One of the Featured Freelancer questions is “What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?” and it’s amazing how varied this answer can be. One freelancer said, “to have complete job satisfaction and a great work-life balance.” This week’s freelancer really does up the bar in her ultimate goal, and I can’t help but feel that one day she might just achieve it.
We head to the North West of England for our latest Featured Freelancer, graphic designer, Livia Lucie.
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
Hey! I’m Liv, I’m from the Cheshire/Staffordshire border and I’m a Graphic Designer. I create all sorts, from retail album packaging to digital content for social media.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelance since finishing Sixth Form in 2009. It was built from a hobby – shout out to the golden years of MySpace which inspired so many graphic designers and developers!
It was never my plan to become a graphic designer. Believe it or not, I had planned to go to RMA Sandhurst but life likes to throw you a few curve balls and due to health issues I couldn’t – I’m still a bit miffed. I doubt I’d have been able to get a job for several years either, so by going freelance I created a job for myself. I don’t think I realised that this could be a job until I started having several messages asking me how much certain services were. I was just having fun.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
As I went straight from education to freelance it was a smooth and risk free transition as I didn’t really have anything to lose by trying out freelance at that point in my life. My family have always been really supportive in my choice too.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
Yes, when I first looked into working for myself I went to a business advisor provided by the Chamber of Commerce. I’m glad I did as I had been provided with Limited Company registration options that you actually had to pay a fair bit for by some firm… naughty! Eeesh, I had no idea. I set up as a Sole Trader after seeing him.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
I have such varied clients, they keep me on my toes!
In my first few years I worked mainly with US based recording artists, many of them from the Hip Hop scene. I always got on well with them and still keep in touch with many. Recently one artist from back in the day told his new label with in house designers that he’d only work with me – made my week!
Working in the music industry is my favourite part and I’ve worked with artists in various genres like EDM, pop, classical and even country! After a few years I started working more and more with British based SME’s and charities with quite a few of them being local due to attending networking events, so I actually started to meet clients face to face. I’m quite shy so attending networking and meeting clients was like being thrown in the deep end.
Of course the local business folk are very different to the American recording artists to work with but I love the variety. You get a bad apple every so often but I can probably count them on one hand.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
I can’t say I’ve ever asked them but the majority of my clients are long term so we’ve built up a really good relationship and they (hopefully) trust my decisions and value my work. New clients usually find me by word of mouth, being recommended by an existing client is an instant plus; I just have to live up to the hype.
Sometimes it’s tough as one person but I try my best to provide great customer service along with the creative services.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
The way I fell into it didn’t give me much chance to actually have any expectations but when I first started I pretty much worked on American time and I’d work long hours purely because I loved it, I’d never shut off. When I moved in with my boyfriend it just wasn’t sustainable so I switched to more sociable hours and gained these things called “Weekends”!
Whilst it definitely began from a hobby I now find myself wanting to get away from the computer when I’m done with work. I didn’t expect this, it’s sad in a way as I used to do a lot of personal projects but now… not so much. Maybe it’s like when you set a song you love as your morning alarm?
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Adobe CC… hoping to make a switch to Affinity one day though.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
It’s important to go above and beyond to impress those first few clients, they could be the key to many more projects and clients.
If you’re in the digital design field, I’d recommend that you learn some motion graphics. I wish I had started learning sooner because the web is so video focussed now.
For anyone thinking of going freelance due to any health problems, it’s certainly worth a go thanks to the flexibility but with that in mind it’s very easy to take on too much (be consumed by it!) and overdo it.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Somehow, someway I’ve managed to adapt and wear so many different hats through highs/lows and make it work. I never thought I’d have to put together marketing, do the accounts, debt collection, be the customer service and do the design work.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
With the way I work, I enjoy the variety of projects that come through. I’m not sure how I’d fair working for one brand all the time. Whilst I tend to keep a routine, I also like that I can (deadline dependent) decide today is too sunny therefore it’s motorbike day 😀
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
I really dislike having to chase invoices. It’s awkward and I hate being all about the money but it’s my job. It’s unnecessary stress. There are days when I have so many outstanding invoices I find myself wanting to pack it in and become a salaried employee – I eventually slap myself out of it though!
Also, I’m a little jealous of employee sick days. I usually drag myself out of bed with flu to get some work done before I give in because I hate to let people down – I’m sure you’re nodding your heads but I can’t help it.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
As a graphic designer it would be aaaaamazing to work on the visuals for an album that goes Platinum! Would also settle for Gold.
In general, it’d be great to grow the business, create jobs and be a fantastic team.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Money can equal stress so it’s a good idea to use a great invoicing / accounting program from the start to save any headaches and pass it all to an accountant, it’s a huge weight off your shoulders. It doesn’t have to be a subscription based program, I personally use waveapps.com – it’s freeee, can you believe it? Gold.
To connect with Livia, visit one (or all) of the following places:
And, of course, the Freelance Heroes Facebook Group.