Hello! So excited to bring you this week's Freelance Wisdom column! Cassie Pyle is a St. Louis based graphic designer, blogger, and photography stylist - so multi-talented! I love her incredibly chic and beautifully minimal style. Her blog is such an incredible source for inspiration and I love her personal posts about her freelance journey. I am so happy that she so excitedly agreed to answer my questions and share her wisdom with all of us!
What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?
When I graduated college I can honestly say I never considered freelance to be something I’d consider. I started working at an advertising Agency (as Art Director/Designer) immediately after graduation and stayed in that position for almost 4 years. During the time at the agency, I was taking on freelance projects during the nights and weekends because I needed another creative outlet. I also started Veda House during those earlier years at the agency. Eventually the freelance projects became more fulfilling than what I working on at the agency and I knew it was time to take a leap.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
After taking the leap to full time freelance in the spring of 2013, I relied heavily on my blog readership to keep me afloat. I was sharing finished design projects on the blog and talking about how I had made the leap into the world of freelance. Many of the inquiries I received in those first months were from loyal readers or people who followed my Instagram account. I found that it was really important to only share the type of work that I wanted more of. I made the mistake of sharing too many Mommy blog redesigns and for a solid few months it seems like I was only getting inquiries from moms who wanted blog redesigns. I didn’t necessarily want to build my portfolio around only one type of blog design.
I also had a few word-of-mouth type clients, but the majority of my paying clients were gained through social media (blog, Instagram, Pinterest). Now, the best fitting projects for my brand tend to be those referred to me by past clients.
If you work from home, do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I think it’s really important to have a dedicated space in your home where you can call your own. I typically split my days answering emails from my cozy couch, but doing most design work on a desktop computer in my home office.
I have found that it helps when I break my day into two segments, morning and afternoon. I strive to accomplish two main tasks a day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). By doing this I can at guarantee that I will be marking at least two things off my to-do list for the day as well as providing variety in what I’m doing. My favorite days are “design mornings” and “photography/styling” afternoons.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Uncertainty. I’m a big planner and like to know what’s ahead of me. With freelance you kind of lose a lot of control when it comes to things being certain. I’m learning to be more flexible with my processes and to be ok when my days don’t pan out how I had envisioned them. I’m also learning how to better schedule projects in advance so the financials don’t seem as unpredictable and scary.
What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?
Freedom with my workflow, hands down. I’m a super organized designer who tends to work at a pretty fast pace. Freelance gives me the freedom to schedule my days in a way that I can take advantage of this skillset. Sometimes I get all the work I need done for the day around 3:00 in the afternoon. This means I can spend my afternoons in the garden without feeling guilty.
Any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Honestly, I feel like I’m just starting to grasp what this means for my business. I’m not really in a place financially where I can hire a bookkeeper, accountant, or lawyer. Best decision so far was hiring a tax guy who I can call when I have questions and whom I can rely on when tax season comes around. This is the first year I’m paying my taxes quarterly, so I’m feeling pretty good about that.
I also suggest having a solid contract that has been looked over by a lawyer that specializes in the type of business you run. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a lawyer on retainer because most lawyers can also be hired by the hour.
Last suggestion would be to come up with a system that works for you where you can keep track of what project you currently have, what projects are coming in, who’s paid what, etc etc.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
After being overworked at the advertising agency I’ve never really struggled with creating a solid work/life balance on I started to be in control of my own schedule. Family and time with my husband will always win out over another hour of working. I am a firm believer that what you do outside of work inspires the projects during your workday. Both are equally important. My biggest balance struggle is remember to eat lunch DURING my workday.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance designer are:
organized, never fading passion, and a self-motivating personality