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Keep Your Soul While Freelancing
If you have ever freelanced before, art or otherwise, you know how tough it can be. You have several demons you have to overcome. First of all, yourself.
I have said before and I will say again. Promoting yourself is probably the most important aspect of being successful in finding a job, as well as freelancing. If you are just graduating be prepared to spend months promoting yourself. If you are smart you would have started this while in school. Make yourself into your own brand. Now I am not talking about having stationery that matches your toilet paper. While this is nice if you are having a client over for dinner, it’s not really necessary. You should however have a great looking business card and while also not necessary, but it does look nice to have a logo. If you aren’t the best logo artist, don’t just hack something together, as this will eventually become part of your band. My logo took me quite a while to come up with. I also have a business card that matches, as well as each of my social networks. Your brand is not all you have to do to promote yourself. I wrote about a bunch of ways to promote yourself in my last article here, Aspiring 3D Artist Q&A.
Weeding out the Riffraff
Now that you have yourself some semblance of a brand and have started marketing yourself you are ready to get out there. This probably won’t happen, but let’s just say instantly you get a freelance offer. Someone calls you, or emails you and offers you greatness, all the riches in the world. Breath… Take a step back. Think. If you are just starting out you have to realize that if a job sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you are on the phone, don’t agree to anything out right. Listen to what they have to say. Get all of the info you can out of them. Then politely tell them you will have to call them back after you do some calculations etc. Google is your friend. I can almost guarantee you are not the first person that has been contacted. You are most likely not even the 50th. The field of art in general is a very large, but very tiny field. There are forums we all like to use, as well as other social media we can be found on. People looking for work will also figure this out very quickly. Google will find them. They have posted on several forums trying to find suckers for work.
Now that you have Googled your potential client and they are clean, you can move on to negotiating. There is a fantastic book on negotiating. It is called “My So Called Freelance Life“. Make sure that you get all of the facts you can out of the client about the work they are seeking. You will miss a little info here and there. That is normal. The client may not be 100% sure what they are seeking themselves. You are the expert. Remember that. When negotiating, take into consideration the following.
- How many assets are needed for the work?
- If you are working in 3D, how many models?
- Will it require extra time such as rendering, printing, etc?
- Will you need supplies?
- Is your equipment sufficient to do the work?
- Is there enough time in a normal work week to finish the work?
- Will it have to be rushed?
- Is it worth your time?
- Do not sell yourself short. Demand the pay you deserve.
Set boundaries for yourself. If you are full-time freelancing, you will likely spend 45-50 hours a week working. If you are part time, it will probably be half of that if you are dedicated.
Balance of Life and Work
Balance your life. Don’t overwork yourself or you will burn out. If you plan on freelancing for an extended amount of time, you must keep everything balanced. You won’t regret it.
Always, always, always get a contract! Have your own ready. Most of the time, you will be responsible for creating the contract. Create a template you can use. Having your own gives you the upper-hand anyway. Try not to get too heavy on the legal jargon either. Keep it simple, but legal. This also keeps from having to go back and forth too much with clients over wording. If you confuse them, they are less likely to trust you.
Payment Organization (Invoice and Payment System)
Come up with a good invoicing system from the start. Give clients trackable numbers, keep track of everything you received and what you are owed. Use Google Drive. Google Drive is a great resource for freelancing. You can send invoices to clients, create and store contracts, and even share work. You can also keep track of whether or not the client has received the work.
Scheduling System (Calendar and Due Dates)
Keep track of everything in a calendar system. If you have multiple clients, you will have multiple due-dates. Make sure they don’t conflict. This will also ensure you don’t miss a due date or have scope creep. This is also a great way of keeping track of milestones.
Be organized. Be VERY organized. Even after a project is done and you have signed off with a client. Keep those files in an organized system. When I first started freelancing I was terrible at organization. I realized later when a client came back a year later and wanted some changes and additions to that work, that I better get organized! I came up with a pretty awesome system for organizing my files. However, you will come up with something that will work for you.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job (If you have one)
If you already have a day job, keep it! At least for a while until you get the hang of freelancing. It may take a year for you to get good at talking a potential client into giving you the job. Freelancing isn’t always steady work either. If you have something to fall back on, keep it.
So in conclusion, there is an art to freelancing. I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your experiences!