Andrew Whittle
Independent Digital Graphic Designer

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Aug 21, 2015

My 1st year as a Freelance Web Designer and Graphic Designer

12 months to the day I left my full time job to become a full time?Freelance Web and Graphic Designer and wanted to take the opportunity to share with you some of my experiences and even offer advice for budding Freelancers.

Truth is this is not my first attempt at being self-employed. I once ran a Web and Graphic design business in Manchester, however back then the Web was a very different animal than what it is today. Only big businesses were spending money and everyone was feeling the pinch following the crash of the .com bubble. Maybe the timing was wrong but as we approached the 2008 financial crisis that affected everyone the World over, it spelled the end of my business. So I wound up the business and got a job at a Design Agency. A few years in and I soon needed a change. I had hit my salary cap as a Senior Designer and work was becoming repetitive. This left me with two options. Move to another job and increase my salary (which was doable but I knew this would involve longer hours) or go it alone, work on projects I wanted to work on and maybe even develop the business into an Agency modal.

Even though it was incredibly stressful winding up a business, I always had this burning desire to work for myself again. This was further compounded with the fact that I wanted to spend more time with my family,?however this time I was going to do it differently.

Fast forward to August 2014, I left my job and went solo again. During 2015 I made great progress in connecting with potential clients and before I knew it I was stacked with work and my online profile was building following various online and print interviews within the design industry. I had carefully crafted my website to reach page one of Google and I knew my target audience, where they were and how they searched.

So in August 2015 I hit the ground running with plenty of work and since then I have not stopped. It has been a crazy 12 months and my average day is at least 12 hours. Some people think that if you are a Freelancer then you are sat in your PJ's taking it easy all day, this could not be further from the truth. As Freelancers we work just as hard if not harder for our client?s because we VALUE them more than when you work for an Agency.?For a client this is a massive benefit when compared to working with an Agency.

One of the best things about working for yourself is that you are in control of the type of work you want to do, when you do it and how you do it. It?s up to you to position yourself in order to attract the right type of client and work. Based on the skill sets I have and combined with over 18 years industry experience, I target SME's and large businesses who need professional web and graphic design support, both on the web and in print. They may of in the past worked with a Design Agency who have let them down, do not offer the same support a Freelancer can or in some instances want to outsource specific parts of a project to a specialist such as UI (user interface) design, so that designs can then be built by their in-house web development team. This is a trend we are seeing within businesses at the moment as digital becomes an important factor to the success of a business. This is also having a huge impact on traditional agencies, however this is a topic I will be going into more detail on another blog post.

One thing I battle on a daily basis is the title of ?Freelancer?. For me I would not really call myself a Freelancer. I don?t work for Design Agencies? onsite like most Freelancers?, rather I work directly with my own client's, no different than an Agency would, the only difference is that it's just me. What I have found (pretty much every week) is that I a lot of people think that Freelancer's are cheap and target Freelancer's for this very reason. I get loads of enquiries? every week and most of them are price driven.

When they ask for a ball park figure based on their requirement's and I give them one its like, "wow, that's a lot more than I was expecting, I only have a few hundred quid." The problem here is that it?s not expensive when you compare the cost to what an Agency would charge, it?s the perception of a Freelancer. I have to say however that?s it?s not always the case and you do get clients who understand the value of design. You have to learn to spot the bad apples early. On some occasions I have wasted time going for meetings only to find that their budget is no where near enough. The best advice I can give on this subject is to be honest with the client and provide some kind of figure, that way you can both decide whether its worth meeting or not.

Identifying the right type of client is important. If you begin working on cheap websites for example and showcase these online, you will only attract these types of clients. It is far better to showcase only the very best work you have. The bottom end of the design services market is saturated with small business website solutions that promote how easy it is to build it yourself or online print on demand services. They are even advertised on TV, you know the ones I mean. This is a dead market for Freelance Designers and I urge you to target the right type of client who values design and your expertise.

As I said earlier it?s been a crazy 12 months and I am still trying to refine some areas of my business. For example I want to continue building my client base around larger businesses. This is already happening with recent clients including a leading learning and development provider in Europe, Middle East and Africa and a large catering company in Manchester, both of which require design support across both print and the web.

So this is in short what I have been up to over the past 12 months. I have been able to work on projects I would not normally do and have connected with some great people. Most of all however I could not of done it without the support of my wife, Sarah and our children, which by the way I get to take to school and pick up every day!

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Kind words from my clients

?Andrew has recently designed and developed 3 different websites for me 1 of which has already launched and is performing extremely well in terms of conversion rates.

In terms of the process from start to finish, I had an idea of features that i wanted on my site but I had no idea of the layout. Andrew gave me his own recommendation on what he thought would work well in order to make the customer journey as simple as possible and based on our current conversion rates he's got it quite spot on.

Andrew provided me with daily updates regarding the progress of the site from the design phase to the site build. In total the length of the project was just over 2 months. The website has passed all security checks and although the site is just 1 week old has surpassed all our forecasts and projections. I would highly recommend working with Andrew, his designs are aesthetically excellent and he has mastered simplifying the customer journey and has helped me get off to a flying start with my new business. ?Ocean Capital Ltd - www.paydaypixie.co.uk

?Andrew has been great and guided me through the process of development to completion...

If I have had any questions he has been prompt and completed all tasks in good time. He has a good eye for details and I have asked him to help me further with my development of training and other materials for my business.?Embryarch Ltd - www.embryarch.co.uk

?Having recently brought our website into the 21st century, I can thoroughly recommend the work of Andrew. He is professional, friendly, and a pleasure to work with.?MG Caravans - www.mgcaravans.co.uk

?The service received from Andrew is fast and efficient. Andrew always interprets the brief accurately and delivers a first class service. I have worked with Andrew for several years and would have no hesitation in recommending him.?Aura Health & Beauty - www.aurabeauty.co.uk

?We would like to thank Andrew for our new CMS website and the help, support and guidance whilst creating it. Andrew is approachable, friendly and didn?t talk in technical jargon which we didn?t understand. Andrew is always there for help and support to answer even the silliest of questions. Once again a big thank from everyone at Nutshaw Kennels.?Nutshaw Kennels - www.nutshawkennels.co.uk

?Andrew listened to what I needed and provided me with a fresh new website, identity and leaflet. He guided me through the process of getting my website online and now I rank page one on Google. I would highly recommend Andrew.?Jacqui Rostron - www.jacquirostron.com

andrewwhittle1 RT @penberthyarns: New handspun yarn fresh off the bobbin. In my Etsy shop soon! #handspunyarn #handspinner #handmade #cornwall https://t.c…