Hello! So excited to bring you a brand new Freelance Wisdom column! Jane Riley of Jane Reaction is a designer, art director, blogger, and mother of two young boys! She has quite a bit on her plate - so I was very happy when 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?
I decided to go freelance right out of school because my husband and I lived on the North Shore of Oahu and there just weren't a lot of job opportunities out there (like none). I knew I wanted to do graphic design and I didn't want to settle for a job that didn't have anything to do with that path. Freelance was really my only option those first few years after graduating so I just jumped in with both feet and never looked back.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I blogged a lot. Way more than I do now. I blogged almost every single day for a year! That really helped people see what I was doing, what I was capable of and let people get to know me as a person. I blogged about my personal life, I blogged about things I was interested in, and I blogged about any design project that I was working on at the time. Another thing that I recently realized was huge in helping me get clients - I was really supportive and passionate about my friend's creative endeavors. By supporting and cheering others on I got more work. Once they got too much work they would refer people to me, or once they started getting more business people would ask them who designed their logo. Invest in your creative friends and clients and they will invest in you.
If you work from home, do you have any tips for being your most productive?
1. Create a space that is inspiring and comfortable to work in. Keep in mind functionality! Make a space that really works for you.
2. Get ready for work everyday. Don't go to work in your pajamas.
3. Set regular work hours and stick to them.
4. Eat breakfast before you start work in the morning. This is huge! I am way more productive if I'm not thinking of food the whole time I am working.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
2 things -
1. Perfecting the creative process... having a creative process that works for me and every single client I ever work with has been a challenge. I still make adaptations to the process every once in a while but figuring out a process that you can guide every single client through was difficult at first. When I first started, my process was never the same. I was all over the place and often felt like I was leading my client down an endless rabbit hole of design ideas. Now, taking a client through the process is a lot more smooth. We can both see a clear direction that the project is taking.
2. Owning that I am my own boss. I get really tripped up trying to make myself seem bigger and smaller than I am all at the same time. It's hard to find a balance between super confident and kind/authentic/humble. Especially for women! The world wants women to be both at the same time and sometimes it is very exhausting.
What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?
I love that I can work when I need to, and take a week or two off when I need to slow down and focus on my children (or myself). Honestly, I really thought all I ever wanted in life was to be a mom (and don't get me wrong, it is still my best work to date!) but it's not always the most fulfilling or fun thing to do. So, being able to have a career while being a mom has been the best thing for my confidence, happiness, mental health etc. I am SO thankful that I can work with fun, creative, interesting people everyday and still be a mom. It's seriously one of the best things!
Any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Something that has saved me tons of time and stress is a media kit. I never wanted to have a media kit in the past because I wanted to be able to give every perspective client a custom package and quote based on their needs. As the inquiries started flooding in last fall I knew that I couldn't keep doing that. It was too overwhelming to respond to everyone's email with a custom quote and then answer all of the inevitable questions that would follow. So I put together a media kit. Any time I get an inquiry I send them my media kit and let them know what my next availble date is. The kit is a 6 page PDF with information about me, what I do, how I work, how much I charge for basic services and has a FAQ page. It has been a huge time saver!
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
I am a mom to 2 really young boys (2 and almost 1) Honestly, there isn't a whole lot of balance going on over here, just a lot of surviving! haha! Any advice I do have is really more for the freelance mom:
1. Get a nanny or daycare or some sort of reliable child care ASAP! Do no rely on nap time or bed time to get your work done! I learned that the hard way. Several times. Sometimes a nap just isn't in the cards for your day and you have a ton of stuff to get done, so you either don't get it done or you stay up all night working. You deserve to go to bed at the same time as everyone else in your family, chances are you need sleep the most.
2. Don't rely on your significant other to watch the kids while you get work done. I used to have my husband watch the kids while I finished up work that I wasn't able to get done while the nanny was taking care of our kids. The result was that we never spent any time together as a family. One of us was always working or getting something else done. I now only take on work that I can get done during my set work hours.
3. Make time for dates and don't work at all during the date! Don't even check your email once! My husband and I used to be notorious for being on our phones constantly! We have really come a long way! We now go on a date once a week - we put our phones away and just focus on each other. It's made a huge difference in our relationship. I would say this goes for mommy time too - I don't even try to work while I am with my kids. I might check my email, but most of the time I just turn everything work related off and focus on being a mom.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance designer are:
Excellent communication skills, confident, and organized.