To the office-goer, freelancing looks like fun. After all, this lifestyle allows someone to wake up at any time of the day and work from anywhere they want. Oh, and they get to pick their own clients. Work life couldn’t get easier than that, right?
Wrong. It takes serious discipline and a whole lot of drive to make it as a freelancer. The struggle is harder here in India because they are not treated as professionals. Let’s hear the details from this interview with Abhishek Faujdar, a freelance graphic designer based in Gurgaon.
What prompted you to enter the big bad world of freelancing?
I am a self-taught designer. While pursuing my MBA, I did some small design projects for my college fests. This made me think I can actually work as a designer. I started taking the craft seriously and learned more and more about the design industry. Soon, I learned that in many western countries, designers prefer to go freelance. So I started working in that direction and by the time I finished my MBA, I already had some clients. I have been a freelance designer for more than four years now. Though I have worked as a full-time in-house designer as well, freelancing is what gives me creative satisfaction.
Many clients prefer freelancers who do more work for less money. How do you ensure you get paid what you are worth?
From my experience, I can say that initially, you will have to work for less. However, if you keep working on your craft and be up to date with design trends and standards, your work will eventually speak for you. Having a strong portfolio and a reliable network helps a lot. After a fair amount of experience, you have to demand what you deserve. It is important to have good communication and business skills so that you can tell your clients why you are charging a certain amount and how it will help them in the long run.
You have surely had at least one client from hell. How did you deal with them?
Yes, sometimes you do get unprofessional clients. Like the time I was working with an organization that simply avoided me after the project was finished. They told me they were not happy with my designs and have hired a new designer. After a few days, I found out that they have used my designs in the final project without paying me the full amount. I had to warn them with legal consequences and informed them about my intellectual property rights. They paid up only after this warning. Since then I have made my terms and conditions stronger and do my best to avoid shady clients.
True or false: a freelancer has to be a jack of all trades to be successful.
Yes, this statement is somewhat true. Keep in mind that you have chosen this path for certain reasons. One of them is the freedom to choose your work. The more you know, the more options you will have. A freelance career cannot be dependent on one particular skill set. To maintain a steady income, you have to be open to versatile projects. Work on your key strengths but always be ready to experiment.
What is the best and worst part of the freelance lifestyle?
Some say the best thing about freelancing is the flexibility – us designers have full control of our working hours and daily schedule. But it can also be the worst part if one lacks self-discipline. Also, freelancers are self-employed, which means we are responsible for every aspect of our business – from marketing and client relations to bookkeeping and invoicing. If one is established, they can choose who to work with, when to work and even choose where to work. This flexibility comes with financial ups and downs. The income is never stable. While working with an organization offers consistent work and a steady paycheck, this is not always true for freelance designers.
And finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to become a freelance GRAPHIC designer?
Start observing things on a regular basis. Observation leads to many other qualities like creative thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills. Start thinking out of the box. Try to look at everything from a different point of view. Work on developing your verbal, visual and written communication skills. Software skills are also necessary of course, so keep improving them and keep learning new design software. Lastly, business and sales skills are crucial to keep and land clients and increase your rates. Basically, you have to keep your mind sharp and ideas fresh to succeed.
If you wish to work with Abhishek, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.