Bad time to go freelance designing? opinions or am I doomed to fail!

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  • Bad time to go freelance designing? opinions or am I doomed to fail!
  • Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    Depends what sort of payoff on offer I’d say.

    I’m in content not design, but things seem pretty flat across the board at the moment. Getting work is not easy but not impossible.

    grueller
    Member

    6 months pay basically, enough of a buffer I think. Same old story of middle age, unhappy in job, don’t particularly want to travel to London every day to do it.
    I see it as an opportunity to put up or shut up

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    The problem you’ll face is that a lot of people have done the same. An awful lot of designers have been made redundant and are looking for freelance work

    If you’re new to the circuit, you’ll struggle to get established.

    Whereas in the past, if they’ve a job at short notice, an agency would try a new designer. This would give you the opportunity to prove yourself. This just isn’t happening at the moment. Companies have very little work, and when they do need freelance staff, they’re pretty certain that someone they’ve used before – a known quantity – will be available. In the present climate they’re rarely wrong.

    All public bodies are being prevented from using freelance staff too

    You’ll also get treated like shit. Because they can at the moment. Booking you for say a weeks work, nest week, then phoning you at five on Friday to say its been cancelled as accounts refused to sign freelance staff off!

    To be honest, you’d have to be mad to do it unless you absolutely have too. After all – can you see things picking up any time soon?

    Oh…. and pay rates haven’t gone up for 5 years+,in fact the’re heading in the opposite direction. That’s supply and demand for you

    grueller
    Member

    Not what I wanted to hear, but I know it’s not easy out there. I would hope to get some work from where I am and try to get some work from printshops locally or translation agencies whilst looking for more digital design work

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    Sound out some potential clients now, it’s all about who you know so it might work for you.

    But the picture Binners paints is also true of the media industry in general IME.

    Premier Icon maxray
    Subscriber

    I would advise brushing up on your digital design skills. Way too many people in the market to get away with knowing a little Dreamweaver etc.

    The creative agency I work at does both traditional print and interactive media. I work on the latter side of things. Have seen more and more print jobs changing to interactive media be it, interactive PDF’s , email campaigns, microsites etc and we have had more and more social media stuff coming in, Facebook apps and the like.

    The amount of work coming in stays roughly the same, we just find the % split of print/online rises and falls.

    We have a few freelancers we would always get in touch with first of all, just because you build up a relationship with them, they know how we work and what our clients expect.

    Personally I wouldn’t want to have to break into the industry as a sole trader now but there is loads of work about.

    If you are midlands based and want to send me your info grueller happy to take a look/keep you on file.

    grueller
    Member

    come from an interactive training agency but never really learnt the coding side of it. Used to do authorware but then that got cut and we moved into flash. The 2 developers took care of that so I just did the designs and put the content in any external xml, etc.
    I am really worried about going it alone, but like I said see it as an opportunity to develop. Don’t really want to continue on the managerial ladder in London. Would aim to develop web skills as it’s never going to happen if I stay where I am. All development is outsourced.
    Cheers Maxray. Around Cambridge so may look you up if I jump

    grueller
    Member

    relocating office so redundancy is on offer. Thinking of going it alone as a freelance print/digital designer or trying to get short term contracts via an agency. Any advice?
    Ta

    Premier Icon maxray
    Subscriber

    I have a couple of mates that went the freelance route as opposed to employment in a company. The biggest thing I have seen from that is that they have had to become real jack of all trades, remember you wont have that ace programming geek in the corner to get some random jQuery customised/working properly etc.

    Good luck though! and yeah if you do, chuck us your details, designers are ten a penny but really good designers are like gold dust!!

    jambon
    Member

    Video editor here.

    Went freelance maybe 7 years ago.

    Best thing I ever did.

    Rates too haven’t gone up in ALL of that time, but I still managed to half my hours and double my pay.

    Managed to rely on my ex-employer whilst I found my feet – I gave them a year’s notice and they were still surprised when I told them I was going – caught them with pants down!

    The swap has meant that I was able to save like mad – now live in Spain with missus and dog with trails on my door step. Come back to London for 3-4 months a year to earn some cash.

    Otherwise, freelance really suits me, I’m my own boss and that’s a great thing for SOME people, not all.

    If you’re the kind that’s going to get really stressed by a few months of no work and you’re not good with money then I’d advise against.

    Otherwise it’s a no-brainer.

    thepodge
    Member

    I’m a freelance / contract design engineer so not quite the same market but since leaving full term employment I’ve increased my pay and worked on a much bigger / wider range of products, I’d be wary of going back.

    grueller
    Member

    14yrs in the same job has equipped me with some skills but I’m really not sure how they measure up on the outside world. People have left and will leave with the move. I don’t really enjoy the job, but who does, but adding a commute tips it. Don’t want to look back in 6 months and think, b@llo@x I wish I’d done it and been braver. Mid forties, mid-life, mid-management doesn’t really appeal. It’s having the guts to do it

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    If you’re determined then go for it! I made a good living freelancing for many years. But that was in much happier economic times! If you’re working full time then its a nice little earner.

    But getting yourself to that point takes hard work. You have to pimp yourself around everywhere. And badger people without becoming annoying. A fine line to tread

    Most companies have their regulars and will use them first. You only get a bell if they’re not available. But if they’re looking at your CV at the time….

    I’ll guarantee you this. You will not be working 5 days a week in the present climate. Not a chance. Could you survive and pay your bills working only 2 days a week. Unfortunately, that’s the reality until you’ve established a reputation.

    Its worth it though if you do. If you’re in demand, then you end up turning work away.

    Good luck though!

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    Same story as Binners paints, with one of my staff. She’s been a self employed graphic designer for a fair few years. 1 or 2 of her big direct clients dried up, so she started supplementing with agency work, which was quite good regular work for a couple of years. Then things just recently have died a death, she has had to seek part time completely unrelated work, with me. Fortunately, I’m fairly flexible, so she can carry on doing occasional agency work, but she hardly gets any at the moment, certainly not to make a living.
    Also, what Binners says about getting taken on for a full weeks work, so cancelling all other potential earning opportunities, only to actually get maybe 2 or 3 days work out of it. I was appalled at this, but she says it’s normal practice.
    This is Leeds area BTW, things may be more buoyant further south.

    grueller
    Member

    I have to make a decision by Monday. I was all set to go for it, now wavering thinking of the wife and kids, etc.
    Better to plod through the existing job with a commute not really caring either way, or seize the day. A bit cheesy I know but there must be a better way out there

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    Factor in cashflow too. If you’re self-employed and you’re working for companies, once you send them your invoice then it disappears into the black hole of their accounts department. The bigger the company, the longer you’ll wait for payment. Worst I had was B&Q who took 6 months! That really got my back up as I’d worked over christmas and new year to pull a last minute job out of the bag for them! Worst out of the lot is apaprently the BBC – who can take up to 2 years. I’m not joking here either!

    Not good if you’re depending on it. You can end up in the crazy situation where you’ve been mad busy, you should be minted, yet you’re absolutely skint with thousands in outstanding invoices

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    I vote for ‘seize the day’. That’s easy for me to say sat here with no wife and kids to support, though. My mrs has a reasonable job so when I took the plunge we still had an OK income. As above some weeks you have a day or two’s work per week other times nine or ten days per week. I’m in a different field (exhibition and product design) and get all my work direct either through contacts, fishing emails or my website. I think it would hurt my soul to get involved with agencies.

    Freelance here doing technical illustration and flash development.

    Binners description is probably the one that I recognise as being being closest to my experiences.

    I have waited 8 months after submitting an invoice to get paid for a job.
    I have been told “we’ll have that project ready for you to start on Monday” 4 weeks on the trot without anything being ready and therefore with not much to do for a month.
    I have had to turn clients down due to being too busy and subsequently lost their long term work as they found someone else that could do it.
    I regularly work into the early hours of the morning and over weekends.
    When you’re starting out you’ll get the jobs that none of the full time staff wanted to do, either because they are awkward or that the timescale is ridiculous.
    Hourly rate has not changed in four years, putting it up would see me becoming uncompetitive in what is a crowded market.
    I have had to take crap work for very little money during a period when I couldn’t find anything better.

    But even given all that I still wouldn’t want to work full time in a studio again.

    grueller
    Member

    I guess the worst thing is making the decision in the first place. After that you work with what you’ve got in front of you. Is it the fear of failure that’s stopping me or just being lazy and apathetic as it’s easier to stay put

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    or just being lazy and apathetic

    I think you have to be honest with yourself about whether your personality would suit freelancing as well.

    If you’re not really a self-starter then you might struggle.

    My decision was made for me by redundancy combined with a rather fortunate offer of a six week project that got me started.

    We do have the security of knowing that Mrs mW’s wage would cover the very basic outgoings if the work did dry up. Which I guess is one of the things that made it feasible in the first place, if we’d have relied on my wage to get by then I would probably have preferred a full time paye position.

    grueller
    Member

    I think it’s a confidence thing as well. I’ve been here so long that I lack the confidence in my work. I know I’m very quick and very thorough with artwork but design is so down to taste that I’m not so sure about that as it’s left to me at the moment. I can be more assertive if the money depended on it and some of the previous designers/freelancers work I’ve seen makes me think I can succeed

    jackthedog
    Member

    I think it’s a confidence thing as well. I’ve been here so long that I lack the confidence in my work. I know I’m very quick and very thorough with artwork but design is so down to taste that I’m not so sure about that as it’s left to me at the moment.

    I spent a decade in 9-5 design studio employment. Got a (fair) reputation for being fast and reliable, which ended up being a total millstone around my neck.

    After being tasked with – and successfully completing – an 18 month project in 3 weeks I realised I was never going to be given creative high profile stuff while there would always be failing projects elsewhere in need of rescuing. Wilted portfolio and battered self esteem wasn’t an easy place to start a freelance career from, but I’m lucky to have a good few contacts in various industries for the work to start trickling in.

    If you don’t have the ability to speak for yourself and sell yourself a little bit it’s going to be hard. I’m generally happy to take anyone on in any setting, but I still find it hard to sing my own praises when the moment arises.

    Another tricky thing I’ve found is working alone. Nobody to bounce ideas off, feedback only comes from the client and it’s only ever negative and rarely constructive, as of course they only speak up when unhappy. And if you need to do something you don’t know how to do, there generally isn’t anyone to ask. You’re on your own.

    Having said that, this year I’ve earned half what I did in my last year of 9-5, while working about a tenth the hours. Extrapolating from that I could of course earn a decent wage, but I just don’t have the business head. I’m living on borrowed time as a result.

    But the benefit of not being surrounded by idiots in an air conditioned box, under the watchful eye of vapid HR gibbons has so far made it indescribably worthwhile.

    But the benefit of not being surrounded by idiots in an air conditioned box, under the watchful eye of vapid HR gibbons has so far made it indescribably worthwhile.

    Good point well made.

    grueller
    Member

    jackthedog, wife and kids in that equation?
    I would be able to advance my skills if I was on my own out of necessity.
    I could take London and think I’ll try to generate a sideline in a year but would I feel like working at a screen all night having just got in at 7pm?
    Or I take a gamble with some money and see what happens

    jackthedog
    Member

    jackthedog, wife and kids in that equation?

    No. GF and I don’t live together (nor share any finances, thankfully for her…)

    I wasn’t really offering an equation. I’m pretty far from being qualified to give advice on a successful and prosperous life…

    grueller
    Member

    what sort of work do you do jack?
    I’m worried my lack of dreamweaver/html/css skills will stop me getting work.
    We had developers to do that. I can design websites as I can appreciate what needs doing, but I’m no front end designer/developer

    jackthedog
    Member

    what sort of work do you do jack?

    Graphic design. Experienced in computer game UI design and dev also, but total web n00b. Hate doing digital stuff but increasingly forced to.

    lateo
    Member

    New to the boards but have a view on this from personal experience

    Id propose asking to a reduction in days – to 3 or 4 a week whilst starting a separate business for yourself

    Allot of employers in todays market would entertain the idea – but make sure that you don’t end up doing 5 days worth of work in 4!

    The benefits to you are 1. Regular stimulus from work colleagues and clients 2. Economies of scale if you’r employer is positive to your ambitions 3. A chance to plan and try-before-you-buy!

    FuzzyWuzzy
    Member

    Is there no chance of finding another permanent job in 6 months though? Doesn’t sound like you’re in a nice situation but with a 6 month buffer it’s got to be worth taking a shot (looking for permanent roles from Day 1 whilst trying to find agency work as well etc.).

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    Actually it sounds like you’ve got in a rut and are not gaining any useful experience where you are – so why not take the money and run and as Fuzzy Wuzzy says look for a better staff job if the freelancing doesn’t pan out?

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    It does sound like you need to get out. And it’d probably do you the power of good. And if you’ve a buffer then its an opportunity. Get in touch with all the agencies before you do anything. Get yourself out there!

    What there are a the moment are fixed term contracts. 3 months or 6 months. If companies are busy they’re still reluctant to fill positions with permanent staff. But a 3 month contract can become a rolling one which becomes permanent

    I know from recent experience 😀

    grueller
    Member

    I can’t do anything yet for fear of putting any redundancy at risk but the aim was as soon as wheels were in motion, start looking and calling agencies. My wage reflects 14yrs in the same place so finding a similar job with the same salary looks distant which is why I’m thinking freelance, short contract work. To be honest i’ll do anything to put food on the table. Just don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face. Leaving just because I don’t like it. I’m sure if everyone did that there would be loads of jobs!

    soul searching

    NorthernStar
    Member

    6 months redundancy. I’d bite their hand off. If you’ve been thinking about going freelance for a while then this is about a good a shot as you’re going to get. You can always cut your costs a bit to make that money stretch 8-9 months if need be surely?

    8-9 months should be long enough to get out there and get some established work. You never know but your old company might want you back as well for a few days to finish off existing work.

    That’s what I did. I had about £3k in the bank, but resigned so no redundancy pay. Thing is I resigned to go freelance when the company I worked for was super busy. They had me back in virtually full time for 2-3 months after I left – at about 2.5 times my old daily rate when salaried. That was enough to build up a financial buffer.

    Regular freelance work with other agencies slowly started to come in and once you’re in with a couple of large agencies and they know the way you work the you should see some regular bookings. You could also go for a few direct clients as well? Perhaps offer a discounted rate for the first few days with a new agency – just to get your face known?

    Most important thing is reliability. I regularly get the call over some of the other freelancers my main client books because I’m never late and always deliver when I say I will. Some freelancers are surprisingly bad at that so instantly I’m at an advantage and tend to get first refusal on work. Other think to note is that you can never have an ‘off day’ freelancing. Every day has to be full effort however shit, hungover or tired you’re feeling.

    Go ahead and do it. Best thing I ever did and still feel sorry for the people at the agencies who work the old 9-5. Not only is freelance money better but you don’t have to put up with the same office politics as regular employees. You can end up working some odd hours and some long hours, but at the end of the day if I work overtime then I charge for it. Didn’t get that with the 9-5.

    Premier Icon maxray
    Subscriber

    Go ahead and do it. Best thing I ever did and still feel sorry for the people at the agencies who work the old 9-5. Not only is freelance money better but you don’t have to put up with the same office politics as regular employees. You can end up working some odd hours and some long hours, but at the end of the day if I work overtime then I charge for it. Didn’t get that with the 9-5.

    You can end up working at an agency that isn’t like that too, You don’t need to feel sorry for us all 🙂

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    You get both extremes when freelancing

    1. Its great here. I wonder if there are any permanent jobs

    2. (usually within 5 minutes of working in) Sweet ****ing Jesus! Get me out of here NOW!. Don’t think I’ll be coming back here

    grueller
    Member

    i’M SURE THERE ARE design agencies that understand and appreciate the creative side of the process. Here it’s an afterthought or it’s down to individuals working above and beyond to squeeze it in. Costing jobs is usually 7hrs design, 14hrs artwork as a given. i think I can find a better way of working. I work hard and fast and don’t mind putting in the hours if it’s worth it. But I’ve been here long enough to know it’s never appreciated or compensated.

    jackthedog
    Member

    You sound really down about the place, and they’re offering you half a year’s pay to leave.

    It sounds like it’s time to start a new chapter in your life mate.

    Premier Icon binners
    Subscriber

    I agree with jackthedog – sounds like you need out. I walked out of a job years ago because it was depressing me. I had no job to go to, no redundancy payments. I just couldn’t stand it any more. I finished there on the Friday, let the agencies know and had my first phone call about freelance work within half an hour.

    You never know. Just do it with your eyes open

    grueller
    Member

    My eyes are open and I feel like if I can get something to start as soon as I finish it will pick me up. I’m sure someone may come in an have a different view of my job, so maybe I’m the problem as well as the job. I’m prepared to do anything and invest in developing skills I don’t have. Hopefully get some work, short-term from employers here. It’s a big wide world of design and I’ve just been in a tiny part of it. Just need to find the rest of it and hope there’s work there. Here’s hoping

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