The Freelance Lifestyle – What Jobs to Pursue

Today for The Freelance Lifestyle, I’m going to give an honest take on what kinds of jobs you should pursue – especially if you’re freelancing for the first time.

For the first time freelancer, it can be tempting (or even encouraged) to take the first job that comes your way. For folks like me who have been freelancing for a few years, you get a better sense of what to say “yes” or “no” to.

I hope that in this blog post, you can learn from some mistakes I’ve made, so you can avoid really shifty, shady, or downright nasty clients.

Trust Your Gut.

Your logic brain will tell you to take any job you can get because “it’s money.”

But if there’s something about the potential client that makes you raise eyebrows, pay attention to that.

Pay attention to these signs if you’re unsure about a gig:

  1. Does the client use language that makes your spider sense tingle? For me, that looks like anyone who makes sexist jokes, or talks about Christian topics in really uncomfortable ways. My primary audience is the exact opposite of these people. So if a potential client is using language that my primary audience would NEVER use, I note that.
  2. Does the client use an obscene amount of emojis? I’m not knocking against emoji use. However, I’m encouraging you to spot any communication from your potential client that’s less than professional. Especially if you feel that it’s detrimental.
  3. Does this client have a digital presence that’s easy to find? Some clients will share their website or social media link with you. THIS IS GOOD. Some potential clients may not provide this information, even if you ask for it. THIS IS SHADY. Do your due diligence and go to Google. Cross-check them. If the search results come up with something weird or unsavory, voice that concern.
  4. Does this client balk at the idea of signing a contract YOU wrote? If you don’t know how to write a contract that protects you and a client, I wrote a post a long while ago about how to do it. There’s also some good templates through the Artist and Graphic Designer’s Market.

If you wrote a contract, and the potential client doesn’t want to sign it or even READ it, make note of that. A good client will ask clarifying questions before signing anything.

If I missed something, or if you still have questions, let me know in the comments. I’m happy to help.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

The Freelance Lifestyle – How to Keep a Client

In this installment of The Freelance LifeStyle, let’s talk about how to keep a client.

If you want to know how to GET clients, here’s last week’s post revealing my mind-bogglingly simple techniques.

So, now that you’ve used those techniques, you’re ready to keep clients!

Here’s how you go from portfolio to satisfied co-creator:

Be honest – let the potential client know if you have other commitments.

This is so you can let the client know that you and them will BOTH need to strike a balance between availability and actually working on the project. To this end, let the potential client know when they can reasonably expect you to deliver something. This is not the time for aspirational declarations.

I know – this flies WILDLY in the face of most freelancer aspirations of “set a deadline and then deliver the project early” or “deliver the project with extra bells and whistles a few days before the deadline!”

You are a human. And this is life. Things get in the way. Let your client know when that happens. Which leads to:

Keep that honesty in your communications.

I don’t care if you’re talking to your clients through email, phone, or Facebook messenger. Be honest with your potential client in the medium of your choosing (that means no sarcastic or meme-y remarks).

Do you have to share EVERYTHING that’s happening? No. Your client probably doesn’t need (or want) to know about your cat choking on a ballpoint pen cap before being eaten by a mutant boa constrictor. But if you are in a state of grief, just say, “Hey, things are really rough right now because my pet died.” You don’t have to go into details. Keep it simple.

Good clients will understand if you’re having an off day. Or an off week. (If they don’t get it, maybe don’t work with them any further. Just a heads up.)

Check in regularly.

“Regularly” can mean once a day, or once every couple of days, or once a week. As long as it’s consistent and NOT spam, that’s what matters. Don’t just drop off the face of the earth while working. (And clients, this goes for you, too. I’ve known a few clients who have just dropped off the face of the earth.)

Check-ins can look like whatever you need it to. Just keep up the communication.

Actually deliver what you promised.

You know that thing the client asked you to make? DO THAT THING.

Use whatever work flow method works for you. Pomodoro technique? Kanban board? A checklist? Use what works FOR YOU. (If you need ideas for how to structure your workflow, try one of Thomas Frank’s videos on YouTube. He does good beginner videos on productivity).

And as much as humanly possible – do NOT put the work off until the last minute.

“But I work better if I -”

No you don’t. You THINK you do, but you don’t. I have two sisters who are known stubborn procrastinators and I am the token sibling that turns work in early. I KNOW THE EXCUSES. They are just that: excuses.

You will make better work if you actually DO the work, one step at a time, one day at a time.

I tried procrastinating ONCE, in college – I pulled an all-nighter to make a painting that was due the next day. And I STILL didn’t finish it. It would have been better if I worked on that painting for even five or ten minutes a day for the week leading up to the due date.

Learn from that mistake.

Alright, I’ll end it here before this post gets any longer. If you have questions, leave them in the comments for me.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Why Freelancers Should Have AT LEAST One Day Off Per Week

sleeping dragon sketch for blog post about why freelancers need one day off a week

I’m inspired to write this as part of my Freelance Lifestyle blog series for one big reason: because I think all freelancers should have at LEAST one day off per week.

The inspiration came after I watched a video from The Personal Philosophy Project about freelancing. I liked her other videos, but I wanted to see if there was something new in her approach to freelancing that I hadn’t thought of.

Unfortunately, in her video, she says, “freelancers never have a day off.”

NOT. TRUE. AT ALL.

Freelancers ABSOLUTELY need days off. The difference is that freelancers have to plan for them.

I have always made it a personal point to keep one day off per week. Even if I had to take a part-time job working retail or (most recently) at a gas station, I made it clear from the start with people that I keep ONE day of the week off. No exceptions.

(Part of the reason I left the gas station was because they were beginning to break that. They kept trying to call me in to work on my ONE DAY OFF. I repeatedly had to tell them no.)

I’m so dedicated to keeping one day of the week absolutely work-free because of one super simple reason:

To avoid burnout.

When I had the “freelancers work 24/7!” mentality, I burned out frequently. I had high anxiety and nearly had panic attacks. I would be irritable with everyone around me, client, friend, or otherwise.

It’s not the best way for you to shine.

Also, working 24/7/365 is the best way to make your home an absolute mess that you never clean. Working constantly is also a good way to never cook for yourself, or make time for your friends or pets or family.

You. Need. A Day Off.

What day of the week should you keep off? That depends on the work that you do.

My recommendation is to find the slowest day of the week in your work schedule, and make that your day off.

For me, for the longest time, that was Sundays. But now that I’m back to freelancing full-time (and a surprising amount of work is only available on the weekends), I’m considering changing it to Wednesdays.

But whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday, I fully plan on keeping a day off.

Because dammit, I need a rest and a recharge.

In this way, we are like phones: if you keep your phone running 24/7, it WILL overheat, slow down, glitch, and run out of battery FAST.

Same goes for you.

So I urge you, if you truly want to embrace the freelance lifestyle: Give yourself one day out of the week to just shut off and recharge. You’ll thank yourself for it later. I promise.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

The Silly Tale of the Smith Family Commission

I was first approached by Mr. Smith, at the Pittsburgh Witches Ball. He asked me if I was available to do commissions.

That made me ask, “What would you like me to draw for you?” And he said, “I was thinking of getting my family drawn as superheroes. But let me get back to you on that.”

About a month later I was approached by Mrs. Smith.

She asked, “Can you please draw my family and me as super heroes?” To which I said, “Absolutely!”

That resulted in this:

While I was drawing this, Mr. Smith contacted me again. He said, “Hey! Are you still available to do commissions? Because I would really like you to draw my family as superheroes.”

Before I could reply, I contacted Mrs. Smith and said, “Uh…your husband just asked me to make the same thing you asked for. What should I do?”

She laughed.

So I said to Mr. Smith, “Sure I can make the thing!”

And that’s how I drew this:

They were both surprised when the presents were unwrapped.