Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Call Yourself a Freelancer

I've been on a consulting gig for the last few weeks. I've met some really talented designers and illustrators. Many of them have questions about being an independent creative and are curious about the DOs and DON'Ts of running a design business. The question I get asked the most is "What is the first thing I should do when opening a freelance business?"

It's really very simple. Stop calling yourself a freelancer. Let me explain by answering a couple of questions.

What is a Freelancer?
A freelancer, in this case, is a person who offers services in the area of design or creative services, as I like to call it. This could be web design, graphic design, illustration etc. These areas of creativity are very sought after skills these days and will continue to be. The design industry is highly competitive, so in order to stand out you need to think of yourself not as a freelancer but as a businessman or business owner. A freelancer is someone who offers services, gets paid and is called upon when needed. They usually work from a home office, wear t-shirts and flip flops and don't do much in terms of networking. They're usually looked upon as replaceable.

What is a Businessman?
A designer who refers to him or herself as a business owner is someone who offers the same services as the freelancer but offers one more thing that the freelancer doesn't. Value. This designer will focus on selling the value and not the product itself. This person explains the importance of design, dresses well when attending networking functions and conducts business not transactions. This designer also sets a value to their work and does not let the client dictate their worth. They turn down projects that pay too little due to the client not understanding the value (or is just plain cheap), even if it means having a dry week or month. These designers are irreplaceable, not only because of their design skills, but because of their knowledge.

Obviously, there is much more to opening a design business of your own, but if you don't begin with changing your own outlook, you will always be working for others and not working for yourself. Always set your value or everyone else will.

Have you changed the way you offer your services and see the benefits? Have you made the switch to being a businessman? Are you having trouble climbing the hurdles of running your business? Do you disagree with me? Tell us in the comment section and share this post. Use @salvatier in your tweet!