How long is it before you feel confident that you’re okay at everything, your order book is full, and your concerns for the coming months have gone. A year? 2? 5? 10? Never? It varies, of course, and you can certainly never take your eye off the ball. I cringe each time I hear someone say “I’ve no time for networking (or marketing of any kind) because I’m too busy”. After 7 years, this week’s Featured Freelancer still has that concern of where future business is coming from. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing to always have. Complacency can have a dangerous impact on any business. Here is the rest of her story…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My name is Bhavini, I’m based in beautiful Milton Keynes and I’m a freelance graphic designer. I specialise in branding (from logos right through to full branding packages) and all things design for print.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing since 2011 and it was a decision I was kind of forced into making. I was due to return to work after taking 12 months of maternity leave when I had my eldest daughter. About 6 weeks before I was due back, I was told my role as print designer wasn’t available any more. The 2 options they gave me was to either go back as a web designer/developer and they would provide all training for me, or agree to a redundancy! It was a no brainer for me because I don’t like doing, or actually even understand, web design and development. The fact they weren’t being very flexible about working hours either was the final nail in the coffin for me…having to commute into Central London 5 days a week and not seeing my daughter much, for a job I’d hate wasn’t at all appealing!
I thought rather than be angry and negative about it, I’d try freelancing while looking for a more flexible job as an employee closer to home but that never actually ended up happening.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
I think my friends and family were initially more confident in my decision than I was!! Although I made the decision quickly it was still really daunting.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
Nope I didn’t…because I honestly didn’t have a clue what was available! My train of thought was ‘I’ve got a MacBook Pro, Adobe software…let’s see what happens’
How would you describe your clients or customers?
My clients are all so different! I’m really lucky to be able to work with people in a variety of industries, and from all over the world! My clients value me and my work and I have a great relationship with them all.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
The majority of my new clients find me because an existing client has recommended me, so I THINK this means that my clients choose to work with me because they like me (I hope!!), trust me and they like my work. I always make a point of being nothing but 100% honest and upfront with clients and potential clients – even if that means that I won’t win a project, and I think people really appreciate that.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
I had zero expectations when I first started freelancing. I gave it a go because it was the best option at the time and I went into it with a really open mindset. My working hours were initially dictated by how many hours my eldest daughter was at nursery and this pattern continued…now I only work when both girls are at school.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
It has to be Adobe CC…can’t do my job without it even though it hurts to pay the subscription fee each year (although thanks to amazing Freelance Hero it was greatly reduced this year!). I know there’s Affinity as an alternative but I think I’ve been using Adobe for too long (15 years) to make the switch.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Always deliver on what you say you’re going to do. And if something is out of your remit, be honest about it rather than trying to wing it – for example if brochure design isn’t something you’re good at, it’ll be obvious if/when you take on a brochure project. You’ll more than likely have a very unhappy client and the chances of you being recommended will be very slim!
And finally…know you’re worth and accept nothing less. A lot of people don’t see the value in design/working with a professional designer these days unfortunately but to me that just means they aren’t the kind of client I want to work with.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
I’ve learnt to really trust my gut instinct. There have been times when I haven’t followed my instinct and in those instances things have very gone pear shaped. I’ve also learned that I let imposter syndrome get to me too much and that I really don’t like/I’m not very good at face to face networking or selling myself!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
The work life balance that it gives me. I run my business around my children (8 and 5 years old) and I love being able to do the school run every day without feeling any kind of guilt or pressure about work! I love that I can go to every school assembly and play without having to ask permission! It also means that I get to spend quality time with them over all of the school holidays. I also love the flexibility of being able to choose who I work with and what I work on.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Even after 7 years I still worry about whether I’ll have enough work on each month, or how I’m going to find new clients.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
As a graphic designer, there are two things that I would love to achieve…one being to design a brand that is seen across the globe, and the other is to have a billboard design that I can drive by and say ‘oooohhhh look…I did that!’ I’d also really love to own an office in some kind of converted barn somewhere!
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
To outsource the things I don’t like doing – for example I spent time trying to do my own website in WordPress a couple of years ago, and after 6 weeks of lots and lots of swearing, I finally had enough and had a developer do it all! So much easier on my sanity!
To get in touch with Bhavini, visit: