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When I first started freelancing I was happy to take any project that came my way. At that time without an established network and even without a portfolio site, most of the clients I picked up came through word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family. When I finally got to the point of getting a significant number of leads and inquiries, one of the most difficult things for me was to determine which projects I should take and which ones I should turn down, or at least delay until another time. Before long I found out the hard way that just blindly taking projects was causing unnecessary stress (I still had a full-time job at that point and not much time for client projects) and more significantly, it was preventing me from doing my best work and taking the time to learn as much as possible through the experience, which should be a priority for any designer who is just getting started. One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes, so I did pick up some valuable knowledge that I have been able to use ever since. However, if you are facing situations where you are unsure about accepting a project or unclear about what factors you should consider, I hope that my mistakes can also be a help to you. Unfortunately, making decisions on which projects to take (and also on pricing) is not always easy. In this post I'll cover a number of different factors that I feel should be considered. Keep in mind that each situation is different, so not all of the factors will apply, and in some cases the significance of specific factors will vary greatly.
One of the most important aspects of running a freelance business is getting and staying organized. Most freelancers wear so many different hats and have such a wide variety of responsibilities that organization will be one of the critical factors in determining what percentage of working time can be dedicated to income-generating activities. Organization is key to achieving optimal productivity and efficiency, which of course are important for any freelancer who wants to earn a living without working ridiculous hours. In the life and work of a freelance designer there are many different aspects that must be well organized. In this article we'll take a look at a number of different ways that freelancers need to be organized, and I'll point out some helpful resources along the way.
Inspiration Organization:Designers rely on inspiration to help them achieve the best possible results with their work. This includes online inspiration from other websites through web design galleries or design blogs, and it includes a wide variety of offline sources, such as nature, magazines, newspapers, brochures, photographs, and the list could go on. With the amount of inspiration that is available, particularly online inspiration it can be easy to experience "inspiration overload." Avoiding inspiration overload requires some organization, plus the willingness to limit your sources of inspiration to those that are really helpful and productive for you. For offline inspiration, I wrote a post at Vandelay Design about using a notebook to compile and organize your sources of inspiration. I have found this to be very helpful for keeping track of things that I like and having them readily available when they're needed. Evernote Evernote is a great resource that will allow you to organize your inspiration by grabbing screenshots by using tags and/or notebooks.
Most designers and developers follow at least a few blogs from the design industry, but podcasts and video podcasts offer even more opportunities for learning and for staying up-to-date in the industry. In this post we'll feature more than 30 podcasts and video podcasts that are excellent resources for designers, developers and freelancers. Boagworld A popular weekly podcast from Paul Boag that covers a variety of topics relevant to designers and developers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Longnecker of FortySeven Media to get some insight into his process and his life as a designer. I think you'll find some inspiration and helpful advice in Jonathan's responses. In case you are not familiar with his work, Jonathan is a co-founder of FortySeven Media with his partner Nate Croft. You'll see some examples of their work in this post, or you can visit their portfolio.