What made you decide to go Rogue

I know we all do freelance work here and there, and I know that it is common practice for new grads to do freelance to help them get their foot in the door, but what about those of us in this community that have worked for someone else and decide that we could do it better on our own.

What made you decide that you should start your own thing or work for yourself? How did you decide to make that leap of faith? Did you have clients before you did it? These are questions that have always made me wonder. I know that we can all have bad days at work and walk out of there and just say to ourselves “I could do this much better on my own” (Especially in corporate as the outside firm is always smarter than you). But there are some that do just that, quit and start their own thing.

I would love to hear everyone’s stories!!

It’s something I always feel I’m about a week away from doing. (I’ve had it here, man!) But then things smooth over and I start loving my job again. I can’t speak for myself, but I know you’ll want some basic business knowledge, or enough cash to pay someone to do your books. And that you’re always “punched in” so to speak. So keep that in mind.

I do know it takes a pair of these get started… (to use Glengarry Glen Ross as an example)

Coffee’s for closers.

I hear ya. My view changes from day to day. I am happy though to have a job. I just wanted to put this out there just to see what the struggles were and how the successful ones keep it going. I think my hardest part would be not having a constant paycheck and also keeping myself focused.

I’ve always been a dissenter, it’s in my blood! Seriously though, it was my unpredictability that made me start doing it. Being young and wanting to still have the freedom to do whatever but not wanting to tell someone that I’d be there and then just leave them hanging if I decided to just up and move to another state or something like that.
I’ve never been one for rigid rules and methods of conduct, workplace politics, etc… and I work well by myself or in very small focused groups. So yeah, I like to be a free agent, it just suits my personality best.

It took me a few jobs to realise it wasn’t the people or the job itself they bugged me but the fact I was having someone tell me how to do things a certain way when I had other ideas. Something always bothered me working for other people, either the director of the company was a money grabbing arsehole, the design manager was a terrible designer and couldn’t draw for shit or co-workers were just lazy and impolite and constantly moaning about this that or the other.

I always had a vision of how I would like an office to run, how creative ideas would come about and how people would or should be treated by management.

I picked up a 6 month contract at a branding agency during which time I connected with 2 other colleagues from a previous job and I was hit with inspiration. If our old boss who was a money grabbing toe rag could bring together a mulitmillion dollar company then I figured we could do pretty well. After the 6 month contract I did freelance for a bit then worked along side one of these guys. We then formalised it into a proper company and we did very well.

Things didn’t turn out as I had expected with my business partner so I walked away and started again on my own freelancing. It does have it’s ups and downs certainly but I have been doing it so long now that I have a knack for holding back my money knowing I won’t get another cheque for a while. I am in a fortunate position that I now have enough clients that I am kept constantly busy to a point when I relish a slow down so I can catch up on paper work, invoicing and things around the house (my honey-do list)

Having 2 kids and a wife who works in advertising we often ask what we would have done if I had a proper full time job where my arse wasn’t essentially my own. Every parent struggles with daycare drop offs, pick ups and sick little boys… we do to some extent but having more flexibility than most I can carry the family load more than my wife can because she has to be there at a certain time and can’t leave until 5pm at least.

My work life is varied, working with different personalities and methods exposes me to so much and swapping job hats keeps things fresh all the time. The buzz of snagging a new client or impressing an existing one with new heights of design is something I thrive on and it keeps me going. I’m also fortunate enough now to be in a position to pick my clients… I dropped one client because he was constantly asking for a cheap deal blah blah blah… the guy was a real piece of work, so in no uncertain terms I told him to stuff it, I never heard back from him again and I felt better for it, it was like getting rid of the dead wood.

Sorry, rambling message… I’m sure freelancing isn’t for everyone but for me the rewards far exceed the downside (of which I find there to be few). If you can manage your money, build a decent sized client base, enjoy working on your own and like to get in the office at 10am and leave at 3pm then you’re gold :slight_smile: Don’t get me wrong though, I get super busy periods when I’m working from 6am to midnight but it’s the times when things are slower I don’t feel compelled to sit at my desk making myself look busy until 5pm… I can get out of there and see my kids :slight_smile:

Great post loafer.

Can you (or others) give any advice on starting out? How to secure new clients and so on? Is it all about networking, or did you speculatively approach companies to see if they wanted help?

I graduated summer 2008 and I’ve been contracting at a blue chip for 8 months whilst I’ve got a spot of freelance work in the pipeline. The corporate culture I’m experiencing is really pissing me off, whilst I feel freelance work might allow me to work with a bit more freedom and enjoyment. I’ve also met another young designer who would be keen to work together at some point in the future, so I’d love to hear some opinions on how easy it would be to ‘go rogue’?

Good stuff Loafer, thanks!

I should mention I am in retail design so the turn over of work is a lot quicker than in product design and development so that helps a lot for me, companies are constantly looking at new ways to display merchandise or promote their brands in store.

Networking is certainly a huge part of it, I found I really had to remind people of what I can do as things often don’t twig in peoples minds that I can be of some assistance to them. So it’s a constant push at the beginning getting people to understand how you can fit into their work flow. It amazed me when I started out where different jobs came from once I got my name out there… a colleague of a friend of a friend kind of thing. It’s really like being permanently unemployed and you’re always looking for a new job… as many of you know it can be disheartening a lot of the time but the odd time you get a nibble and it reinvigorates you.

Never resting on your laurels and always looking to expand your client list is very important too. There is always a worry that one of your big clients will fall off the radar for one reason or another so always being on the look out for new work is something I constantly do. Having a thick skin helps as well, I am constantly paranoid I have upset a client for some reason if they do not return my calls or e-mails… typically they are just horrendously busy but your mind wanders sometimes.

The most important thing is don’t let your clients define your pricing. You have a talent that is very rare but there will always be people out there beating down your prices so it’s so important for yourself and for the industry not to whore yourself out at the lowest price just to make a buck.


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If you’re approaching companies for work you need to define yourself. Create a niche that you excel at… get that talent across to your potential employer so they understand what you can do for them. Never be everything to everyone then you’ll never be considered THE man for anything.

Best quote I’ve read in a long time on these boards. Nice posts loafer, sounds like you definitely DON’T live up to your screen name.

great posts loafer, thanks!

First off, I’m a branding/footwear design consultant, a pretty niche field.

For me, it was a combination of factors. One of the big ones was being on the employer side of freelances (I was responsible for finding freelancers, hiring them and working on projects directly with them in a number of corporate envrionments) and not being satisfied with the results/workflow. Specifically, I found a lot of a very talented freelance designers who either A)had a set price and list of deliverables that didn’t match my needs (ie. a 8-hour worth of rendering was always included though I didn’t need it), or B) they approached the product with little understanding of the big picture and how the product would work into the collection/brand or C) They were awesome designers, but didn’t have a handle on the technical/development side of things so would design things that could be made or at an appropriate cost.

Most freelance footwear designers I’ve found have had experience in the design side of things on footwear (ie. being a sr. designer or such for one of the big 3, but little other experience).

Given my own experiences in both branding, design and development, I saw a niche out there for a consultancy that would offer a more integrated approach to freelance design. I designed my own consultancy to address those needs I saw lacking and looked at a vacuum in the market whereby more strategic and whole service offering firms like Frog could exist in the realm of footwear design.

Thus I created The Directive Collective to address those concerns A/B/C I previously mentioned. We don’t have a set price list. Rather each project proposal is carefully crafted depending on the needs and budget of the client/project. Want 6 sketch concepts instead of 10, fine. Need a PS rendering, or not - no prob. Discounts for more integrated services are common (ie. if you are a new brand and need branding and identity design plus footwear design and development you get X% off the bottomline.

Not going to give away the detail of my business plan, but suffice to say, so far it has worked out great. I’ve been at it now for 2.5+ years and business is consistently booming, while I still have the feeling that I’m not really working because it’s what I love and on my terms (I’m careful to only accept work I think I can do a good job on and can add to the end result, sometimes $$ be dammed).

As an end note, I’d also like to say that I’m like some other who’ve posted that I’m the kinda guy who likes to write my own direction, and while can be a team player, like to lead, by example. This has got me far in my own business, as I’ve been able to control my own direction and results. As a bonus, I can work on my time, which has benefits of being able to be creative when I’m creative (ie. sleep in till 10, but work till midnight, if that’s what it takes).

It’s not for everyone and for sure having a good business sense, an idea of self-promotion and branding (find out who you are and what your USP is before even thinking of consulting), and the personal motivation is key.

R

It does have it’s ups and downs certainly but I have been doing it so long now that I have a knack for holding back my money knowing I won’t get another cheque for a while.

And once you come to the realization that they can kill you, but they can’t eat you, things smooth out quite a bit. :wink:

I’ve been out of school for about a year and a half. I started out with a freelance contract that kept getting extended on a monthly basis and lasted for about a year, now I’m in and out at the firm as this economy keeps chugging along.

Similar to what many people have said, I think this lifestyle fits me and what I am capable of. I have always been somewhat of an entrepreneur and find enjoyment in attracting new clients and earning new projects. I love the diversity of projects I am exposed to through a range of clients from start-ups, to established companies, to design/marketing firms seeking external resources. Great for networking.

In my year after graduation, having a fairly stable freelance gig, I had an opportunity to pick up clients outside of the firm on my own. Coming out of school I would recommend not to turn anything down if you see any value in it. Take all you can handle while your young and have the energy. That’s what I’ve learned.

For a while I wanted to come on full-time at this agency, but found myself enjoying the life of a freelancer. Eventually, it was forced on me to start on my own. It was a ballsy decision as others have said, but in a way the decision was made for me with my contract expiring.

It is true, I am always on the clock, have slow weeks, have overwhelming weeks, don’t know what size check or what work is in the pipeline, but in the end I am glad to have the flexibility to work according to my own schedule and have the luxury to not need to deal with certain people. It is adventurous and risky, but at this point in my life I can take the risk and see where it leads me. After about six months on my own, things have been going real well, especially in this economy.

Also, I’m glad to see others are successful at doing this. Makes me feel more confident I can continue this.

Excellent post here guys !
Really great to get an insight into the industry and what it it like to freelance,
It will be a few years until I get to the stage where I make my decision but i’m already leaning towards self-employment.

Thanks again and good luck ! :smiley:

Some great stories. I have to say that I have to give it to all of you that do this. I have thought about it numerous times but have never had the guts to do it.

I think I may know how R feels in his post of having people work for you or do services for you and never really getting what you want or expect. I my experience or being a package designer I have found that the structure guys know nothing about graphics or branding and the graphic guys know nothing about structure (please no package or POP guys take any offense, we are all not this way). This is always baffles me. To create a proper effective package, POP, POS, etc…everything has to work together and be designed at the same time. It is always amazing to me that I get requests to design package A and then force fit graphics B to it 3 months down the road. Or I manage a POP vendor (once again not all are like this) and ask them to get me a bunch of concepts for them to give me the same damn powerwing that we have done over and over. If I wanted the same damn powerwing I wound have just used it. I have the spec!!! Or we have a prestigious branding firm come in take a concept that I created, regurgitate it back to us with some little goofy graphic on it and change the material of the structure and it is no longer profitable. Only to hear marketing go wow that is great. When I tell them we cannot afford it they ask, why as if I did something wrong. Uhgggg!

Sorry for the rant. Maybe it is just because I have only worked in one real corporate packaging job, but I see that niche of putting all under one roof and working together to create effective concepts. I know it has been done or firms say they do both, but I have never seen it done really well.

One question for all of you…How many years of experience did you have before you started your own thing?

I had about 7 years experience before I went out on my own.

Are you thinking of doing it PackageID ?

Like I mentioned earlier, I have thought about it numerous times but have never “pulled the trigger”. I don’t plan to do anything until this economy changes and I think I may need a bit more experience first. It has been something that I have always wanted to do and did it for about a year after school. I think the hardest part would be convincing the wife that it is a good idea.

If you do it, you might want to start as a side thing… test the waters out

I went full time rogue several times over my career, starting at about 6 years experience and mainly because I was between jobs and old contacts kept asking me to do projects for them. A real turning point was when I later worked for a start-up; they walked me through setting up an S-Corp and how to navigate the tax advantages… very important stuff. Over the years, I’ve just kept my company alive even when I’ve taken full-time positions. It really comes in handy when you want a little freedom, and when your living off it it’s a very invigorating, like you’re the captain of your own ship

Somebody could really make some good money just setting up an intensive seminar for helping people set all that stuff up.

Setting it up is actually very easy… you can do it online at the secretary of state department of most states, some state’s I’ve operated in only charged $50 to incorporate. The hard part comes later… @ tax time