The Hard Reality Of Freelancing Designers

Most freelance designers out there aren’t ready for the freelancing world. As a freelancer, there are so many hidden traps and problems. That most people don’t consider until it’s too late.

This post might change your mind about becoming a freelance graphic designer. Or it might just help you with a journey you’re about to go on. Believe me, if you are becoming a freelance graphic designer. You are going on a pretty big journey. A quote by IBIS World in 2020 states. That freelance graphic designers account for approximately 90 percent of the total industry participation.

The problem is that most of these designers have only a vague idea of what the freelance experience should consist of. And how to do it properly. Knowing when to start your own freelance career or if it’s even for you in the first place can be the first problem.

I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years now. and I would say for the first two to three years. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m surprised I’ve got this far as a freelancer. That’s because I was making a lot of mistakes you’re going to hear about right now.

For a start, you have to get used to being the jack of all trades. Just think about it for a second. A typical graphic design agency will have someone to deal with communications. Someone else to do the admin work keep track of finances. Other people to work on marketing social media to track the business health and so on. As a freelancer, you accept all of these roles and more all on your own back.

That’s right it’s completely down to you. Of course, it is possible with

  • Practice
  • Self Education
  • Persistence

But not only is it tough it’s essential to success. There are a bunch of apps and resources. That you can use to help with these points. So don’t be shy with google searching for these things.

The next thing a lot of designers don’t think about is Taxes. Most people out there are legally required to pay taxes on their earnings. When you work at a design studio or agency it’s often calculated all for you and then processed without much worry for your end.

As a freelancer, it’s a completely different story. And let me tell you it’s not only a big headache to keep track of everything, even with an accountant. It’s a very tough pill to swallow to see you know a big percentage of your earnings. Fly out of the window every single year. Of course, they go to Mr taxman. Not only do you need to pay the taxes but you need to do it properly.

Now I know a person through my dad who got into some major issues with tax. About eight years ago he came to my dad and said that he was foolish for paying too much tax. Apparently, this man’s accountant knew some loopholes and thus he was paying lower taxes. My dad chose to carry on with his own accountants that he’s been using for several years.

Fast forward to about seven years later. The taxman decided to turn up in this man’s life and he wanted more than 80 000 pounds of unpaid taxes. Long story short, this man’s business failed his wife left him and now he’s pretty much left with nothing. It’s a really sad situation. But it could have been avoided. There are so many parts of the tax world that you need to seek advice from a financial advisor.

For example, up until this year, I was paying tax as a sole trader. I wish I had launched a registered company as they typically pay less taxes than sole traders. I didn’t know that before of course. But suffice to say my last tax bill was 24 000 pounds. Which is roughly about 30 000 and that’s for a single year. So your taxes are a big thing when it comes to freelancing.

Another hard truth about being a freelancer is being victim to the skewed vision syndrome. The skewed mind syndrome is basically when a designer looks at their work. And they can’t determine if it’s good or bad on their own accord. They cannot judge their designs without the help of other people’s advice or external advice from the internet.

If you’re someone who is used to asking everyone else in the design studio for opinions on the design. Or you are getting direct input from other designers. This can be a harsh reality check for those navigating into the freelance world. Sure you can ask online or hop onto places like the satori graphics discord server and ask for help there.

But it isn’t the same as actively working in a design team. Some people like myself prefer working alone. But even the most introverted of lone wolves can actually benefit from a team input on a design or project. As a freelancer, you need to learn the skill of having a very objective view of your work. This is to say you don’t have any emotion about it and can be harshly self-critical in a positive way. You really have to trust your own judgment and instincts. Some projects look great one day.

Next, you might have some reservations. It pays to listen to your clients see how they react and also respond accordingly.

The next hard truth you need to understand about freelance graphic design is based around inspiration. Inspiration is something we all need from time to time. Inspiration to become energetic or enthusiastic about a project. Inspiration for a new design direction. Inspiration to simply keep going.

I found that now I work for myself, I do have more drive and more resilience to keep myself going. Then working for a business or a company that’s not owned by myself. It feels a lot more rewarding to know that the time and energy I’m putting into something. Is all for myself and not somebody else’s company. However, again some people find this quite daunting it depends on the person.

Next, it’s the security or the lack of security. Many people fail to consider this when they step into the freelancing world. This might be the biggest deal-breaker for most people when it comes to freelancing. So listen to this list very carefully because it will have some major implications for you your life and your career down the line.

As a freelance designer you have

  • No Company Pension
  • No Paid Holidays
  • No Sick Leave
  • No Health Insurance
  • No Bonuses

Essentially you’re left to the open world and the potential risks there. It’s very wise to save money every single month to go towards your future as a kind of private pension. Furthermore just saving money for a rainy day is very clever. Because it is gonna rain at some point.

Do you need to ask yourself if you’re okay with this lack of security?
Can you afford to not get paid for x amount of days or weeks?

Due to an illness, these are all real things that you need to consider. Freelancing has a lot of perks and it does bring a lot of freedom. And you can after all end up making more money than you would any kind of company or agency. If you play your cards right of course. I still suggest that most if not all designers should start working as some part of the team in an agency or in-house position.

This is just to get an experience and feel for the industry. You will no doubt learn valuable habits and knowledge and insights when working for an actual company. Freelancing simply isn’t something that every designer will be mentally dispositioned towards. It will not suit some mentality in some habits that people have. That’s something you need to ask yourself and really really consider. So there’s the hard truth about freelance graphic design. I hope you learned something today and maybe you are considering becoming a freelance designer. Let me know in the comments if you found it useful and until.

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