From a 9-5 to Starting Your Freelance Business

A guest post by Neneh Makun

The decision to be a freelance graphic artist might not be easy.  It took me about a year to embrace the idea.

I’ve been in the design industry for about seven years, so I knew there were some long-term considerations to take into account.  How would I cope with not having a ‘regular’ salary, client base, work structure, and other benefits that came with a nine-to-five job?

Actually, within that year, I started freelancing while I was still employed in a nine-to-five.  I was single with no kids, so I was able to cope with the job demands and workload.

Eventually, I plunged into freelancing.  Why?

Well, I got married and had a baby.  Freelancing was just the best option for me because I could work while having the flexibility to care for my family.

Here are my tips if you are considering switching from a  9-5 job to starting your own freelance business:

Don’t take more projects than you can handle.

I assumed I would miss my monthly salary from my nine-to-five, but I don’t.  Even though I’m freelancing, retainer contracts with a few agencies/companies mean I get paid on a monthly basis.  Aside from this, I get calls almost weekly to create logos, brochures, websites, etc.  I get enough work that I have turned things down.  Don’t take more projects/briefs than you can handle or else you’ll look incompetent and unprofessional.

Put yourself and your work out there.

Acquiring prospective clients to do business with didn’t happen overnight.  It took a lot of work, and I had to sell my services and skills by putting my work out there.  If no one sees your work, no one will call you.  To promote myself, I created a blog where I posted my work, shared my experience, and offered various tips to aspiring graphic designers.

Get social.

I also try to stay active on social media.  Make use of #hashtags — it works!  Also, if you have 500 Facebook friends, chances are that some of them would use your service or refer you to people who would use your service.

Know how much you’ll charge your clients.

Another challenge a ‘green’ freelancer might face is how much to charge your clients. I created a rate card which I send to prospective clients.  These rates should be negotiable depending on the client’s brief.

Here’s an example.  On my rate card, creating an e-commerce store costs N50,000 (about $292​).  I got a brief from a client who wanted a certain kind of online store.  I began the project and only then realized I should have charged more for the job.

Always examine the design brief first.

The same client had over 300 images of products that I had to download from the client’s server and upload to the new website.  I exhausted the same amount of data I usually use in an entire month within two weeks!  The cost of dependable internet service isn’t cheap where I live.  It also took a longer time to complete the job.  So I learned from my experience.  Examine thoroughly what’s required of any design brief before you accept it.

Be proactive.

When someone sells you a service, sell your service, too.  Be proactive.  If you come across a website or a logo for a business that you feel you could improve, get in touch.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ve been thinking about hiring someone to help them with design changes, or maybe they’d never considered how much better and more professional their site could look.

Also, always have a business card, even if you’re just going out to lunch with some friends.

Build lasting relationships with your clients.

Maintain good relationships with your clients because they’ll refer you to new people, especially if they’re highly satisfied with not only the quality of your work but also your conduct and work ethic.  I sometimes offer my services for free or give discounts to clients that refer me to new people, and it works for me.

I hope my experiences give you a little clarity if you’ve been considering a transition from the nine-to-five to freelancing.  What are some of the factors or limiting beliefs that prevent you from making the shift?  Let’s talk about it.

Author Bio

Neneh Makun is a graphic designer who started freelancing a year ago. She has been designing for about 7 years, has a B.A in Creative Arts (graphic art major) and M.A in Creative Arts (arts history). She has worked in advertising and public relation agencies.

You you can visit her website – or blog: