10 Things to Do Before Going Independent as a Designer

10 Things to Do Before Going Independent as a Designer

Let’s get this out of the way: for the most part, we would all like to become independent when it comes to our craft; if not right now, then sometime in the future. We want to be able to choose our own hours, work whenever we want and for whomever we want, and make the big decisions when it comes to our designs.
With that said, there are a few things to consider, and very important steps to take before taking the leap of faith of quitting your 9 to 5 corporate job and becoming a digital nomad, travelling the world and taking your job with you wherever you go.

1. Start Moonlighting

The best way to prepare for the future is to take a look at what the future may look like. Working on your free time to build a portfolio as a free agent is a great first step towards going independent. Your previous experience as an employee won’t do. An impressive CV always comes in handy when applying for a job, that’s true, but the only way you can show your skills to potential clients is to have something to show that you, and only you, have had a hand on designing. So get to it!

2. Make Yourself Known

This means one thing: be engaged! No, not to a person, but to your dream! A portfolio of paid jobs as an entrepreneur is a great way to start, but if you really want to start creating connections with both clients and potential partners -should you choose to bring some more talent into your startup- is to find the designers community… and be an active member of it!

Assist to conferences and expos, and interact with the people in them. You never know where you’ll meet your next big client! Create profiles in social media dedicated to yourself and your startup to show the world what you have to offer. LinkedIn is particularly useful for this endeavor. Create a blog and use it as a sort of log book for your business, and be sure to let your personal style shine through in your writing as well as your designs!

3. Find a Niche, or Create One!

This one’s a little complicated. Let me explain: focusing on a niche will certainly help in building not only a portfolio, but a reputation. Not to mention, specializing on a niche will only make you better and better at it.

So, what’s the catch?

You run the risk, at least at first, of running out of work. Depending on the niche, and how peculiar it is, you may soon find yourself with not a single thing left to do. This isin part due to the size of the niche of your choice, but how much you’re known also comes into play -yet another reason to start as soon as possible-, as well as the demand for your skills in your niche at any given time.

So, what’s the alternative?

Don’t specialize in any specific niche just yet. Keep your options open. Preferring a job above another based on your future niche is perfectly fine, when given the option, always go for the niche job, but don’t limit yourself to ONLY those jobs. Creating a diverse portfolio will open more doors for you. When the time comes, feel free to close the ones you’re not particularly interested in. Until then, take every opportunity you can!

There is one specific scenario that will ensure you can specialize right from the start, with little to no risk of running out of jobs, and that’s coming up with your own niche! You will need to look at the world around you, and ask yourself: what needs do my potential clients have that no one else caters to? How could I solve someone else’s problem that no one else pays attention to, or how can I solve it in a new, innovative way?

If you find an answer, then congratulations, you’re on the right pad to carving a niche of your own!

4. Build a Client Base

This is crucial for your business. When moonlighting, you must ensure to deliver the best quality work you can possibly design. An impressed and pleased client equals a repeat customer in the future.

Don’t say goodbye to your day job just yet, though, there’s still more to be done. Quitting your job beforehand will prove problematic, as no other revenue will come your way. Starving yourself for cash will lead to poor judgement and decision making when it comes to filtering the jobs that will help you in your quest to freedom from the jobs that will simply help you pay rent and food.

Still, delivering high quality work will help you build that portfolio as a free agent, and will give you some extra revenue, and extra revenue is always a good thing! Speaking of which…

5. PARTY HARD!

Hooray! You’ve been busy moonlighting and building a strong client base, all the while finding time to be a valuable and active member of the designers’ community, your notoriety growing at a slow but steady pace. You even managed to carve your own niche!

Yes, you’ve certainly been working a great deal lately, haven’t you? Well, friend, I say congratulations to you! We’re now in the middle of this list, so buckle up, for there’s still much more to…

Hey! What are you doing? Put that wallet down! You can’t afford to kick your legs up and live the high life just yet. Yes, I do realize you’re earning more money now, but a bottle of champagne is not what this extra income is for!

6. WORK HARDER!

Oh, don’t give me that look. The time for fun and games will come, I promise. Just endure a little longer. Don’t fall into a false sense of confidence and quit your job, or worse, decide it’s time to live it up. A short rest is just fine, but don’t lose sight of your dream in favor of short-term relief.

7. “Use Your Sense, Save Your Cents”

..The only thing with persistence is gold; it makes the world go round… I’m sorry, have I been caught trying to impersonate Rotti Largo, from Repo: The Genetic Opera, and failing miserably at it? Well, I better think of an excuse to make my strange taste in both music and film somehow relate to the next topic at hand.

Ah, I got it!

8. Don’t Spend;Save and Invest!

By now, you will have extra income coming your way, fruit of all your efforts. This income must be directed straight to your business fund, let’s call it the Freedom Fund. If you already have your business covered, keep saving.

Why, you may ask?

Well, because living on a fixed income has probably made you unaware of the fluctuating nature of businesses. After all, you received your paycheck on a steady basis, no matter what. You want to have as much money set aside as possible, because once you quit your job and dedicate to your business full-time, you’ll eventually realize that they all have good months and not-so-good months. This is especially true for those that depend on seasonal sales.

What? It’s true! Maybe you should have thought about that before carving yourself a niche on Christmas-themed adult toys and entertainment! Oh, well. There’s no going back now; you’ve awoken the forces of the market, and they demand Naughty Rudolf and Sexy Mrs. Claus!

Your business will boom on the winter, but what about the rest of the year? You will still need to eat the rest of the year, and your steady income is no more at this point. That’s when the other fund you’ve been saving your money on kicks into action: the Don’t Starve Fund!

Indeed, there are plenty of aspects of the business world that you don’t know of… yet.

9. Much to Learn, You Still Have

Running a business is so much more than simply designing. There are several things that you need to understand and take on before even opening your doors to the public, and they range from legal ramifications to the menial work someone else did on your previous job, but since you’re on your own now, well… it is but a small price to pay for becoming a free agent.

Going into the details could easily take a new article, if not several, but for now let’s just say that you’ll want to spend some time learning all the nooks and crannies of running a business before trying your hand at it.

10. Exhale

You did it! By this point, you are ready to take on the odyssey of building your own startup. Play some Fallout, pour yourself a drink, and relax. With your newfound knowledge, your career as a design entrepreneur growing and your two funds ready to be invested when necessary, everything else is on your hands moving forwards!

So, as you can see, becoming an entrepreneur is a little bit more complicated than what you might have been led to believe. Even if you excel at your craft, there are business aspects that need to be taken into consideration. Additionally, you need to prepare for what the future may hold. Don’t quit your job just yet, not until you have enough money saved for the long haul!

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