Tips for setting up a freelance practice
At some point in your career, you will probably do some contract work or the advantages of being your own boss will convince you to establish your own business. There are many advantages to being self-employed, but creative people often do not like taking care of the business aspects of running a company. You may decide to hire help with your taxes, bookkeeping, and promotion or you may just dive in and learn more about running your own business.
First, decide what to call yourself:
• Free-lance designer
• Self-employed designer
• Independent professional
or some combination of the above job descriptions.
Develop a plan
To set yourself up in business as a self-employed designer you will need a Business Plan: a tool to help you determine specifics for organization, finances, promotion, and communication. Components of a business plan:
• Sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation
• Description of services rendered
• Mission statement: goals and objectives
• Potential clients
• Location, mailing address
• Date of organization
• Accounting period: calendar or fiscal year
• Accounting method: cash/accrual or single entry
• Earning needs and projections
• Assets, liabilities, capital equipment
• Fees and commissions from work
• Office overhead: rent, phone, utilities, supplies
• Promotion: materials, memberships, advertising
• Job expenses: materials
• Contractors: typesetting, photography, illustration
Set up shop
Register with agencies
• City/county: name
• State: sales tax
• Federal: FEI
Establish work space
• Mailing address (no apartment #)
• Business checking account
• Fee structure: hourly, flat fee, commission
• Bookkeeping system: journal/ledger coded by job, expense category, profit/loss statements
• Billing and collection procedure
• Tax filing system, deductions: admissions, home office, education, travel, memberships, publications
• Efficient filing system
• Appointment system
• Job sheet format
• Comp presentation format
Promote your business
• Ads: newspaper, yellow pages
• Promotion pieces
Get to work
• Develop client contact network
• Solicitation, presentations, bidding
• Marketing and promotion
Complete contracts (AIGA is a good resource for contracts)
• Both parties detailed
1. Designer responsibility: number of concept comps, revisions, production, and printing
2. Client responsibility: attend meetings, work space provided, access to materials
3. Deadlines: concepts, client presentations, mechanicals, pre-press delivery
4. Payment: date of billing/invoice, past due schedule, penalties
• Date of agreement
• Signatures (with dates)
Naming your practice
Suggested criteria for name selection
• Easy to pronounce and spell.
• Appropriate indication of business.
• Convey positive image of professional business qualities.
• Meet long term projections.
• Allow flexibility for growth.
• Avoid geographic limitations.
• Unique and distinctive.
• Easy to remember: not too technical, with some meaning.
Types of names to consider
• Own name: By itself or with Associates, Firm, Studio, Company, Office, etc.
• Initials: By themselves (IBM, AT&T) or with Associates, Studio, Firm, Company, Office, etc.
• Created word: Fictitious (Exxon, Oreo) with no obvious meaning (may need more education) or with meaning (ZapMail, FasTrak)
• Existing word (Avalanche, Talent Pulse)
• Acronym (Scuba, NASA)
• Combinations of above types.
Business name and stationery
As a self-employed independent professional designer or illustrator, you will need some items to conduct business in a professional manner. These include a business card, letterhead, envelope, and other pieces you deem necessary. Free-lance projects may come up at any time. Be prepared by having the concepts and sketches for these items ready for use.
Your stationery and business communication materials can be printed out-of-house or set up as a Mac file and laserprinted as you need them. They should be professional, well executed, and appropriate for you and your work.
Research has shown that the name you select for your business will be an influential determinant of how the public and prospective clientele will perceive you and your work. Research, test, and determine a name for your business that will convey professional quality and an appropriate positive image. Assess your communication needs and business practices, brainstorm concepts, sketch, refine, and produce a stationery package that, when needed, could be used for your free lance business.
• Describe your business: features, characteristics, and services.
• Thoroughly analyze your design style, area of specialization, strong selling points, business objectives, target market, and finances. Review your goals, objectives, strengths, what you can offer society, and personality characteristics.
• Determine the image the stationery should convey.
• Define the people to whom your name should appeal.
• List names you like and dislike.
• List your competitor's names.
• Explore name parts, words, images, initials, acronyms, etc.
• Design a logo and a layout format.
• List, evaluate, and refine options.
• Thumbnail your name letters.
• Test the best options with family, friends, etc.
• Develop strong rationale for your selection.
• Create comps and print-ready files for these stationery pieces: letterhead, business card, and envelope.
• Consider designing these pieces:
yellow pages ad
cover sheet tag