Freelancing - Breaking Free

I've been freelancing for a few years now, but I still have a full time job in order to pay the bills, yes I still work for the MAN!. I have compiled a few things from what I've learned along the way and also asking friends and fellow designers what they have done in the past to be successful at freelancing.

1. Are you self motivated?
You will need to be able to motivate yourself to work on your own initiative.

2. Are you happy working on your own?
If you are going to be working from home, you will need to prepared for the fact that you may be spending a lot of time on your own.

3. Are you a good organizer? 
Not only will you be doing the design work, you will need to plan it, do any administration and accounts required.

4. Do you have enough money for the first couple of months?
Unless you hit the ground at a flying start you will need to be prepared that money may be tight at first. Not only will you be trying to build your business, most clients will want at least 30 days payment terms (and then still may not pay on time).

5. Do you have a plan? 
You don’t necessarily need a full business plan, but you do need to plan on how to get work.

6. Get a good accountant.
If they are good they will save you far more than you will pay them. They know all the things you can and can’t claim for, and will save you money in the long run.

7. Create a website. Even if web design isn’t your specialty (like mine), a web portfolio is a simple way to point potential clients to your work.

8. Write speculative letters to potential clients with a reference to your website and follow up a few days later with a phone call.

9. Approach design agencies, to see if they require anyone or an extra pair of hands when things get busy. Work with design agencies tends to be easier to get than work for direct clients

10. Contact previous employers.
Previous employers may have freelance design work and would be happy to give it to you, as they know your work.

11. Set up a job book. 
As soon as you get a new job in put it in the job book with date, client, job description, quote amount, and invoice date. This makes invoicing much easier at the end of the month

12. Keep a work in progress list. 
It is very easy to forget a job if you are busy. Keep a work in progress list and cross jobs off as you complete them and add to it as new jobs come in. Keep a note beside each job when it is due.

13. Meet deadlines.
Don’t promise to meet deadlines that you know you can’t. It's better to decline a job than accept it and not deliver it on time.

14. Do the best job you can.
Your reputation is based on the last job you did for a client. Do a good job and you may get recommended to someone else. The design world tends to be quite close knit so you want to make a good name for yourself.

15. Don’t worry if work slows down.
If work does slow down, don’t panic. Trying calling around to see if anyone has any work and send out some more letters and email enquiries. But don’t panic, you’ll regret not enjoying that quiet time when you are so busy you have to work late all the next week and weekend.

16. Pay yourself a set wage.
If you can pay yourself a set wage just as though you were employed, this means when you have money you leave some in the bank and when you have a bad one you can still afford to pay yourself.

Photo credits: Julia Freeman-woolpert, Spaceheater.


Your article must be written in English



i agree, great advice and tips, thanks for sharing!


Great Tips... thanks!




Hope you gonna have lots of fun and maybe few serious jobs also between fun things. Good luck!:)


The site Maigi mentioned is a good one, also there one more for web developers, Scriptlance Even I do the same way Reef did. That will be a surprise when they get a free sample of their work emailed, so they can see the results. You work will speak about yourself. I suggest all freelancer to adapt this method.


That's a great article! I have got more harvest from it.


Wow, that's a great blog and very useful information for many. Richard, have you tried to get some job from such freelancers' sites as


I hear you - I have 4 kids myself, Richard :) That's why I do a little Microstock, which I must say is beginning to add up!


No worries - of course if I hadn't immigrated I'd probably be still working full time for a company and writing lists on how to break away into freelancing LOL


I don't know buddy - people that write long lists worry me :) The only goal should be to get freelance work and worry about the rest later. Here's how I did it after immigrating to a new country and not knowing a single person - I first found out the names, url's and email addresses of local corporate companies (corporate always pays more). I then spent 2 weeks redesigning their logos and creating sample template brochure covers and such. I emailed them to 6 companies and 3 replied. 8 years later I still freelance for 2 of those companies. I hope that's the sort of useful advice people can relate to because it worked for me.


Oh, I know. I've seen it. I was just adding advice for others who may feel that putting a site together would be daunting.
I need to work on #s 4, 6, 8, 9 and 16 primarily!


Thanks again Richard. Great advice.
Oh, and as for a web site, might I suggest using Wordpress or Blogger or other site that's free and easy to set up for those that don't know how to create a site. I think it's better to have your own site and address, but at least for starters, and then it could be incorporated into a site later. As for me, I have both (or actually all three). Having my own site also allows me to have a designated e-mail address, which is good for separating work and personal e-mail, as well as being more memorable and professional. But it's not as hard as it seems to get at least a simple site up.


Yay! I finally passed something. And thanks for caring enough to help people.


Hi Richard, sound advice and points for everyone that is in any form of business of their own, thanks for the tips.


Hey, Richard, here goes:

1. yes, 2.yes,, 4.yes, 5.yes and no, 6. ok, 7. Huh--don't know how, 8. You've read my writing style!?, 9. not any here, 10. they're dead, 11. records, yuck, 12. see #11, 13. do what?, 14. okay, 15. I'll nap, 16. ALRIGHT!!

I took the test and want to know if I passed. :-}


Very well written, all points of the article make one think about photographing and this is the best what blog is for :-) Thanks for writing it!


Hi Richard, all your points are really worth, I did really enjoy reading, as a freelancer myself, I have messed up on so many occasion. You know a times I don't even remember how much I quoted, and at times I forget how much my client paid down payment. Well your point 7 is very true, you know being a web designer and developer myself, I didn't get time to finalize my site yet. Now I have to do.

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