Originating from Canada, Our 13th and latest Featured Freelancer is Lisa Johnstone, a Graphic Designer and Illustrator from Sittingbourne in Kent. Now, I’ve never met Lisa (apart from on twitter and in Freelance Heroes), but her answers indicate a very competitive and determined spirit, which has no doubt helped her to grow over the last 5 years, and will continue to do so as she moves towards a full-time freelancing role. It’s not all glamour though. This is Lisa’s story…
What is your name and what do you do?
Leese Johnstone and I’m a freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing since 2011, when I decided to retrain as a Graphic Designer but was still working in marketing. It was a good way to start honing my skills gradually. Luckily I got a job as a Design Assistant almost straight away, but continued to freelance around working and studying. I was a busy woman!
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My husband was hugely supportive (and still is), helping me study and giving up our holidays and weekends for the first year of my MA to make sure I had time to complete my work. One senior coworker warned me that I would never finish my MA as he had tried to complete 3 (!) and failed – if anything that made me more determined.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
The (now) gov.uk website to figure out tax and whatnot. Lynda.com to train myself up on design software. I was winging it for the rest!
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Awesome! Ha. They’re usually startups, small businesses or SMEs. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a variety of different sectors, including bloggers, filmmakers, car mechanics and garden landscapers.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
I hope because I’m friendly, approachable, flexible and affordable! Plus I absolutely love what I do and hopefully that passion shines through.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It’s better than I expected! However you have to be very disciplined not to get distracted working from home. If you’re in an office with a team I imagine it’s easier. I definitely work more hours than expected, although I’ve reduced my hours in the last year to raise my young daughter.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Twitter! I make so many professional and personal connections there, from all areas and businesses.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Be realistic. You will have some difficult clients and some work will not be very glamorous – but get yourself a solid contract and grit your teeth. The fantastic clients and fun jobs WILL come along!
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
That I’m more confident than I thought I was. That my attention to detail and love of correct spelling and grammar make me a rarity in my field! That being happy in your job is worth sacrifices and compromises.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Oh man, so many things. I suppose most is the variety of work I do – usually every day is something different. I get to learn new skills, learn about different fields, and push myself regularly.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
I suppose the most challenging aspect is that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. There’s no buffer. So good self-care and contingency planning is very important.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
To continue to grow my regular (repeat) client base and word-of-mouth reputation. In a year or so I plan to go full-time freelance which is a scary but exciting challenge!
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
That the more time you put into a business, the more it grows – you can’t do it around a full-time job!
To find out more about Lisa and her work, visit: