It’s been a long and funny journey. Ok, not that funny all of the time, but you just have to keep moving sometimes… And designing, and moving, and again designing, as long as you’re still happy with it. If not, just move to something else.
I’ve spent the last 8 years of my relatively short life (29 might actually look quite a lot to some of you) working for design agencies, startups, freelancing part-time and doing my own projects on side. And I’m happy to say that I’ve learned a lot from different people – from designers through engineers to clients etc. I’m not saying that I know a lot (never think you know everything), but when I look back now I can easily see all the mistakes I’ve made. And yes, I’ve got a long list of those.
Tip 1: Do not copy, but inspire yourself
Never forget to learn from others. Sharing knowledge online is one of the most powerful things of our times. Don’t miss it. It’s free!
Tip 2. Do not follow the trends blindly
Trends are important, but don’t forget your users. Maybe a super super flat, full of high quality imagery design is not the best one if you have to design for eBay for example.
Tip 3. Experiment
Never ever be afraid of experimenting with new and freaky stuff!! Don’t forget that you’re part of the design community and this is your contribution to it. It might be the next big trend, you never know.
Tip 4. Keep improving
Never stop learning. There is always something new to be explored, and there will always be. I have a rule that I always must learn something new while working on a project. This has helped me to 1) stay on top of my game and 2) enrich my portfolio with different styles and skills.
Tip 5. Build your own style
Don’t try to be everything, but build your own style. Become an expert in a particular field, style or sector.
Tip 6. Build you own portfolio
Having your portfolio updated is probably one of the most important parts to keep getting new project. Unfortunately, I’m guilty here, considering the fact that I haven’t updated mine in the past 6 months… It’s always more tempting to jump to the next client’s project. OK, it’s getting a bit embarrassing, so I’ll stop here. So please do what I say, not what I do. Every single portfolio update brings me new clients, so this is a must.
Tip 7. Do your homework (contract, payments etc)
Per project or per hour
Decide as early as possible on how are you going to organise your work. Are you going to charge per project or per hour. Experiment with both and see what works best for you, I’m currently charging per day.
Define your price properly and research what other designers, with the same expertise and years of experience, charge in your area. I like to use this tool for UK rates http://uiux.io/1KIbhdR
Prepare your contracts and find a good software to sign and exchange them online with your clients. I personally use http://signable.co.uk but there are many more. Do not start a project before having your agreement signed! I learned this the hard way and did the same mistake over and over again.
Set a particular day. I like to send all my invoices on Friday evening. Tools – you can use Harvest, Wave apps or Xero. See bellow.
Accounting and Time tracking
Harvest, in my opinion, is still the best option on the market. You can send invoices directly from there. If you want to send invoices and manage your accounting separately I would advise you to start with http://waveapps.com (it’s free and not bad) and when you have enough clients, move to https://www.xero.com.
After trying and researching variety of tools I’ve sticked with Trello. I used to use Asana, but it’s more suitable for bigger companies.
Tip 8. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.
Yes, it’s that simple. Of course everyone has ups and downs. Sometimes I hate what I’m doing and that’s when I realise I need a break. Go somewhere nice, enjoy yourself and let your brain breath. If you still love it after a few days away, you’re on the right track.