You will read, and no doubt have – endless articles around here banging on about being an entrepreneur. And that’s marvelous. If that’s how you want your résumé to read, describing oneself as an entrepreneur rather than a pencil-for-hire, if nothing else, sets a tone.
I, on the other paw. I call a 2B pencil a pencil. I’m a merc, plain and simple. I’m like an old school Private Detective. I listen to the client's problem, find the thing for them that they can't find = the client's problem goes away.
Every so often for that, I get paid. Those are the evenings me and my eye-pleasing secretary - Ms Stockholm-Syndrome - not-euphemistically-at-all refer to as “Food Nite - Hurrah!”
Small ripple of applause. Rinse and repeat.
And I do. That’s the point. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m just a guy with a pencil and an internet connection and I’m very, very good at using both. And mostly the only type of jobs I take on in places like this are the Competitions.
So how do I make this Freelancer thing work for me? Here are my Top 5 simple little tips:
No 5: Never take a Contest Brief on face value.
Never assume for a single instant that the client knows what they want. They don't. If they did, they'd be doing the job. And this is particularly true when it comes to giving briefs.
I'll give you an example of the kind of thing I mean: take Logo Contests, for example.
Universally, you will see the qualities a Contest Holder calls for (vicariously) as themselves looking for something "original", something "stand out". Something "unique"...
In practice, however, 9 times out of every 10 usually - you can't help observe that, despite whatever's called for, the client invariably picks the most generic thing concievable and leaves happy with a skip in their step and a smile in their heart.
Am I suggesting one's best served approaching these things with all the subtly and artistic flare of a brute force password cracker chewing its way into someone you don’t like the Facebook account...?
No, I'm not - though, through experience (naturally), I am sorely tempted.
What I'm saying is - the client doesn't know what they want. All they have is a general idea and sometimes - often, actually - what a Contest Holder means by using words like original, standout and unique aren't anything like the same as what a graphic designer might assume the Contest Holder means reading them.
So - never assume you know what clients are asking for. Chances are high you actually don't - and that's when you will fall flat on your face.
No 4: Don't go for the money - go for the job.
High paying contests are enormously oversubscribed. Granted, most of that activity will be from small fish trying it on – lots of web-rips, we’ve all seen how well that works out but - irrespective – good cash incentives will also bring in the big fish. And people with serious artistic and design ability do work through Freelancer.com.
So, always look at the job first – worry about what it pays after.
A big pay-off always looks good and feels absolutely marvellous should you succeed, but just do the math here – smaller and easier to finish jobs means you can spread your bet further – and submitting to a contest is exactly the same as placing a bet – you only have so many good working hours available in a day. So many jobs you can bid on. So maximise your chances of succeeding in a pay-off.
Money is stackable, it adds up. Go for where your actual artistic strengths lie and nail several smaller paying jobs rather than putting your hopes on one larger earner paying off.
Save the larger paying competitions for your spare time at the weekends. That way, if you get a pay-off – it’s a bonus and you’ve always got the benefit of plenty of smaller chances backing your larger, single effort up.
No 3: Be less Dog - be more Cat.
You’re the designer. Never ask a client if the design you submit to them is okay – let your work leave them in no doubt that it is. That’s important. Do your stuff.
Don’t ever do that thing I see people do all the time round here - don’t ever ask the client to like your work. Don’t ever hope to them that your submission is okay.
Know that it’s better than they expected and make sure you deliver on that – and, that way, you never have to hope people like your work again and (equally), you never have to act like a puppy in public. E.V.A.H.
Be more cat. Just, obviously - not too much….
No 2: If the job isn't teaching you - don't do it.
There’s an old saying: “Fortune favours the bold – but she also courts no sweethearts.” It’s actually a line from the Bond movie The Living Daylights – but it’s a good thing to keep in your head.
Don’t be a one trick pony – just because the way you approached previous jobs worked, don’t assume for a solitary second that simply by sticking to a given formula that in itself is going to serve you well in the long run.
The work you do has to teach you something. Make sure it does – face it – given the return on most contests, it’s not like you’re in it for the money.
Always take the opportunity of a job to push your work in a new direction, somewhere you didn’t know it could go. That way lies more opportunities, and bigger ones you can tackle because you’ve acquired wider experience – not stuck to the same approach because, sooner or later, that self-same lack of range and flexibility in how you tackle a client brief will be your undoing.
No 1: Never kill a Client.
If you leave with nothing else, make sure you leave with this. And don’t worry, it’s a euphemism, not legal advice...
Clients – be they Contest Holders or whatever (and this I draw from the better part of 30 years experience, most of which freelancing ) - come in all shapes and sizes. Some may be fantastic - a joy to do work for - and others may possibly be excreted direct, moist and furious from Satan’s very own broad, belligerent backside.
Once you take on a job, you have to finish it. You have to deliver. That is the job and sometimes, that can indeed be the hardest part.
Just know and always do: an ass’s money spends every bit as well – possibly even sweeter and with fewer twinges of conscience – than the money of a saint.
Do better than simply remember that. Know it’s true. Every word.
Never walk away from a job. Never kill the Client - that’s what it’s called and why it’s called it – keep a professional head, deliver the work, survive, pick up the check.
All you got to do.
Oh, yes. And one last personal chicken-dipper of encouragement:
Good luck…. ; )