11: HOW DO I NURTURE CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS?

Autumn/Winter 2012 fashion catalogue cover by Form. Photography: Sarah Cresswell

Nurturing clients is a vital part of freelance life, and according to Transfer Studio’s Valeria, keeping in regular contact, perhaps through a newsletter every four to six weeks, is better than sending a burst of messages. “Aim to stay on your client’s radar, not to end up being marked spam,” she advises.

“Don’t harass them,” warns Lizzie. “Keep up with the projects they’re working on. Always be in their line of vision, a gentle presence, not a creepy stalker presence.”

In addition, make sure to say hello to people if you see them at an event, even if it’s just a nod if they are chatting to someone. “If you’re on their mind, they might think of you for the next job, sometimes it’s that simple,” explains Richard of Trunk Animation. “What shouldn’t you do? Break someone’s bike and not fix it. It happened.”

As an illustrator, you have to be flexible, and understand the commercial requirements of clients. According to Figtree Creative Network’s James, “there have been many occasions where illustrators focus on self-referential work and forget that if they’re dealing with a client, the client often pay an awful lot of money for their services.” 

He adds: “It’s the job of the illustrator to understand the nuances of the world they’re working in. If you want to get the exciting briefs, you have to understand that language otherwise you won’t be taken seriously.”

12: HOW DO I AVOID BEING EXPLOITED?

In order to avoid exploitation and misunderstanding, agreeing on a brief at the outset of a project and establishing expectations in writing is a must, according to graphic designer Matthew, as is regular dialogue during the course of the project. “In my experience, whenever there’s a difference in expectations, it’s normally down to lack of communication rather than anything malicious on behalf of the client or boss,” he says.

Studio Output’s Rob echos this advice, adding: “Remember, if you’re not happy then speak to your employer, or leave – there’s too much exploitation when it comes to internships, placements and trials.” 

13: DO I NEED TO GET AN AGENT, SURELY THEY CAN SORT OUT MY LIFE FOR ME? 

A still from Trunk Animation’s DIY UR CHINTAI. It was directed by Rok Predin and Layla Atkinson

For illustrators and animators, agents can provide support and a professional buffer. They help market your services, negotiate with clients, chase payment and free you up to concentrate on your creative work. However, Trunk Animation’s Richard advises you should give it six months, before thinking about signing. 

“If you’re going to get an agent, you need to get the right one for both of you,” he explains. “Don’t just join because you’ve been asked, sometimes it can do more harm than good. But even if you do have an agent, don’t sit back on your laurels and your agent, keep things moving yourself.”

14: SHOULD I FIND STUDIO SPACE OR STICK TO MY KITCHEN TABLE?

Working from home will save money, but finding a desk somewhere outside of your home is a good idea, if you can afford to. “As a freelancer you have to leave your work somewhere, try not to bring it home too often, otherwise it can ruin your life,” says Richard. “It’s also good for routine: it’s good to get out of the house, travel to your studio and get some work done, it’s good for moral.”

Figtree Creative Network’s James and Transfer Studio’s Valeria point out that there are many collaborative studio spaces, such as the Open Studio Club, that allow people to do studio swaps and collaborate around the world, creative hubs, part-time desk spaces or co-working initiatives. 

“If possible, try not to work alone all the time, don’t isolate yourself,” says Valeria. “I knew a guy that after university got a desk space at an office in return for doing the print design of a digital agency – it worked out really well and they also recommended him to their own clients (and this is not working for free).” 

15: HOW DO I MAKE SURE THAT I HAVE ENOUGH MONEY?

Transfer Studios’ El Camino guidebook, for Elemental Editions

No matter how boring, getting on top of admin duties is an essential part of freelance life. “Keep it simple,” says Valeria. “Aim to do little but often – only an hour a week can save you loads of money and time at the end of the month and year. Get an accountant as soon as you can.”

Keeping enough money for the tax bill is imperative, stresses Paul of consultancy Form. “I’ve seen a lot of extremely panicked freelancers around the end of March”, he says. “Squirrel your money away and don’t ever forget Mr Taxman.”

Matthew enjoys marketing, estimating, invoicing and balancing the books. He says: “Estimating on creative work helps you understand the value of design, while invoicing for it heightens the satisfaction of a finished job.”