3 things every freelance designer needs to do to be successful

I’ve been having a great series of conversations the last few days with another freelancer who’s been struggling to get more work. I’m not even fully where I want to be yet, but I must be doing something right, because I have other folks coming to me on a fairly regular basis for freelancing advice about how to get started or how to “go upward” in their freelancing (hence the name of this site). After nearly 10 years as a freelancer and an untold amount of experiences, I have a few key things that I’ve found that separate the professionals from the losers. The interesting thing is, a professional designer needs to do these things, even though they are not design-related.

1. Learn to write good well. I shouldn’t be so surprised that the legion of graduates coming out of college these days aren’t typically strong spellers nor especially great at articulating ideas well on paper – they grew up texting “omg lulz” nearly 24/7 and a portion of them actually employ a personal statement writer service to take care of their writing. The fact remains though, that everything you write that will be seen by others will help them shape their impression of you before they even meet you. Most freelancers get notified by email about a possibly project before they even meet the client. Take the time to run spell-check and have your English Major of a roommate check it over for you. Trust me, it’s a habit worth developing.

2. Put a priority on meeting new people. It’s a well-known fact that people usually buy from people they trust. If you know the kind of clients you want to attract, get out to where they are and meet them. Attend community mixers and events, join groups that look promising, and hit them up on Facebook or Google+ – focusing on building relationships will turn them into happy and comfortable customers later. Or even if you don’t get a gig out of it, you’ll meet some really interesting people. I certainly have.

3. Write down a personal mission statement and some professional goals for yourself. This sounds dumb, I know. Mission statements? So ‘eighties, right? No. A personal mission statement will help you solidify the work you want to do, the people you want to do it for, and more importantly, it will keep you from veering off into unknown territory too quickly. Your mission statement will keep you in line and on the course you chart for yourself. If you want to explore another opportunity that’s fine, just be sure it matches with your mission statement.

Same thing for goals – the difference in a dream and a goal is a plan. Goals are how great things happen. Without goals, you’re doomed to becoming a wandering generality and will not accomplish a lot with your life or career because you’re not heading anywhere in particular. You need a roadmap and a destination. Goals will help you get there. Set goals for writing your blog, gaining new clients, working on your own portfolio, learning a new skill, etc. Set goals for everything! Money, family, health, knowledge – all of it can be enhanced by setting goals for yourself.

It’s funny how some of the most important things we can do for our careers have very little to do with our field. I’ve found though, that most of the time, making sure I’m growing in one area or another will affect more than just my job. Discipline begets discipline.

Question: What are you going to do this week to be better than you were last week?



  1. Kade on February 8, 2013 at 6:49 am

    All of these points are spot-on.

    In school, I hated writing. It was like a message from hell when the English teacher would announce that dreaded assignment of writing a paper. However, I have since seen the effectiveness of writing, and find myself writing on a daily basis as a way to capture my thoughts, and become a more effect communicator.

    Meeting new people is huge. It took me a long while to get to the point were I actually wanted to do this, because I am a bit on the shy side, but the payoff is amazing. It may or may not translate into a new client, but spending the time to meet new people has never ended in regret.

    The dreaded words, mission statement and goals… But, a life unfocused is a life that never reached its fullest potential. These are simply tools to help you gain greater focus on you life, and accomplish more than you ever thought you could.

    Good words, Micah! I appreciate the post.

    • Micah Choquette on February 8, 2013 at 7:27 am

      Thanks for the kind words, @e51250f913c492025f3db009e1dc8073:disqus! You hit on exactly why I believe in all these things. Question: what do you use for your daily writing? Software? Paper journal?

      • Kade on February 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm

        I was going old school with pen and paper, but I just recently starting using Evernote on iPad after hearing such great things about it by Michael Hyatt, and I love it!

        • Micah Choquette on February 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm

          Looks like we’re still reading and listening to the same stuff. 🙂 I’ve also become a fan of Squarespace Note for quick thought collecting on the iPhone, and I was a keeping a daily journal online with Oh! Life – that would email me everyday to remind me about what I wrote a year ago or or a week ago – then I heard a sermon from Pastor Kirby Andersen about writing on paper and how it slows you down so you can hear from God. Been doing that ever since.

          • Kade on February 11, 2013 at 6:40 am

            I couldn’t agree more. Writing by hand holds something sincere and special about it. That is why I had such a hard time leaving it for Evernote. The main reason I made the switch was to be able to search my archives. I also use Evernote to capture my thoughts during Sermon Prep, so it is beneficial to be able to search my journal archives to find life stories that may go with my message.

            I would say that if you want to be able to use technology, and still slow things down enough to hear from God, that you take some time to close your eyes and think/pray before you acutally caputure those thoughts on paper. This is my technique, and it is working really well. However, everone is different, and there is no shame in doing things your own way!