainly have that discussion with you to see what is better suited to your meeting.

How do you know how much room you need on the paper?

This is different for every meeting and each style of facilitation. In a more keynote style situation, they are rehearsed and are almost always on-time. If I’m halfway through my boards and I’m 30 mins into the hour, I’m in good shape. With meetings that include a lot of conversation, audience input and distilling of information, the boards can go any direction. Yes, I have ended up with some blanks on my pages - meetings can be quicker than expected! I just try to be as flexible as possible, and I can work with the blank spots later in post-production.

How do I find a Graphic Recorder?

There is actually an organization that holds us all together! The International Forum of Visual Practitioners is an organization that keeps us up-to-date on industry standards, keeps us in the know with technology and what clients are looking for. You can post a job there, or you can also search registered Graphic Recorders in your area. There may be someone in your town that you didn’t know existed! Take us out for a coffee, we don’t bite! If you want to find out where you can become a Graphic Recorder yourself, that’s the place to start your research!

Hopefully that helps with some of the mystery of hiring a Graphic Recorder! If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to reach out! laurahanek@swoopmedia.ca


Photo by: John-Finnigan Lin


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